A helpful model is to use the four seasons to see where you fit in. This organic cycle occurs both inside and outside of us and is not separate or apart from our concerns. I have found that, although it might be spring or summer in the environment, people contemplating a career change or modification tend to be in either the fall or winter stage of their own change cycle.
In the Fall stage, they often feel scared, angry, victimized, and cynical about their career future. Fall is a place of being in the doldrums. They may be unwilling or unable to change from a job or career identity and move ahead. Eventually, just as the trees shed their leaves, a person in fall will have to let go—of a job (whether in getting laid off, being fired, or independently choosing to leave) and all that entails. Fall is a time when individuals often need to create an exit plan, and some may find attending support groups or therapy aid their process.
As in nature, fall naturally gives way to winter.
Winter behavior is often characterized by introversion, depression, and being in limbo. Some have called this a “cocooning” stage. Nothing seems to be going on externally, but much work is occurring internally. Winter encourages you to spend time alone in reflection and begin to take a look at what you have done and what you haven’t done. Winters can last a long time, and consider that, in nature, there are areas of the world where winters are the dominant landscape.
What I encourage my clients to do while they are in this stage is to tap into the other aspects of what winter has to offer: quiet excitement, the possibility of a new beginning, listening to their inner voice, and the courage just to be. This may be a time in which you pursue contemplative work, like art or writing, meditating, Insight Reiki, or praying. Being in one’s winter is not the time to go for the dream job. It is a time to utilize the resources at your disposal, whether they be healthcare benefits, support groups, or a part-time transition job. Reading inspirational books, such as Callings by Greg Levoy or Creating the Work You Love by Rick Jarow, may help, and going for additional individual counseling can provide insight into your process.
Eventually, even the most frozen wasteland receives a bit of sun, and the first glimpses of spring will appear.
I refer to Spring as the “getting ready” phase. People entering spring might create a résumé of their past work to help them see their marketable skills and experiences. They may need to begin taking classes to update outmoded skills. Conducting informational interviews with individuals in fields that are interesting to them will help bring greater clarity to their career goals. Finally, I feel an important part of the spring energy is to work with the creative force, whether it is painting, dancing, singing, or writing to act as kindling for the fire that can take them into the next stage of summer.
When you are in a Summer part of your life or career, you are active, extroverted, growing, “going for it,” and filled with energy. Our culture views this stage as the norm of behavior and the other three seasons as aberrations. But like the climate in the Northwest, where I live, summer often comes in fits and starts and may last only a short while.
The important thing to remember is that in all phases of the career/life cycle, growth is occurring. Fall and winter are internal periods of growth, spring and summer are external manifestations. With that realization, my hope is that individuals going through career transition will realize that there is no good or bad to their experience.
Each phase in the seasonal cycle has certain lessons to teach us. When we acknowledge these lessons instead of hurrying through them, we are honoring the natural process that is occurring within ourselves. We are cultivating the creative career, which is the process that is occurring as we recognize the missing pieces of our lives and begin to put them together to create our own unique life puzzle.