Career Change: Manage Your Gremlins

career changeOne of the biggest challenges to having your head in the right place is negative thinking. I see this time and again. My clients don’t believe there is a job out there that will fulfill them. They are afraid of the unknown, concerned about taking a lower salary, wary of choosing the wrong job again, and fearful they will fail completely.

Ask yourself what fears or negative thoughts you have about making a career change. Do you think it’s unrealistic? Are you afraid of making a choice? Do you feel like you’re on the spin-cycle of the dryer and can’t choose just one career path? Or if you do choose one path, you will miss out on something better?

The main tool I use with my career coaching clients to address these fears is from Taming Your Gremlin by Rick Carson. Gremlins are negative inner voices that hold us back, tell us why we are wrong, or why we can’t accomplish something. In a word, they are our fears.

In Taming Your Gremlin, Carson outlines a three-step process to handling these thoughts or fears that is brilliant and effective. First you must simply notice your gremlins. You must become aware of them, understand who they are, and what they typically say to you. Then you become their observer rather than their victim. Begin to notice when they speak and take steps to manage them pro-actively.

Second, play with options. Start by writing down, for half a day, how often your gremlins speak and what they say. Get a journal for you career journey and make a section your gremlin journal. Then try different ways of managing them. Push them aside mentally. Talk back to them. Send them for a time-out, whatever it takes to prevent them from managing you and your thoughts.

The third step is to be in the process. Gremlin taming takes time. Think of a muscle that must be developed and how you go about it through regularly focused attention and exercise. And, if you are not committed to working on it for the long term you can lose what you’ve gained. Gremlin taming is the same process. Keep this in mind: sometimes the gremlins say something that is true. For example, your gremlin might say, “You can’t be a consultant; you don’t have an MBA.” Or “You can’t be a physical therapist; you don’t have the proper training.” You must acknowledge those truths or else you’re living in a fantasy world. The critical piece to remember is to let the fear part of what that gremlin says go. Who is to say you can’t go back to school or get certified if you want to?

Action step: Identify three gremlins that prevent you from moving forward in your career transition. Work through the three steps described above for one of those gremlins for each of the next three weeks.

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