Your Career Change Itch or Burn?
It's tough to make a significant shift in
your working life unless there is a burning
desire to change. You must clearly visualize
the personal gain you see for yourself at the
end of the career-change rainbow - and it must
be greater than the pain of staying in place.
Two weeks ago, I received a newsy email from
a former client. Dan gave me the scoop on his
life and new love, and ended by saying that
while work had improved, he was feeling the
itch again to go after career change. He would
soon give me a call for some personal coaching
I replied nicely to all his news, and on the
itch, I said: "Call me when it's a burn."
Why this tough love response?
I meet scores of professionals who are unhappy
with their work. In almost seven years, I've
never seen an individual make a significant
shift unless there is a burning desire to change.
You must have a clear articulation of the personal
gain you see for yourself at the end of the
career-change rainbow - and this personal gain
must be greater than the pain of staying in
place. I didn't want Dan to waste his time,
energy, or for that matter, money.
So, how do you know if you're feeling an
itch or a burn?
Itches are usually situational. A confrontation
with a fellow worker
a poor performance
a disagreement with your boss
stress. Itches create lots of smoke, like "I
can't wait to get out of here." or "This
is it. I'm leaving." But no focused action
And these "reaction" moments are
often followed by patches where work is really
okay - an interesting project in the works,
shared good feelings. In other words, the motivation
to change is externally driven. It waxes and
wanes based on what is happening in one's environment.
All of us have career itches at one time or
Burns go much deeper. They are itches that
don't go away
they've been around for a
long time (a year or more)
and they have
wrenched your value system to the point that:
can no longer compartmentalize work vs.
find it almost impossible (maybe even terrifying)
to drag yourself out of bed on Monday mornings.
You go through the motions at work - your
feelings are completely disconnected from
your work activities.
energy hits the skids; you get sick a lot
or have difficulty shaking a common cold.
may feel hopeless or a little (or a lot)
It's a significant difference, don't you
Itchers have a quite a few avenues for regaining
their balance - setting firmer workplace boundaries,
finding a fulfilling outlet outside of work,
engaging in physical and emotional self-care
that allows you to better shrug things off.
Burners - you can do these things, too, but
it's probably not your ultimate fix. A value
system torn asunder is only mended when there
is a re-alignment between body, mind and spirit.
For burners, career change is not an option
- it's a requirement.
Take some time off to re-gain your energy and
perspective. In this more relaxed state, figure
out how to get some help. Your Employee Assistance
Plan? Mentor or understanding colleague? Initially,
don't try to solve the entire problem - just
map out a few next steps and give yourself a
timetable. Your world will brighten simply as
a result of putting yourself in choice and action.
Patricia Soldati is a former President
& COO of a national finance organization
who re-invented her working life in 1999. As
a career fulfillment specialist, she helps corporate
professionals enhance their working lives -
both by staying within the organization - and
by leaving it behind. To receive her 5-lesson
complimentary eCourse on career change, visit