Clear the past to move forward: What to do when a bad experience at work is holding you back. - ZM Coach

I’ve been noticing a pattern in conversations I’m having with clients and potential clients, that I want to share with you today.

Here’s the pattern:

A person goes through something difficult in their career – a challenging boss, a layoff, a promotion into new role they’re not prepared for. Because of how it goes down, that experience takes a toll on their confidence. The challenging boss who micromanages and demeans their work has them questioning their own abilities. The layoff has them wondering if they’re going to be employable in an uncertain economy. The promotion that they’re not ready for has them feeling like an imposter.

The result is they end up feeling like they are walking around in a fog. Just at the point when they most need to feel confident, so they can move on to a new opportunity, or step into their leadership and take charge, they are bogged down and drained by disappointment, frustration and insecurity. Instead of moving confidently into what’s next, they’re spinning their wheels, second-guessing themselves, questioning their abilities.

For some, this results in truly staying stuck. They end up staying in that toxic job, absorbing even more of the dispiriting and disempowering energy around them. If they’ve been laid off, they have very low energy for their job search, going through the motions, but uninspired to find what’s next. If the challenge was a promotion, they weren’t quite ready for, they end up crossing their fingers and hoping things will get better. They’re muddling along, working harder and harder to make things work, and hoping for the best. Months and sometimes even years go by — wasted time as their careers are stalled out.

Others don’t stay stuck – they do the opposite – they move too fast. They get into motion, but because they’re still weighed down by the past, they sell themselves short. They aim low for their next role or take the first thing that comes along. Sure, they get a new job – but it usually ends up being something that isn’t the right fit.

A good friend of mine went through this. She’s a writer, and although she writes about a technical subject, her real specialty is capturing the human spirit. She’s great at telling the stories of the people who do the technical work in an engaging and interesting way. When her work situation got particularly toxic, she jumped to the next role she could find in her field. Turns out, that role had her doing very technical writing, without any of the human element. Less than a month in and she was miserable. She called me and moaned, “What have I done?” While the new environment wasn’t toxic – people actually got along quite well — she found the job completely soul-sucking. To avoid moving again too quickly, she stayed as long as she could. There went a couple years of her life, putting up with work she didn’t love, that wasn’t at all her value-add.

These situations are why I believe any step you take in your career has to start with clearing the fog from whatever has you wanting to make a move in the first place. It doesn’t work to dig in and grind through a job search. It doesn’t work to stay and feel miserable. It doesn’t work to push yourself to work harder in a role that isn’t a good fit for you. When you’re still surrounded by the fog of disappointment and frustration, you won’t be able to see a clear path forward.

So how do you clear the fog? You need 3 things:

  1. You need a proven system for clearing those negative emotions and negative stories, and replacing them with a hopeful vision for the future. That way you can be moving toward what you really want. That’s much better than settling for what your downtrodden self will tell you is all you can have.
  2. You need a sense of conviction. You need to come to a clear decision that no matter what’s happened in your career up to this point, you deserve to have work that you enjoy. You deserve to be in a role where you’re motivated and energized, and where it feels good to go to work every day. You deserve to be respected, working with people who want the best for you.
  3. You need people around you who are supporting you and cheering for you. That might be a coach, a peer group, or both. Any transition in your career – whether that’s finding a new role, or stepping into one with bigger responsibilities – will test your resilience. Transitions can be lonely experiences. It can be hard to find people who truly understand what you’re going through. So many people become uncomfortable with your discomfort, that they offer platitudes or try to get you to look on the bright side. They mean well, but that’s not really the kind of support you need. You need people around you who can help you move through the fog. People who can help you discover what you want, and create strategies to get it.

If you’re walking around in a fog, carrying frustration, disappointment, guilt or grief because your career isn’t going the way you want it to, let’s talk. We’ll get on the phone for about 45 minutes. During that time, we’ll look at what’s happening in your career right now and what you wish it looked like instead. If I can help you clear the fog and get from where you are now to where you want to go, we’ll talk about what that could look like.

If I’m not the right fit, I’ll tell you that too, and point you to other resources. Either way you’ll walk away with a plan to get your career moving in the right direction. Book a call now at zmcoach.net/call.

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