Robert Bowles asks how you should react when opportunity unexpectedly presents itself
Q: I have been offered a role in a new start-up company. It involves working on a technology that I’ve always been interested in as a hobby. But I’m concerned that giving up my current, well-paid role might affect my career in the future.
A: There are times when the path of your career can change direction quite sharply. A career turning point is that moment when your career transforms from one state to another. It might mean a change in your energy, motivation or confidence levels – in either direction. You might be gaining new skills, knowledge or experience. Alternatively, you might be leaving things behind. It may or may not involve a change in your role, but in every case you’ll find yourself in a new situation. Crucially, it only becomes a ‘turning point’ in retrospect – in that moment in time when you find things have already changed.
Some career turning points are structured and predictable. They can occur when you complete a qualification or at the end of a fixed term contract. You know when they are coming and you know they are going to change your career so you have time to get ready and prepare for them. Other turning points are slow burning. They creep up on you gradually without you realising and then something finally happens – often a surprisingly small thing – that makes you stop and re-evaluate your current situation. Others yet jump out at you from nowhere and catch you completely off guard. You might be made redundant, for example, or you might experience a change in your health or a forced relocation. Perhaps someone offers you a new role that is very different to your current role but which you would never have considered previously. Now that it’s been offered to you, it seems really quite tempting.
So if the path of your career is going to change, how do you manage that process and how can you make the most of the opportunity that it presents?
Be open to new ideas, explore new roles within your industry or seek out opportunities to use your skills in different industries. Before you take that big step and strike out in a new direction, it’s always best to test things out first. Learn as much as you can about the new type of role you are seeking or the industry you are considering moving into. Find out as much as you can from internet research or by talking to your network of colleagues, friends and family. Talk your ideas through with them. Ask your friends and trusted colleagues to imagine you in that industry or in a particular role. This approach is particularly useful if they know you very well or if they have experience of the role or the sector you’re considering. It doesn’t mean you should do what they say, but it can help you to visualise yourself in that role and help you decide if it might be right for you.
For many people, a transformation is often an opportunity to resurrect and pursue past experiences or interests. If an opportunity presents itself to you, and you don’t make the decision to pursue something you’ve always wanted to do, will you look back on your choice in the future with regret and always wonder how it might have panned out?
Sometimes the turning point can be a person or a conversation. If you want to discuss your career, whatever stage it’s at, why not contact us? Our independent, qualified career specialists can help you with a confidential consultation on any aspect of managing your career. We can be the turning point by offering the opportunity for structured reflection, inspiration and new perspectives. We can help you map out the effects of change by helping you to identify the positives and negatives of change, or of maintaining the status quo.
If you have more advice you’d like to share about this month’s question – or have your own careers conundrum for Robert – please write to firstname.lastname@example.org