Career Change: Slow Down and S.T.O.P.

We have an acronym in wilderness medicine: S.T.O.P.

It stands for stop, think, observe, and plan. Good advice for when you find yourself in the middle of a backcountry crisis.

As it turns out, it’s also good advice for unexpected front-country situations. Stuck in an uncomfortable political conversation? S.T.O.P. Flooded basement? S.T.O.P. Bat careening around the first floor of the house at two in the morning? S.T.O.P.

It can apply to happier circumstances as well. I attended the Banff Centre’s Wilderness Photography Workshop in September 2015 where one of the instructors – a Banff National Park wildlife biologist – asked me to S.T.O.P. He encouraged me to use my tripod more in order to slow down my process, to see what was inside of the frame and what was outside of the frame. He asked me to make more deliberate choices about what I chose to photograph.

It occurred to me then that this was also excellent advice for anyone contemplating a career change.

Stop

If you find yourself disillusioned by work, hit the pause button. Take some time away, if you can. If you can’t, break your day-to-day cycle. Maybe you take a walk at lunch. Maybe you try a different route to work. Maybe you change up your evening routine. Break the cycle so you don’t feel like you’re on a never-ending treadmill. Then:

Observe

Take the change in routine to consider what it is about your work that you don’t like and what it is you appreciate. Think about your workspace, how you work, and how you interact with people, in the same way. Jot notes down in one place so you don’t forget them and you don’t lose them. Then:

Think

Reflect on your notes as if you were an impartial third person. What shows up? Do you need a career change or a different environment in which to do a similar role? If you’re still thinking career change, what piques your interest? Start researching roles that could support that interest. Then:

Plan

There was plenty I couldn’t plan for when I made the leap. There was also plenty I could plan for. Consider if you require additional training, the impact on your household budget, your willingness to ‘start over’ if need be.

If you get stuck, ask for help. If you’ve been doing the same job for a long time, it can be hard to think outside of that box. Enlist the help of friends and family who know you and your work (and your play) well. They can often identify areas of interest that you may be too blocked to see.

You can always join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. There are more career-changers out there and they’re only too happy to help.

Photo Credit: Russell Ming-Sun

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