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How To Cope With The Emotional Fallout When Forced To Pivot Your Career

The emotional transition is often the most difficult part of having to pivot from one situation to another. Here are some tips for getting through it that have worked for me.

Often, when we find ourselves needing to pivot, it’s as a result of the rug being pulled out from under us. This is somewhat different to feeling like you’re stuck in transit. By ‘pivoting’ I mean needing to switch to a completely different gear.

When the situation that pushes you to pivot is one out of your control, the emotional transition is even harder. Think for example of needing to move from being a salaried, full-time employee to a freelancer sourcing your own work. For many, this scenario has been a recent reality. So how do we get ahead of our emotions? How do we help ourselves make the pivot without allowing the emotions to debilitate us? This is the process that worked for me.

1. Don’t Ignore Your Feelings

It is crucial to acknowledge the feelings, even if they’re uncomfortable to face. Allow yourself to feel. Go through the motions. Give yourself permission to wallow if you need to wallow, or cry if you need to cry. This is an important step that enables us to move forward.

Here’s the trick though: set yourself a limit. It’s as important to stop wallowing as it is to begin. If you need a day, two days, a week, take it. But don’t allow your wallowing to become endless.

2. Get Ahead Of It

Once you’ve recognised and expressed your emotions, they’ve moved from your subconscious , where you were potentially ignoring them, to your conscious mind. This places you back in a position of control. You’re now ready to begin the pivot.

Start preparing your mind to shift into action. Deal with the feelings. Break them down into digestible nuggets. Ask yourself questions like what am I feeling? Why am I feeling it? What has caused it? What can I do about the situation? Answering these questions brings the emotion into perspective. Often, it alleviates the stress of thinking we can control everything and allows to identify which parts we can influence.

Shift your language. Consider moving from phrases like ‘I need a job’ to ‘How can I make an income’. This opens possibilities. It places you back in a positon of power, signifying that you can work at changing your situation as opposed to relying on someone else to do so. This is where the magic happens.

3. Develop A Plan

Actively develop a plan to move to the next step. Approach this the same way you would a task at work, or a project you’re being paid to do. Think about resources, time frames and scenarios. Creating a plan takes the idea out of your head and makes it real . It also gives you something to track and hold yourself accountable to.

I’m a great fan of writing things down, mapping them out, creating checklists. This makes me feel more in control. I feel empowered to tackle my plan, as opposed to feeling like I’m drowning in a sea of ideas sloshing  around in my head.

4. Keep Track Of Progress

It’s really important to identify progress milestones upfront. When dealing with a large project, such as setting up your own business or pivoting careers, it becomes even more important. Often, the desired result is not reached immediately and having progress milestones reminds us that we’re on the right track – and motivates us to keep going.

Decide what these look like for you. Are they time-oriented e.g. weekly/monthly, or perhaps task-oriented? The format is less significant than identifying them in the first place. Remember, we are approaching this plan as we would a paid project or a job task, which would require progress milestones too.

5. Celebrate Small Wins

This is arguably the most important part of staying ahead of emotions when pivoting. We tend to be very hard on ourselves, and expect huge results before we deem them worthy of celebration. All we end up telling ourselves, though, is that we have not achieved anything and risk ending up back at step 1. This is a common mistake.

Don’t wait until the end of your process to celebrate. Celebrate yourself along the way. Acknowledge yourself for taking control. Praise yourself for the kick-ass plan you’ve developed, and consciously note the shift in your language which places you back in a position of power. Most importantly, keep the bubbly on ice and celebrate those small wins!


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