By the time we get to mid-career and beyond, we may all feel that we know ourselves pretty well.
But the truth is that we change all the time. Sometimes, change is internally driven as we evolve, gain experience, grow. Other times, external events have a crucial influence such as the impact of the current pandemic on our working lives right now in 2020.
When it comes to successful career transition, knowing yourself and being very present and aware of your current self, is critical in forming a powerful launchpad for your next career adventure. Once you know yourself, you can see how open or limited you might be, how focused or too scattered you are, and you can acknowledge with honesty and humility your skills and your weaknesses. Equally, you can begin to see where you might have limited yourself in the past, or indeed grown exponentially in your most recent past, and then you can see how to open up a career search that you might not have previously considered if you had not tapped into your new self with full focus and awareness.
‘Fish discover water last’
As Herminia Ibarra, the Charles Handy Professor of Organisational Behaviour at London Business School says, it turns out that knowing ourselves becomes ‘the prize at the end of the journey rather than the light at the beginning’. It’s precisely our whole tortuous journey of apparently random career experience and insights, and learning by doing, that finally reaps its rewards with a glimmer of mid-career insight into who we actually are and how we tick, or could tick.
So before you set out on your next career transition, stop first to examine how well you know yourself and your various selves. Reacquaint yourself with your strengths, weaknesses, experiences, insights, ideas and career yearnings. Remind yourself of those experiences you don’t wish to – and don’t need to – repeat. Take to time to explore wider horizons and unexpected ideas that may come as a result of spending time getting to know your current self. Challenge yourself to reinvent yourself in your working life and to bring greater congruency and presence to your working persona. Determine what aspects of your working life you want to leave behind. Take the time to try on possible new working identities.
Once you know yourself once more, life may well present some interesting possibilities that you may never have thought of if you hadn’t dug deep.