Updated: Oct 20, 2022
I am working with some amazing, funny, talented, competent, brilliant women at the moment. They are part of a workshop that I am running on shifting career blockages and taking ownership of your career. In one of our last workshops, one of the women was struggling with where she is in her career right now. She is someone that has always put "her all" into her career, has invested all her energy in being the best she could be, upskilling herself and taking the initiative to lead in her field. But for the last year or two, things have been tough for various reasons, and she has found herself losing energy, withdrawing, disengaging. In our workshop, she described how she was struggling with the fact that she has been "putting the brakes on" at work. Questions that arose related to
"is it ok to be where I am right now?" , "how will this impact my career?", "am I taking a step back, a step that I will never recover from?".
What she described, reminded me of how I lost a sense of who I was when I found myself withdrawing from work. At one time in my life, my identity was my work, and work was my identity. Whenever things weren't going well elsewhere in my life, it was somewhere I could go to just feel competent again. Work was so connected to my identity that when I resigned and took a sabbatical, I went through a few months where I didn't know how to introduce myself because I had no work and no position to define me.
What I noticed however when I started withdrawing from work, was not that I stopped doing my job, but that I started freeing up head space to think, creative space to play, and time to engage in other elements of my life. And as I invested time and started to find meaning in things other than work, at some point I began to question the degree of meaning I had attributed to my job. It was a difficult period for me because it required a lot of vulnerability, introspection and honesty with myself on where I was in my life.
What I love about these workshops is that everyone brings their collective wisdom into the room. After discussing the issue of disengagement for a while, another participant related that a few months ago she had explicitly given herself permission to put the brakes on at work, to just do her job, and nothing more. Why? Because she recognised that she had other balls to juggle in her life that needed her attention there and then. She understood that sometimes, putting more energy into one area of your life requires you to reduce your input elsewhere. She had a very clear sense of how to manage role overload. In permitting herself to take a step back, she had essentially freed herself from her self-criticism and the internal judgmental voices that so frequently and loudly shout "you should..." and "you should not"...
Whether putting on the brakes at work is a good or a bad thing is entirely irrelevant. I encourage you in these times in your career to ask yourself a few questions:
What is going on right now, that is competing for my energy and attention?
What is draining my energy at work? How can I reduce this?
What nourishes my energy at work? How can I optimise on this?
What am I assuming might happen if I cut back at work for a little while?
What could I be gaining by decelerating for a little while?
What is stopping me from permitting myself to focus elsewhere for a while?
What about this disengagement from work is so uncomfortable for me?
Reflecting on these questions might give you the perspective and clarity of thought on how to re-engage at work. It may also have the effect of highlighting that perhaps it's time to make some changes which may even include changing jobs or careers. There is always benefit in first trying to re-engage. But if that is not going to work for you, then perhaps my blog on my career change will give you some things to think about.
But above all, please just give yourself permission to breath, and think and be curious about where you are at right now!
I love conversations and would love to engage with you on your career and how you are managing yourself and your career like a business.
I believe "managing your career like a business" means having insight on where you want to go in your career, the agility and resilience to change track when necessary, competence to navigate transition points, and self-awareness to manage yourself.
I help you do that through one-on-one coaching, CV and LinkedIn profile writing, topic-specific workshops and a suite of blogs and other materials available on my website. Want more information? Why not book a discovery session?
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