Leap of Faith: on seizing career opportunities with confidence

Career development
Phil Purver
By Phil Purver | 24th June 2020

Chief Executive of The Working Manager, Managing Director of iRIS Health Solutions Ltd.

There's no denying the current economic climate is in a state of flux, and this has implications for the careers of many. Perhaps, after time out, you've reassessed what you want out of life and are ready to embark on something new. Or maybe you've had change thrust upon you in a restructured workplace with new responsibilities and roles. For those dealing with redundancy, looking for a new job can feel like the ultimate leap into the unknown.

Tuning into a recent CareerBurst webinar, hosted by Sarah Hobbs (Talent and Potential), inspired me to look back on the occasions during my career when I've leapt into uncharted waters. The webinar — entitled Taking a Career Leap — featured a panel of people who'd faced the challenges of their career leaps head-on. Listening to their advice and reflecting on my own experiences made me realise there are ways to steady the nerves when stepping into a new realm.

The panel's advice on tackling Imposter Syndrome would have been useful when I took my first major job as a Managing Director in a fast-growth company 20 years ago. I felt that others might have overestimated my abilities. Would I be exposed for lack of experience or even worse, a fraud? Actually, although it was bumpy on occasions, it was the perfect training ground, and I learnt so much.

Similarly, when Victoria Buckenham received an offer to step into the role of her dreams — as Head of People Development at npower — she started the position feeling like she had a lot to prove. Her advice — to be authentic — struck a chord. ‘It took me quite some time to realise I'd been asked to do the role because I was me… I've done great work which is why I've been asked to do this, and actually my natural style is what sold me here.'

Sarah agreed and cautioned against what she calls 'the magic weekend' — when you leave your previous position on a Friday with hopes of morphing into an entirely different person for your new role on Monday. Her advice was to focus on facts, such as why you secured the opportunity. Take ownership of your success instead of putting it down to good luck, disproportionally hard work or other self-deprecating notions.

If you’re in doubt about why your managers appointed you, find out. It’s easy to focus on areas where you feel you're lacking, but more likely, your strengths and talents in other areas outweigh these. Discovering what your superiors see in you helps you play to your strengths.

Sarah also recommended avoiding the temptation to be a superhero in a new job. Much better to admit you don't have all the answers: to reach out, engage, listen and learn. Asking colleagues for help or their opinion can give you a quick 'in'. It strengthens relationships and builds affinity. Who doesn't enjoy feeling like an expert?

For Laura Brunton, realising it's ok to ask for help was an epiphany moment when she moved to Australia and threw herself into her new position as People, Culture & Transformation Lead. 'I just realised... the magic happens outside of your comfort zone. It's so important to know that you're not expected to have the answers.'

When Imposter Syndrome threatens now, Laura has learned to override it with her rational brain. 'I say to myself "right Laura; you're thinking this… what does the rational side of your brain say? And then once I've checked that, I think, yeah. I'm talking rubbish. I'm going to move on, and I'm going to do it anyway.'

For me, Laura summed up the webinar with her parting words: ‘When faced with a challenge: be bold, be brave and go for it.’ Because as New York Times, bestselling author John C. Maxwell teaches: sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn – there are no downsides.

The recording of the CareerBurst webinar ‘Taking a career leap’ is available here.

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