Thinking about work makes your heart sink.
You don’t know what you’re going to do. You can’t see your future clearly anymore. Maybe your company announced layoffs, or the job market changed, or you just realized one day that you weren’t happy at work—and you hadn’t been happy for some time.
Those moments are windows of opportunity. You’re faced with a choice. Do you keep going on like before? Or do you take a risk and make a pivot?
That’s the situation Nicole Jones was in. She’d made a career in investor relations and corporate communications. That’s what she was good at. That’s what she knew. But opportunity came knocking in the unlikely form of layoffs. Was her dream career lying just out of sight?
In this week’s YBTV interview, Nicole explains how to know when the time is right to make a career change. She teaches us how to identify our purpose and get up the courage to pursue it. You’ll learn why you need to avoid OPTs, why labels don’t define you, and what your childhood can tell you about your dream job.
What You’ll Learn
Sometimes, change is hard. Sometimes, life makes it easy for you.
For Nicole Jones, that moment came when she learned that her company would be laying off half their staff. When management called her in, she knew.
Anticipating what they were about to say, she cut in and said, “You know what, guys? It’s okay. Save that for someone who is really going to be upset. I believe this is the nudge that I needed to potentially pivot and do something else.”
In that moment, what she felt was freedom.
Is It Time for a Career Change?
When we’re caught up in our daily routine, we don’t always “have that space to take a step back and say, ‘Is this really what I want to be doing?'”
When life is going smoothly, it’s easier to push down those persistent feelings that we’re not in the right career or that we’re losing our passion for our work.
Nicole doesn’t believe that you’ll ever know for certain that it’s the right time to make a career change.
“But what I can say,” she says, “is that there is a feeling. If you keep thinking about that, if it never leaves, then I believe that’s something that you should be doing.”
If you keep seeing things aligned—you keep getting asked to do certain things, to be part of something—there’s a moment where you start listening to that voice. The whisper becomes the scream.”
Finding Your Purpose
But how do you know what you should do next?
Especially if you identified with what you were doing before. You’ve always seen yourself as someone in corporate communications, or sales, or advertising. You knew your role. You knew what you were doing. Without it, you’re not sure what your purpose is.
Nicole would pose the question:
Is that a purpose, or is that how you’re identifying yourself?”
She challenges us to question the labels society has given us.
“I’m a wife, I’m a mom, I’m a sister, I’m a daughter, I’m a friend,” she says. “We have these labels that we identify with, but that’s not our purpose. Your purpose is something that you’re passionate about. Your purpose is what you want to get up for every single morning.”
If you’re not sure what your purpose is, she recommends that you “think about what you liked when you were a kid.” Look for clues.
For example, Nicole wanted to be a pediatrician so that she could help children. “And when I look back on my career and things that I’ve done, it’s always been in spaces where I help someone.” That gave her the clue she needed to transition into a coaching career.
But What If I Fail?
When you believe it’s the right decision, the risk dissipates.”
Making a career pivot is a risk. But then again, staying in the same job is a risk.
You could always get laid off or made redundant. Technology could transform or eliminate your position. There’s no guarantee.
“I am NOT a risk-taking person,” Nicole says. “I play by the books. I play by the rules, the policies. That’s who I am.”
But, she says, those rules can keep us stuck in a box. We’re not willing to open the door and see what else is out there.
When she made the decision to make a career pivot and go into executive coaching, she didn’t feel she was taking a risk.
“I felt like something needed to change, but also, at that time, I felt like everything finally aligned for me,” she says. “It was like, ‘You know what? This has always been your purpose. Now you just need to step into it.'”
Turn Your Purpose into a Career
If it still feels too risky, you can channel your purpose into a hobby or side gig. You can keep your day job.
“Look, I understand sometimes we have to do things because we have to do things,” Nicole says. “We have to pay bills. We need to pay student loans or what-have-you. I hear you. But I do believe [that for] most of the people that I deal with or talk to, when they are really living their purpose, they’re so much happier.”
“Your purpose typically keeps you in the game,” she explains. “It makes you excited. There’s fire burning in that belly.” You don’t always have that if your work isn’t aligned with your purpose.
Making a pivot may not be easy. You may not get the support you expected from family and friends. That’s why you need to create your own support group.
“It’s very important to surround yourself around others that are going to challenge you but also cheer you on at the same time,” Nicole says.
Don’t let yourself get dragged down by well-meaning people saying, “You shouldn’t be doing this. This is a risk. You’re not going to get paid.”
You don’t want other people’s thoughts, which Nicole calls OPTs, in your head. Instead, tell them, “I appreciate what you have to say, but I need to do what’s right for me.”
How Executive Coaching Can Help
Executive coaching can help you get clarity on what you want and the best path to get there.
“A coach is really there to hold your agenda,” Nicole says. “We’re not a therapist; we’re not a mentor. We are someone who is there to walk side-by-side with you, to hold this space to help you move your agenda forward. We ask the questions that others may not ask you or may not want to ask you. We dig to get you to understand where you believe you want to go.”
Coaches won’t judge you. “You can tell me anything,” Nicole says, “and I’m going to be like, ‘Okay, if that’s what you feel you want to do, that’s great. Let’s get started.'”
Get started on your purpose by contacting Nicole at Nicole Jones Coaching and signing up for your free half-hour consultation.
Jump to Topics of Interest
2:25 How a layoff turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to Nicole
5:12 When to pay attention to that persistent feeling you’re supposed to be doing something else
7:16 Getting the courage to take a risk
9:36 Finding your purpose
11:47 Does your purpose have to align with your career?
13:40 Creating your own support network
15:58 Executive coaching
18:59 Your head and heart need to align
Nicole is a classically trained vocalist with a BA in Music from the University of Virginia, who moved to Boston to study jazz vocal performance at Berklee College of Music and secured a receptionist position at a financial firm in between gigs. Numerous promotions and pivots later, Nicole would run various departments including serving as Vice President of Investor Relations and Corporate Communications in the biotechnology industry. Returning back to Virginia where it all started, she is a Master of the Pivot, Certified Executive Coach, who helps leaders realize their vision, and CEO of Nicole Jones Coaching.