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Reframe Obstacles to Find Career Clarity

Reframe Obstacles to Find Career Clarity

When it comes to our plans, life can often have other ideas. That scenario has certainly been playing out as the whole world has been turned upside down by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

So often we have very specific ideas about how our lives are supposed to unfold – feeling like we have control over the situation. The pandemic has come along to remind us, in no uncertain terms, that we are not.

In addition to putting an enormous spotlight on the value and fragility of human life, the virus has called on all of us to let go of control…to let go of the many plans, goals, shoulds, must-haves, and must-dos that keep us running, often at a nonstop pace. The virus has slowed us down in myriad ways, and not always in ways we think of as positive.

If you’re feeling like the rug has been pulled out from under you when it comes to control and clarity as it relates to your career and professional ambitions, I understand, and suggest that reframing your situation could be helpful.

Reframing is looking on the bright side. It’s focusing on the doughnut and not the hole…it’s making the best of things in these uncertain times. In my TEDX Women talk, I harkened back to the disheartening, unclear days I experienced shortly after leaving my career as an opera singer when I was completely at loose ends. At the time, I knew I wanted to step away from the world of professional opera, but I had no idea how I would do anything other than music.

Gradually, by reframing - by looking at my career-limbo through a new lens (with the help of trusted mentors and coaches) - I began to see the value in the skills I’d developed as a result of my training and performance experience and began to see how those skills could be transferred into a new, non-music-related profession. I started to focus on what I had rather than on what I’d lost.

[Related: Thirty Companies in Thirty Days: Real-Time Insights on the Importance of Employee Health]

You have more than you think.

I encourage you to focus on what you have if your professional life has downshifted more than you would have liked during this pandemic. Economic pressures may go hand in hand with COVID times, but often, out of adversity, comes valuable insight, growth, and creativity that can propel you into even better circumstances in the end.

You may realize you’ve been in the wrong profession all along, or decide you’d like to upskill, or earn a new credential. Maybe this unprecedented time in our lives will inspire you to write or flesh out an idea for a new side hustle venture – enabling you to earn a living in a whole new and more desirable way. I can only imagine the new inventions, books, films, plays, and businesses that will result from these pandemic times.

My friend and side hustle colleague, Kris Taylor, wrote a great blog about 12 Tips for Turbulent Times and I have excerpted one of her pearls of wisdom here:

If we can stomach the transitional time, there is magic in the middle.

William Bridges’ work charts the journey between letting go of the past and accepting the new. It is in that transitional period between the “old” and the “new” that the magic happens. Once the “old” is disrupted, we are presented with an opportunity to recreate the new. If we have the courage and the will to live consciously in this “betwixt and between” space, we can use the transition creatively, building a better future.

This space challenges us – as we are torn between retreating or recreating the past or hurrying the creative nature of this “in between” space to get to a new sense of “normal.” To tap into the magic of the middle, we need to get our sea legs, become comfortable with uncertainty and be unwavering about asking what it is that we want to create in our futures.

[Related: Intentional Habits to Glide Into the New Year With Ease]

Give reframing a try.

A number of my coaching clients have shared that they’ve been reframing what being happy or feeling “successful” really means. For many, that definition has changed in the wake of COVID-19. Priorities are shifting…new pathways are being created.

If this is true for you as well, I encourage you to keep the faith and carry on as we move toward a new year. COVID-19 has been the great re-framer for so many of us and you deserve to find your magic in the middle of the chaos.

[Related: How to Get to the Core of Your Work Stress]


Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book "This Is Not the Career I Ordered" and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name. She is Vice President of Career Coaching and Employer Connections for the Ivy Tech Community College system and contributes to Thrive Global, Ellevate Network, Medium, and The Chronicle newspaper in Indiana. Her online video series about career and life empowerment for women is on YouTube. She hosts the three-time award winning podcast, Your Working Life, on iTunes, Spotify, and SoundCloud. Follow her on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter. Her TEDxWOMEN talk about reframing failure and defining success on your own terms is available on YouTube.

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