The huddle

Hello and welcome to your new The Handbook careers column. I am Alice Olins, founder of The Step Up Club, a global women’s careers community, and I will be popping up here every month with articles and advice to support you at work. It doesn’t matter what you do, which stage you are at or whether you’re employed or run your own business.

As I often say, the Step Up Club is about supporting the woman behind the job – plus, I welcome the cross-pollination of ideas and diversity that comes with having important conversations with as wide a range of women as possible. So welcome, I am excited to be here!

In the spirit of this new column, our first topic is going to be, Starting Something New. We are all always starting something new. That sounds like the most obvious, basic statement to make, but there is so much truth and power in being able to see how agile you are already. Your ‘something new’ might be trying a different route to work, or sending out a LinkedIn request to someone you don’t know, or just using that unusual piece of equipment at the gym. These are all everyday occurrences, and yet each still requires the same methods and approach that apply when we’re making changes, or starting something new at work. So first off, I want you to give yourself a little internal round of applause. You are adaptable, because you are human – now let’s harness this internal capacity for flex, and send it in a productive, career-shaped direction.

New Beginnings And Life Today

Why is starting something new so relevant now? Our relationships with our careers have been evolving for many years now; we are living longer, and that means there is more time in which you can make significant changes. Accordingly to multiple sources, our parents tended to have on average 12 jobs in their lifetimes, across approximately two to three different careers. In contrast, current statistics taken from the Metro newspaper states that already, 16% of millennials have had 11 jobs and Gen Z are likely to move careers (not just jobs) at least 10 times across their working lives. Throw in the pandemic, and all of the change that whipped up, and it’s easy to see that change is in the air.

I’d encourage you to think about the opportunities that are open to you today that maybe weren’t three or so years ago. Let’s get excited and learn to capitalise on these shifts, rather than fearing the inevitable, which is that life has scope for so much more in every direction. But how do you actually start something new? Let’s have a look. I always say, when I’m running my workshops that it takes time for the ideas I share to percolate. So read this column now, perhaps bookmark it, and then give yourself some thinking time to mull things over and takes these broader concepts and apply them to your own life. If you can, take out a pen and paper and jot some notes down, or just dedicate a walk or run to active thinking time.

16% of millennials have had 11 jobs and Gen Z are likely to move careers (not just jobs) at least 10 times across their working lives. Throw in the pandemic, and all of the change that that whipped up, and it’s easy to see that change is in the air.

Your 5 Steps To Starting Something New

1. Accept The Rocky Waters: However big or small, making a change can feel uncomfortable. Know this in advance, and it’ll make the whole process easier. You will have down days, you may even question your own choices – this is normal. In fact, we often spend too long in our comfort zones. So celebrate stepping out of yours…

2. Know The Stretch Zone Power: ….and inhabiting your Stretch Zone! Your Stretch Zone sits just beyond where you feel comfortable, and it’s where growth happens.
Between Comfort and Stretch though, sits a band of fear. As with point 1, this is normal, being fearful makes you human; it’s your brain’s way of alerting you to possible danger. You can manage these fears by turning the volume down on your negative internal chatter. These fears won’t go away but you can respond different – acknowledge that they are there and then move forwards in spite of them. You need to get good at giving yourself a proper talking to. This will get easier over time.

3. Define Your Vision: Before you start something new, know where you are going. Again, this seems like simple advice but often we aren’t crystal clear with ourselves and this can confuse the process and affect our self-esteem. If you can, create a vision board (there are lots of brilliant online tools to help you), or talk it out with a friend (accountability is a very useful change-making driver) and then get the key points down on paper, or better, stuck on the wall so that you can see and be inspired by your end point everyday.

4. Do Your Due Diligence, Then Execute: Ask yourself questions about what might happen along the way and again, get them down on paper. Own those potential hiccups and you’ll be much better prepared to cope with them if and when they occur. Then do your personal due diligence: which transferable skills do you have? When before have you overcome change or started something new? What happened? How did it help you grow and move forward?

5. Focus On Small Steps: We tend to think change needs to be big and brassy. Most likely though, change – or starting something new – will be a collection of smaller, consistent actions that lead you to your vision. When you focus on the smaller steps, you’ll also see results quicker and this will build your confidence and keep motivation high. Plus, small steps fit neatly into a plan: alongside your vision board, look at the strategic steps you’ll need to take to get you there.

Even better, do it with your calendar to hand. Set yourself dates that you want to have achieved your small steps by and you’ll know you’re moving forward as you go. Starting something new is a sliding scale but the nuts and bolts of how, when and why remain the same. You have started something new a million times already in your life, use these previous experiences to inform your next new beginning and keep an open mind – actively choosing to step out of your comfort zone is exciting and life-affirming. You are amazing, don’t ever forget that.

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