Finding balance following a career change

By Victor Acquista, MD

In his groundbreaking 1970 book, Future Shock, Alvin Toffler predicted that adults of the future would have multiple careers. We are living that future now, and many adults transition through career changes over the course of their working lives. Successfully managing these career changes requires attention to balance. Having recently made a transition to my third career (primary care physician, medical executive, author/speaker) I would like to share with you what I believe are five crucial areas to pay close attention to during your transition.

After all the angst in planning a career change, weighing out the pros and the cons, calculating the financial implications, retirement effects, disruption in routines, and move to a new work environment and possible living environment you need to spend time out of the planning and execution tasks. These are stressful changes and focusing on the planning and doing without spending time away from those tasks creates imbalance. Here are ways to restore balance:

Give yourself space

Sometimes a career change feels as though you have set yourself adrift at sea; you don’t really know where you are. Perhaps there is an element of being in unchartered territory. What I have found helpful is to take time to get my bearings. If you have the luxury of some extra time, use it. You don’t have to have the new space in your life that you now occupy figured out on day one. Stop, look, and listen. What are some familiar aspects that you can use to begin to feel comfortable in this new environment?

Much of what makes people similar means there will be similarities with and among all the people you deal with. Draw from past experience, but also be open to new possibilities. Try to identify what is different about your current situation. Is it the energy, the excitement of starting something new? Give yourself the space to explore and learn. It probably will not take long to develop new comfort and familiarity. Give yourself the space to do so.

Engage your creativity

For me personally this has been the most rewarding aspect of making a career change. It is easy to develop strategies and techniques to handle the circumstances that occur at work and in your career. When those strategies work they tend to be your “go to” methods. When they don’t work, you learn to abandon them. In some ways adopting what has worked and jettisoning what has not worked in particular times and circumstances of your past life boxes you in. This can really stymie creativity. Don’t be beholden to old thought and reaction patterns. In other words, be open to trying new things. Look for opportunities to engage your mind and the creative potential within you. Don’t hold yourself back and understand you may fail. We learn much from both our successes and our failures. Make full use of these learning opportunities by thinking both inside and outside the proverbial box.

Invest in relationships

It’s hard to elaborate further on this simple piece of advice. Spend time with others, make new friends, ask questions, share who you are and what you are all about. We learn so much about ourselves in the context of our relationships with others. A career change presents many new opportunities and the potential for new and very satisfying relationships. For my own recent career change, I also moved to a new city with so many wonderful opportunities to meet new people, explore new places, etc. Sure it’s work to spend time and energy making these investments, but it is most likely the outcome of such efforts will be very fruitful.

Evaluate your priorities 

Undoubtedly, given all the change you will have to contend with as you seek balance during a career change, you need to find stability zones. These are places that are familiar to you where you pretty much have things figured out in ways that work for you. This can be as simple as a routine involving going to the gym, or a weekly “date night” with your significant other, a daily meditation practice, etc. The point is you need some stability that anchors you in your consideration of priorities. What is important and (perhaps more importantly) what is not important to you at this time in your life?

We all have dreams, aspirations, and goals. It’s important to look at these in the context of your capacities and abilities. At this time in my life, it isn’t likely I’ll star in the NBA so I should cross this off my list of priorities. Not the best example, but you get the point. Do an honest inventory and appraisal of your priorities. It is likely that feeling fulfilled by the work you do is a high priority. Honor what you feel in your heart. 

Be true to yourself

It bears repeating to suggest that you honor what you feel in your heart. As the saying goes, “Above all to thine own self be true.” A transition time lets you press the reset button if there are heart centered things you compromised on previously. If you honestly identified your priorities about the really important things, this is the chance to put words into action. I have a bit of wisdom posted on the refrigerator which says, “The best things in life are not things.” This simple truth I have taken to heart in my own personal career change. For me, part of this truth involves being open to and willing to embrace possibility.

I encourage you to consider all these bits of life wisdom and experience as you adjust to a career change and seek balance. It’s an exciting time of life. Enjoy the journey…

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Victor Acquista, MD, is an international speaker, author, and teacher. For information on his writings, presentations, and workshops: http://victoracquista.com/

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