How can you tell when it’s time for a job change and where to go next? In this episode of the Goal Digger podcast, host Jenna Kutcher and career coach Ashley Stahl discuss the role of intuition in career pivots. It’s a subject Stahl would know: She made the leap from counterterrorism professional to coach after discovering her dream job wasn’t so dreamy. Here, she maps a path to career fulfillment and offers tools for getting in touch with your authentic self. Kutcher and Stahl focus on staying true to yourself while starting a business, but their insights apply to anyone considering a change.
- Career fulfillment comes when your work aligns with your authentic self.
- Staying true to yourself may require living with uncertainty for a while.
- Your intuition will tell you when and how to pivot.
Career fulfillment comes when your work aligns with your authentic self.
Some people choose their careers based on what they enjoy consuming or learning about – fashion, food, politics – only to realize that the reality of that work doesn’t suit them. On the way to a fulfilling career, people progress through three main phases – you can think of them as “lily pads.”
On the first lily pad, you have secured an OK job that pays your bills, but it doesn’t make you come alive. You’re actively looking for a better role, but may not be sure what sort of move that would entail. Career coach Ashley Stahl put immense effort into landing a counterterrorism job at the Pentagon after grad school, but, once there, Stahl discovered the work didn’t jibe with her sensibilities.
“Don’t do what you love; do what you are.” (Ashley Stahl)
For Stahl, career coaching was her second lily pad. On the second lily pad, you have found a career that aligns not primarily with your interests, but with your gifts: the skills you can leverage with ease. You are operating in your power zone and generating many career opportunities – so many that you run the risk of settling merely for work you are good at doing, rather than striving for something that would “light you up.”
On the third lily pad, your work aligns not only with your interests and skills, but with who you are as a person. You may reach this lily pad in only some aspects of your job, or in particular projects; Stahl found it when writing her book.
Staying true to yourself may require living with uncertainty for a while.
Moving from one lily pad to another often feels risky. Sometimes it requires experimentation, or a period of metaphorical “swimming” into the unknown. You may feel certain you want to leave your current situation, but might lack any concrete sense of where you’re headed next.
In these times, you may be tempted to seize any new opportunity that comes your way – a relationship, a job – just to alleviate the discomfort of being empty-handed. It may look like progress, but if the venture isn’t truly the right step for you, you will eventually have to undo it. Be honest with yourself, and don’t try to force the process to a premature close.
Your intuition will tell you when and how to pivot.
So how can you tell if you’re in the right place or need to start looking for the next lily pad?
If you feel disconnected or out of touch with yourself, the first step is to “come back home to you.” Carve out time for the activities or relationships that make you feel the most like yourself – the things that bring you joy and reconnect you to your intuition. The goal is to be able to feel – physically, in your gut – a sense of yes or no when faced with a decision.
“Who you are always wins…[W]hat you really want is eventually going to shine through.” (Ashley Stahl)
This intuition will guide you, if you are able to listen. Gut feelings can serve as “turn signals,” telling you when something needs to change. These sensations can be inconvenient, even scary, but it is better to face facts on your own terms than to wait for a crisis to force the issue. At some point, you will find yourself at a “you turn”: a moment when you must acknowledge that the status quo isn’t working.
Your intuition should inform how you pivot, as well. Some people live by a “jump and the net will appear” philosophy, while others need more security. It is crucial, especially for aspiring entrepreneurs, to be honest about the level of risk you are comfortable taking. Protect your creativity by giving yourself time and space to experiment, even if this means staying a while longer in a job you intend to leave. You can make even dramatic pivots incrementally – for example, by establishing a presence on one digital platform at a time. Feel your way, as gradually as necessary, to the work that will bring you the most peace and joy.
About the Podcast
Jenna Kutcher is an online marketing educator, photographer, author of How Are You, Really?: Living Your Truth One Answer at a Time and host of The Goal Digger podcast. Ashley Stahl is a career coach and the author of You Turn: Get Unstuck, Discover Your Direction, and Design Your Dream Career.