ITC and Career Transition

  • Participant
    Rebecca Zucker
    June 4, 2015 at 7:40 pm #1950

    Several of my colleagues from Next Step Partners and I have been trained and certified in the Immunity to Change coaching approach. Our initial goal was to use ITC in our executive coaching work. We saw the promise of the ITC approach in offering a transparent, fast, repeatable way for leaders to overturn big assumptions that held them back from making meaningful change, whatever the goal – which could range from being more strategic by delegating more effectively, to establishing deeper relationships by showing more vulnerability, to voicing opinions more assertively.

    These promises were fulfilled, and we’ve seen results in our executive coaching clients. However, we’ve also seen significant client progress in another area: career transition. Career transition is a natural part of any leader’s development, and as the leader of Next Step Partners’ Career Transition Coaching Practice, I quickly saw how the ITC approach could also be equally useful to these clients.

    In most career transitions, clients carry beliefs about what is or is not possible for them in terms of choice of a career or a specific job. We work with many accomplished, hard-working and highly educated people who feel pressured to maintain the appearance or uphold a personal brand of being a high-achiever. They have received many messages from those around them – parents, spouses, friends, business school classmates, etc. about what they should be doing with their careers. These outside influences or “shoulds,” tie directly to their self-talk and inner critic.

    Ironically, the greater one’s achievements, the more likely one’s identity is to be challenged in career transition. This is because many high achievers have never before been in a position where they felt they failed, or at least not gotten what they wanted, or where there is doubt about the end result. They have achieved great things, but have not necessarily developed the resilience or grit that comes from trying, not succeeding, learning from that experience, and ultimately moving beyond any setbacks.

    Further, being in the ambiguity of a career transition, even when employed, is a hard place for most people, but it has a particular challenge for high achievers. People who fall in this category often have many competing commitments around never being seen as a failure, a loser, weak or to never not being respected by others. Their big assumptions then dictate the type of work they need to do. For instance, “If I don’t get a demanding, lucrative, or glamorous job, then I will be seen as a loser.” These assumptions also inform the manner in which they go about their work. “If I am not hard-driving, intense, highly critical, or rarely satisfied, then I won’t be respected.” As a result, they can feel a tremendous amount of pressure and anxiety – more than the usual stress that can come with a career transition.

    In addition to the pressure, negative judgments and unhappiness they impose on themselves, there is a further cost: the limitations of their current thinking can limit their view of future career possibilities – possibilities that may allow them to better express their values, interests and natural gifts, which research has shown leads to the greatest career satisfaction and fulfillment.

    In this emotional mix, the ITC mapping process can provide the breakthroughs necessary to help people see their careers, and themselves, in a new way. Here are a few career transition clients where just doing the ITC map was extremely helpful in showing these clients the limitations they put on themselves:

    ‘Dave’ was partner in a global professional services firm. He had achieved great things, but had worked so intensely, he not only burned out his team, but he was burned out as well. He was so tired that he knew he really didn’t want to work so intensely anymore. In Dave’s map, his goal was “To find a job with better work-life balance.” The big assumption that resonated most strongly was “If I don’t work so intensely, I won’t be adding any value.” His immune system was keeping him at a standstill in his job search.

    ‘Sue’ came from a top-tier consulting firm. Upon leaving her firm, she was torn about what was going to be next for her. She was a talented consultant who had a lot of great job options and the goal in her map was “To find a highly respected job.” Her big assumption was that “If I have a highly respected job, I will be a bad mom.” As she saw it, her only other option was to be a ‘good mom, with a mediocre job’ that no one would respect. Again like Dave, Sue’s immune system kept her completely stuck and without options.

    ‘Lisa,’ was no longer excited by her senior role working at a global consumer products company. Her improvement goal was “To rediscover the joy of work.” The big assumption underlying her immune system was that “If I enjoy my work, I would fail my family.” Like other driven high-achievers, her competing commitments were “To not failing, to not looking like a loser, to not being worthless, to not being incompetent,” but also “To not being a bad mom.” For Lisa, having one foot on the gas and the other foot on the break meant her job hunt was going nowhere.

    For Dave, Sue and Lisa, once these big assumptions were identified, they could start the process of overturning them. They used informational and job interviews to do safe tests of their assumptions, and to start to ease up on the brake pedal. At Next Step Partners, we have found that using ITC in career transition work can be liberating in expanding a client’s thinking about what is possible as it relates to the work they allow themselves to choose or the life they allow themselves to live.