Career cacophony? Confide in me…

Five tips on how to change the record with Janet Toal.
You might have guessed that in my youth I was a Kylie Minogue fan.  It goes way back when I saved for my first ever cassette of her aptly named hit, ‘I should be so lucky’ because right now for a lot of us, amidst a global pandemic, those words might resonate about both your career and/or personal life.
Few appreciate that really, we are all experiencing a huge trauma.  The effects of which will only become clear as time progresses.  Data has begun to tell a tale how women and in particular, their careers have been impacted.  Northern Ireland Research and Information Service blog[1] notes during the pandemic 84% of those in full time work were men in comparison to 57% of women.  Hardly surprising given that more women work part-due to caring responsibilities.  With a higher number of women on furlough in comparison to men, you might also assume that in the future, more women than men will face job loss.
Yet in the face of adversity, many have had an opportunity to enjoy other types of work.  I use the term loosely; ‘enjoy’ as home schooling while working from home was for many a fine line between necessity and lunacy.  The pandemic created a vacuum where interestingly as women we have been forced to sit with experiences, thoughts and realities that were at best, uncomfortable and for some, untenable.
In a world where everyone seems so self-assured and clear on where life is going, it can be scary to realise that you feel stuck.  It doesn’t matter what age you are, your background, or even how successful you might appear to the outside world.  When the external hustle and bustle became quiet I don’t think there was anyone who didn’t have the opportunity to evaluate, asking themselves, what about me?  Pema Chodron in her book, ‘when things fall apart’ says, ‘to live fully is to be always in no-man’s land’ but what can you do if this is where you find yourself right now?
You can read books, listen to Podcasts even get training to help identify what you might be doing wrong.  Yet in the end, what you really need to do is pull on your big girl pants and be honest with yourself.  Changing the record starts with accepting you are the DJ.
I had what Oprah might call, my ‘a ha!’ moment when a job promotion I really wanted didn’t happen.  So began a series of changes that made me realise that even though I wanted a new challenge, I wasn’t prepared for it.  I had instead become ‘settled’, more comfortable with a familiar rhythm that had become white noise.
The following five tips are what I discovered helped and perhaps they might help you too.  If not personally, they may give you an insight so that you can be a better friend, colleague, boss or more generally human being.
  1. The only person who cares about your career is you.
This is a big one.  As women, we tend to share experiences with our girlfriends.  The sense of comradery in putting the world to rights can mean however, circumstance gets the blame.  When it comes to career though, only you know what it is you want to do and only you know what needs to change to achieve it.  Sometimes that can mean being selfish.  Not in an ego driven way rather, being honest with yourself about what might be holding you back.
  1. Begin where you are
Like many women, I too suffer from the common complaint, analysis paralysis.  When you feel stuck, it is easy to spend your time analysing what you could do when really, what you need to do is just begin from where you are.  That sounds like very simple advice but in reality, it requires courage or as Brené Brown would call it, being prepared to feel vulnerable.  So what practical steps can you take?  Maybe take a blank page of paper and write down what or where you want to go with your career or life.  Give yourself a chance to explore and remember you won’t know exactly but perhaps by using words to describe how you want to feel is a great place to start. 
  1. Trust the process
As a yoga teacher, I often say this in class.  Whatever your reality is right now, this is only the beginning.  Any process that involves change takes time.  Women especially have a tendency to want to get things done but being patient and trusting in what comes next is where the future can get exciting.  What does this mean comes with tip number 4.
  1. Lose control
Surely not?  Conversely, a career where you are in control leaves no room for interruption.  My experience meant that the need to be in control was a bigger issue.  Perfection and the need to always be ‘on’ meant losing control would mean failing.  Ironically, I tell my children that failing is part of life but in reality, no one wants to fail and no one goes looking for it.  So begins the cycle.  But sooner or later, we have an experience we can’t control.  The essence of life and having a career is that it’s challenging.  Julia Samuel, author of, ‘This Too Shall Pass’ talks about it in a podcast with Deliciously Ella[2], when she says, ‘people think you should have everything in order but really, your experience might be that everything was perfect and in order for five minutes last Wednesday’.  So don’t believe the hype around those who look like they have it all.  They don’t, instead, they have simply learned to let go of what they can’t control and make the best of the opportunities that present themselves.  I was recently reminded of the analogy, ‘the tighter you hold the rope, the more it burns your hand’.
  1. Get Outta My Way
No better way to finish except with another Kylie number.  Be unstoppable in your journey to find what you need.  Moving from being stuck requires energy.  Where intention goes, energy flows so be clear what you want to achieve and identify what you need to help get you there.  It might be knowledge, gaining different skills, a new role or working with a mentor[3] to challenge and assist with helping you to understand your values and priorities.
It’s never too late to change your tune.
Janet is a mentee on the Women in Business Mentoring programme & a Boardroom Apprentice who enjoys sharing about her experiences on what it is to be a woman in business while juggling the other demands in life. Working as Manager for Innovation programmes in InterTradeIreland, she teaches yoga in her spare time & tries to keep her husband & 4 children alive. Like to connect? Find her on LinkedIn

[2] 7th June 2021, available on all Podcast platforms.
[3] Women in Business Mentoring Programme is just one great opportunity that exists