This the first of a two-part post about my process for getting my new role as a Career Development Program Manager at Google (I start on October 1). Part One will cover the intention - getting clear on what I really wanted and the discomfort of knowing I needed to make a change. Part Two will cover the action - networking, sprucing up my resume and preparing for interviews. Before I get into any of the details, I want to start by saying this process was not easy (nothing worthwhile ever is, right?). It has been a roller-coaster, and I am going to share my emotional ups and downs along with the more practical steps I took to make the change.
Awareness: Planting Seeds for the "Ah-Ha" Moment
"You can't hit a target you can't see. You can't accomplish wonderful things with your life if you have no idea of what they are. You must first become absolutely clear about what you want if you are serious about unlocking the extraordinary power that lies within you."
—Brian Tracy, Maximum Achievement
Earlier this year, when I was still a people-manager, I developed a workshop to help my team write one-year professional development plans. I created the workshop because when I sat down with our existing development template, I felt uninspired. Even I, a personal-growth nut, had the goal-setter's version of writer's block.
So I developed a new template (see below for the version I created for Life After College) that would help my team focus on the big picture of their lives first - in every area. Only later, after dreaming about what we wanted to be, do and have in our whole lives, would we whittle those ideas down into tangible goals for the next year at Google.
Beyond the deep satisfaction of facilitating a process that helped others focus on their dreams and inspirations, the workshop impacted me in two major ways. First, it clarified what I wanted in my life beyond the company, which was primarily to be working with people; inspiring and motivating others through coaching, tools and workshops.
Second, it planted seeds (or perhaps more accurately exposed existing seeds) of tension and discontent. Tension between what I longed to do and what my day-to-day work actually involved, which had become much more project- than people-focused. I realized my current trajectory was not lined up with my long-term goals. From that point forward, the tension and discontent only grew stronger.
Ignoring the Red Flags...Until I Had No Choice But to Listen
"When you are living in harmony with your highest values and your innermost convictions then you enjoy peace of mind. If, for any reason, you compromise your values, or go against your inner guidance, your peace of mind is the first thing to suffer."
—Brian Tracy, Maximum Achievement
Mostly out of fear and comfort with the status quo (I had been on the same team for all of the 3.5 years I had been at Google), I did not spring into action after outlining my dream job. "It will happen someday," I figured.
But day by day, things got worse, not better. Mostly because of my own mindset. The work was still challenging and objectively interesting, but after my responsibilities changed as a result of two team re-organizations, it became harder for me to stay engaged, particularly when I could not connect my daily work to my big picture goals or core values.
At first I felt spoiled and absurd for feeling this way, particularly "in this economy," when so many others were without jobs altogether. But pretty soon, red flags started popping up. I became an emotional wreck. I was tired and stressed. Much to my humiliation, I cried more times than I would like to admit. At work. In meetings. Each time became the new lowest moment in my career.
I knew that something needed to change after the fifth, sixth and seventh red flag smacked me in the face. As I wrote in my journal at the time, I felt depleted of all energy, and a "a dreadful hum of anxiety permeated the background of my day-to-day activities."
Martha Beck on Physiological Reactions to Being "Off Course"
Our bodies are smart. They tell us when something is wrong. Mine was starting to throw a temper tantrum. The more I ignored it, the louder the sirens blared.
In her book, Finding Your Own North Star, Martha Beck talks about how our essential self (your true personality, desires and identity) communicates through the body, given the dominance of our social self (the part of you that developed in response to society, family, media, etc) in our thoughts. Excerpt below:
"Because it takes enormous energy to shove the social self out of its command center in the rational, verbal part of your brain, the essential self usually 'speaks' through parts of your being that aren't under conscious control...
...When you leave your true path and start heading away from your North Star, your essential self will use any or all of its skills and tools to stop you. If your social self won't pay attention to mild warnings, the essential self has to get more and more dramatic...
...Your true path will take you through frightening challenges, saddening departures, angry resistance, and a number of other profoundly unpleasant experiences. But the part you experience en route to your North Star feels clean, necessary and right to the essential self. That feeling of choked hostility, or numb depression, or nauseated helplessness is a sure sign you're steering away from your North Star toward a life you were not meant to live. When you feel it, you must change course."
—Martha Beck, Finding Your Own North Star
They say that what we resist persists - in this case, my body and mind continued sounding alarms until I finally listened and took steps to change the situation.
Stay tuned for Part 2, where I talk about how I finally took action, found an open role, spruced up my resume and prepared for interviews.
To check out the Professional Development Strategy template I referenced earlier in the post, click here (or below) to copy the template into your Google Docs. If you like it, do me a favor and give it a rating! I am building a Google Templates empire... :)