7 Ways To Navigate A Career Crisis By Helen Jane Campbell

It’s easy to blame your boss or the CEO if your career’s not going anywhere and you work in a big multi-national. And of course if you really start hating your job, then there’s the option to find work elsewhere or set up on your own.

But what if you hate your boss and you work for yourself? Well it might sound comical, but in honesty most of us have been there at some stage. Wondering why we set up in the first place, whether our business is ever going to turn a profit or why we left a decent, secure career for something we now think about 7 days a week. Entrepreneurship can bring some seriously wobbly moments.

Luckily, as a coach for founders, Helen Jane Campbell can offer you practical insight into navigating a career crisis as an entrepreneur. Here are 7 ways to help you navigate a career crisis.

Stop. And figure out what you truly need

We all have different ways of coping when we’re really up against it. You might have a tendency to work harder, or mask things with alcohol perhaps, or maybe you look for someone else to blame. All of these reactions are completely natural and part of human nature, but when you get stuck, it’s actually best to stop and explore what you truly need. You can do this on your own — perhaps through journalling — or with a coach, mentor or friend who can listen to you and reflect back. Don’t be too hard on yourself as you explore what’s really going on. 

Maybe you need to plan in a break for yourself, to get some extra support or maybe you need some inspiration. Once you’ve figured out what you need then take some time to plan in how you can access it over the coming weeks and months. Not everything has to happen all at once.

Return to your values

When your career feels off-track and you’re your own boss, returning to your values can be a powerful way to re-centre. By values, not meaning ethics, meaning what needs to be present in your life in order for you to feel fulfilled. Of course this will be different for everyone. If you already know what your values are then sitting down and noticing which ones you’re neglecting in your work life can be a handy clue. If creativity’s a value of yours but you’ve had your head in figures and spreadsheets over the past few months and very little downtime perhaps then re-connecting with your creative side might pull you out of a slump.

If you have a team working for you then you might want to re-connect with the company’s values across the whole organisation and perhaps also with each employee’s own values too. The aim here is not for it to be a flash in the pan… so it’s not one day of cupcakes and everything goes back to normal, it’s an invitation to reset for the long-term.

Have a really honest conversation. With yourself

If you’re really unhappy in your role and you are your own boss, it might be time to hire a coach or sit with your mentor or a trusted friend (perhaps a fellow founder) and open up. Take the chance to talk honestly about what’s making you unhappy and whether this current path is for you. It’s ok to change tack or take a break, just plan it in.

We no longer live in an era where people expect to have the same job for life, and this is no different for entrepreneurs. If you look at the career journeys of a lot of successful founders, there are generally plenty of twists and turns in their paths. It can be tempting to hide our true feelings because we want everyone to think we’re doing so well all the time but we don’t need to lie to ourselves. See what shows up when you’re truly honest with yourself about your career satisfaction right now.

Create a learning & development plan, or review it if you already have one

If you work for an employer you probably have an annual review and a training plan. Why people stop doing this when they set up on their own is a source of confusion to me. Yes, that it requires time and money but that’s no reason to omit it entirely. If money is the problem then find some free workshops to start with. Many coaches, run free online events or offer some free resources. And if time is the barrier then learn in bite-sized chunks. Perhaps you love to learn from podcasts when you’re making your lunch or doing the dishes, it can be a great use of time and make chores less dull. 

Longer-term, maybe there’s a qualification you’d love to study for. Having the right qualifications for the job, even in an unregulated industry, can being confidence both for you and your customers. This could really help you to get back on track and re-inspire you if you’re feeling stuck.

Make it fun

Setting up your own venture is often about a desire to do things differently, find fulfilment and enjoy work and life more. And yet once we’re a few years in, life can feel so overwhelming/ Perhaps we feel we don’t have enough time to enjoy ourselves at all, as running the business becomes all-consuming.

We might feel guilty spending time and money having fun when the business is demanding our time and attention. But bringing fun and lightness into each day can ease tension, create a positive working environment, support creativity and help to build a culture. What would make your working day more fun? Take some time to enjoy coming up with ideas and take pleasure in implementing them.

Be ready to be wrong

It’s hard to admit it when something doesn’t work or you make a big mistake and yet working outside of our comfort zone is all about learning, growing and making mistakes. It’s inevitable if we want to grow.

Notice what went wrong, learn from it, tweak the plan and move forward, don’t waste too much time re-living mistakes or worrying about it. Be honest about what went wrong, be clear about what you’re going to do about it and own it. Make it even better. 

Celebrate your wins

Celebrating is probably the last thing you feel like doing if you’re stuck at the moment, but reminding yourself what you’re brilliant at, and what comes naturally to you can really help. Our brains tends to look for what has gone wrong or what might go wrong, in order to keep us safe, but if we can focus on our talents and achievements we can train our brains to look for the opportunities and wins, and so where we used to see problems we’ll instead notice more of the good things.

Celebrating wins is also great for building a positive culture in your organisation, helping people to feel appreciated and valued.