Who hasn’t wondered, at least fleetingly, what it would be like if they gave up their job?
Studies show that at least half of us in our 50s have had almost a dozen jobs, and three-quarters of Generation Xers are likely to go back to school at least once in their lifetimes to prepare for a new career. Millennials expect to change careers three times before retirement.
Change is the new normal. But defining that next goal can be a bigger challenge than we think. In fact, it can be so big that we avoid it altogether — and stay put in a situation that is ill-suited to us.
Enter Sarah Vermunt, career coach and author, who helps others sculpt lives they long to live, rather than long to leave.
The owner of Careergasm, a web-savvy online and personal coaching business, Vermunt is set to bring her empowering message to the International Women’s Day conference hosted by the Peterborough Women’s Business Network.
“We walk around with these stories in our heads about what we have to do and what we should do,” she says. “They’re these big blown-up stories that may have absolutely nothing to do with what we really want to do.”
Vermunt knows. She was three-quarters of the way through her PhD at Wilfrid Laurier University’s business school. She was teaching a course on Workplace Psychology, which she loved.
What she didn’t love was research. Vermunt says she started hating the work so much that she simply couldn’t do it anymore.
“Some of the scariest decisions are often the best ones,” Vermunt says now, laughing as she remembers how she “instantly” felt better after telling her PhD advisor she was “opting out” of the program.
She says she was also surprised at how much support she found. But it was that immediate sense of relief once Vermunt had chosen a well-suited path — as a career coach — that reminds her of the value of self-awareness.
VIDEO: Sarah Vermunt talks about “informational interviews” on Cityline
Her clients come to her confused, and sometimes not even knowing what they want. They fear change. They assume they must take a financial risk to make a change. They invariably have physical ailments that require regular physiotherapy or massage or acupuncture.
Or worse. Much worse. Broken relationships, depression, exhaustion.
Vermunt empowers her clients by playing with them. She says a playful approach helps encourage creative thinking.
“I ask people to remember things they loved when they were a kid,” she says.
“I play a game of hot and cold with my clients. I ask them to think about people they admire. We look for clues to the ingredients a client needs in their career. And then we strategize about how to get there.”
“I see the lost souls who have no idea what they want,” Vermunt adds, “people who really don’t know what they want, and then people who know what they want and are afraid to admit it.”
Vermunt characterizes some of her clients as ambitious, intelligent women, “women who can get stuff done.”
Yet she says, far too often we focus on too much, or the wrong things.
“Sometimes the simplest questions lead to the most profound answers,” she advises.
Start by focusing on a few things that feel good. Scrap the goals that don’t feel good. Pursue the ones that do.
“This is enlightened ambition,” Vermunt says. “Focus intently on a couple of things and everything will feel easier and lighter. Dropping a goal can feel scary. But it can be incredibly empowering.”
If you’ve been toying with a career change, you’ll want to hear Vermunt’s “BS-free career advice” at the International Women’s Day Conference Peterborough. It’s almost sold out! For more information about the conference and to register, visit www.iwdptbo.ca.