He knew exactly how he got there. Jack’s career path was one that clearly reflected the one his own father chose. He never felt pushed by his dad to follow in his footsteps. In fact, Jack initially pursued another career. But a deep pull toward what would become their mutual vocation rose up within him, and he turned his innate talent and skill toward the path he knew the best. For twenty years it held him.
As Jack moved toward that reflective half-century point, he began to wrestle with major frustrations with his chosen field. Questions arose about why he chose the path he did in the first place and whether he could find satisfaction in it going forward. Jack experienced some depression during this time and chose to put what energy he could muster into going through the motions of running his job. But it was apparent to him and others that another approach was needed. Jack was too young and talented to spend the rest of his working life showing up for something he no longer believed in or enjoyed.
Jack was in a full-fledged vocational crisis. Wiki says that vocation, from the Latin vocare, is a term for an occupation to which a person is specially drawn or for which they are suited, trained or qualified. The idea of vocation is central to the Christian belief that God has created each person with gifts and talents oriented toward specific purposes and a way of life. Many times the word ‘call’ is used to identify the place to which one is drawn for his lifework.
Although the term vocation was initially identified with the Christian community, it is now sprinkled liberally throughout the career discovery community. Dictionary.com lists its first meaning as “a particular occupation, business, or profession”; followed by “a strong impulse or inclination to follow a particular activity or career”. Career decisions often hinge on following such impulses.
In Jack’s case, he no longer felt the career inclinations of his early adulthood. But other full adulthood responsibilities were stark reminders that he was not free to walk away. As he thought about his options, he came up empty. Although Jack did not want to continue in his present line of work, he had no clue what else he might be qualified for or where he might find another job. In a word, he was stuck.
Do you know anyone who complains of being stuck in a career that no longer fits? Noted author William Bridges teaches us that the first phase of managing transitions is the simple process of helping people through three critical phases:
- Letting go of the old ways and the old identities
- Going through the neutral zone
- Launching new beginnings
Clearly Jack was at point #1 as he looked to let go of an old identity. Over time, he reflected and learned some key lessons that helped him step away from old ways that no longer fit. He also sought support as he maneuvered through point #2, the neutral zone. Stepping away from the familiar can be extremely difficult. New ways have to be created, adapted and worked out. Assessment, research, and coaching can help pull us through.
Jack’s decision in that period included investing in coaching with the CLARITY5 process. He was by nature deeply reflective, but uncertain about how to access his own deep wisdom and generate new insights. The 5 dimensions of CLARITY5 provided that essential piece. Once the data gathering and debriefing were done, insights nearly lept off the pages he populated with his own life words.
He did make it to point #3, ‘launching new beginnings’, as he moved into a new field. Because of a lifetime of good work habits and treating others with integrity, Jack was presented with an opportunity by a peer who had witnessed these traits firsthand. He was able to enter into a field where his technical skills were welcomed and his desire to travel was fulfilled. Notice the word ‘enter’. Jack did not sail off with a big fat paycheck and a new life. He started again. He got a chance to try something new, leveraging his experience of 20+ years.
So Jack jumped – shades of “Jumping Jack Flash”. Of that ’68 hit song Mick Jagger said in a 1995 interview with Rolling Stone: “It’s about having a hard time and getting out.” Way to go, Jack. You got out and are living your life.
#5 in the series