Taking charge of your career crisis

Aug 01, 2019
When in a professional crisis, it’s difficult to see the wood through the trees. Resolving this inflection point as a business leader can take a different set of skills not yet in your arsenal, explains Brian Fowler.

An inflection point is a period when an organisation must respond to disruptive change in the business environment effectively or face deterioration but, in practice, it’s a rare but decisive moment that marks the start of significant change – often in crisis. These moments not only affect organisations and industries, but they also impact on careers, too. At an inflection point, we are in a situation where the expectations placed upon us have so fundamentally altered because of the changes in the profession or working environment that if we don’t adapt, ourselves or the business will fail.

When managing senior appointments, I am in contact with executives facing career challenges every day. The different types of situation are so vast that I couldn’t outline them easily, but pending redundancy after being a part of an organisation’s long-term senior leadership team or an executive transitioning from the safe zone of their current position to a different organisational role are not uncommon. If it’s a job move, many recruiters will introduce you to great opportunities.  However, it’s important to remember that a recruitment consultant’s primary task is source a candidate for a particular job and requirement for their client. If you are at a career inflection point, not only do you need a job, but you need proper career advice. 

Who can help?

There is a saying “That for every will, there is a relative!” and, in business, for every problem, there is an advisor, both competent and incompetent. It’s human nature to start the discussion with people within your network, whom you feel could be a good advisor. Your family and friends know you, but do they understand your business strengths and achievements, and how you have coped and tackled challenges? 
Soundboarding with your peers seems intuitive but is often detrimental. Similarly, there are brilliant people in academia, but they may not have been at the coal face of business. It would be best to talk to executives who have a successful business track record, and whose only objective is to support and advise you. 

Finding the answers

When a professional hits a career inflection point, feeling inadequate is not uncommon. As a business leader, you may find that the skills and training that have brought you to this point in your career may be insufficient to bring you into the next development phase. The approach you will want to take may be a continuation of how you have resolved usual day-to-day business issues in the past, but you must remember that you are at an inflection point, and possibly heading into unchartered territory. Professional support and guidance will pay dividends. 

Working with an executive coach can be an eye-opening experience. Great coaches are masters at asking questions that help them understand exactly what you are grappling with, but more importantly, they will help you view your situation through a new lens. Coaches don’t have the answers, but their questions can guide towards the answer that will best suit you. 

People experiencing a dramatic change, in work or life, tend to keep asking themselves the same questions over and over. These questions are within their comfort zone, but the inflection point problem needs a different approach. The executive needs to start asking a different set of questions to come up with a plan to resolve the situation. An executive coach is the person who can teach you what questions to ask. Interacting with a coach should not only help you develop tactics to overcome today’s issues but help you gain skills to overcome future challenges. You will need to come up with better answers when facing professional challenges, and those answers will come more easily if better questions inspire you. 

Brian Fowler is the Founder and Managing Director of financial recruitment specialists, Accountancy Solutions.