Mark was ready to hoist the white flag. He’d been searching for a new career for over a year.
“Nobody really changes careers,” said one career coach.
“Just hang on to your job and eventually you can retire and do what you want,” said his girlfriend.
People seeing Mark at a networking meeting would be surprised. He looks calm, well-dressed, and confident. Yet each year, he tried not to hear the little voice in his head: “You really need to do something different.”
Mark began a career as a manager of a small department of a big corporation. He’d just graduated from school. He needed a job. He liked the hours. He loved the benefits.
Nearly two years later he realized he was bored stiff.
Here were some things that went wrong:
Being passed over for promotion after getting a borderline review.
Accidentally erasing an important report from his computer – with no backup.
Being late to work almost every day.
Feeling he was always saying the wrong thing when he worked with his colleagues.
Gaining weight because he kept nibbling potato chips from the vending machine (and losing all motivation to exercise)
Mark hired some life coaches. They talked to him about false beliefs and inner blocks.
He considered hiring a therapist, but was leery of using the company health plan.
He talked to another career coach. Nothing happened.
The missing piece of a life transition.
Mark spent a lot of time hanging out in a coffee shop or a nearby park, talking to others who were having hard times. He rarely talked to anyone who shared a similar level of professional experience and education.
He didn’t have a lot of local friends, because he’d moved to a new city after college.
What turned Mark’s life around happened by accident.
By sheer luck, Mark was transferred to a new department at his company. He wasn’t earning any more money, but he could still pay the bills.
More important, he was surrounded by smart, upwardly mobile professionals. He had lunch with them. They took Starbucks breaks together. Occasionally they convened on a weekend for parties.
I watched Mark change so slowly he didn’t realize what was happening. He began to speak of more career options. He dressed differently. He moved more purposefully. He even lost weight without effort.
“When you want to change, change your friends.”
I heard that advice from a very successful friend from college. She’d heard that advice from her parents.
I also heard, “You are the sum of the five people with whom you spend the most time.”
Mark’s change was one of the most dramatic I’ve seen, but I’ve experienced the same thing when I moved to a new place, started a new activity, or even joined a new gym. Surrounded by different people, my own action patterns changed, ever so subtly.
How do you change your friends?
First, take an inventory. Who are you hanging out with?
Once I was living in a neighborhood where I felt surrounded by pessimists. One neighbor even signed, “The next life will be better.” A lot of people would shrug, ‘”What can you do?” when the subject of change came up.
Or maybe you’ve outgrown your friends. I went back to school after I’d been working awhile. Most of my old friends didn’t understand my new challenges. They applauded my decision but couldn’t understand when I said, “I have to write a paper this weekend.”
Second, do something different.
Every so often you get lucky, just as Mark did. You get offered a new job or transferred to a new department. A new neighbor moves in next door, you move into her circle of friends, and now your life looks different.
Sometimes you need to make a geographic move. True, the “geographic cure” doesn’t always work. You might find yourself feeling just as blocked as you did before.
But you might be more comfortable in your new home. You’ll have new opportunities you didn’t have elsewhere.
I’m from New York originally. So I have a New York attitude. I interrupt people. I talk fast. I thrive in an urban world, even when I have daydreams about slow country life. So when I moved back to Philadelphia from a west coast city, all of a sudden my options grew exponentially. Almost everything on my vision board materialized, effortlessly.
And when I moved from one building to another in Philadelphia, people noticed a change. “You seem more motivated,” they said. “More solid and focused.”
Your feelings help you evaluate your success.
Finally, become aware of the people you hang out with. How do you feel after you go to a meeting or social event?
For a while, I went to a monthly networking event. The people were pleasant and friendly. We had some good conversations. I picked up a tiny amount of business. Best of all, the refreshments were delicious.
But after leaving the meeting, I felt deflated. I didn’t feel energized. I spent the rest of the day dithering and finding excuses not to work.
In contrast, I worked with an online mastermind group. They were edgier. They weren’t afraid to disagree with each other. They challenged me.
Yet after each online discussion group, I’d head for the computer, brimming with ideas. I was on fire! My energy lasted for days.
What To Actually Expect
Not all successful changes happen the first time. Sometimes you have to try three or four different opportunities.
You can expect to get new ideas and new role models. You could find yourself talking about yourself differently, dressing differently, and using your time in new ways.
You can expect to feel accepted, which in turn makes you feel more confident. When you constantly feel you’re being tested, you’re not in a good space; you’ll likely make mistakes and encounter even more obstacles to successful change.
What Not To Expect
You’ll rarely get instant friendship and bonding. In fact, you might never become close personal friends with people who are most influential in helping you change. When you push too hard, you’ll lose them.
It’s always a good idea to move slowly in a new environment. It’s all too easy to share details of your life with someone, only to realize later that your first impression was way off. Once you’ve confided the details of your bitter divorce or your descent into debt, you can’t take them back. And you don’t know how your new “friend” will use this infomation.
Confident, mature people will not press you to share personal information before you’re ready. Those who push you to go beyond your comfort zone don’t belong in your life.
One Last Piece Of Advice
When you’re feeling stuck it’s not a bad idea to work on your belief system and your attitudes. You might even consult with a coach or therapist.
But over and over, I’ve watched people change as they changed the people they spent time with. Sometimes the changes were subtle. Occasionally, the changes happened visibly overnight. It was like watching a flower bloom in time-lapse photography.
If you’d like to work with me on career change, let’s start! Click here to set up a session.
Learn more about finding friends when you move. Check out my book on moving: Making The Big Move: Relocation As A Life Transition.