5 ways to navigate change in your career and life

As a community-builder by heart and by trade, witnessing how people navigate their ways through life is both a privilege and a pleasure. It comes with the territory for me as the co-founder of OwnTrail, the social OS that helps you achieve your next milestone in life. 

More than 1600 people — almost exclusively women and gender-nonconforming folks — have publicly share their personal and professional journeys as trails on OwnTrail to date, and while each trail is completely unique, they all share one thing in common: change. 

After personally analyzing these trails and candid conversations with dozens and dozens of these women, here are the biggest lessons I’ve learned about finding your way through change:

1. Take a beat. Really.

Life moves so fast these days and change often pushes us into action mode. Action is great! You’ll need it to navigate whatever change you’re experiencing — but not always right away.

“Take a moment to pause. Put it in your calendar if that helps. Turn off notifications and/or remove any other distractions. Then sit with the change. Notice how you feel, emotionally and physically. How does this change impact your present and what you expected in your future? How clear are you on next steps? And how confident are you in those?” – Kt McBratney

It might just be a few minutes that validates your instinctual course of action. There’s neurological basis behind trusting your gut, after all. Taking some time to reflect on the change might surface something new. I’ve witnessed take the form of

      • Realizing a desire to change industries entirely after receiving a promotion
      • Accepting the concurrent stress and joy during an intense season of parenting
      • Noticing new patterns across personal and professional relationships after a breakup

2. Learn the difference between internal and external change – and now they can work together

Change takes many forms. It can be the external forcing factor of a layoff, global pandemic or competitive job market just as much as it can be a new mindset, shift in priorities or gains in self-confidence. Being able to distinguish between these two, even when more than one occur at the same time, can help you better map your next steps. 

Because if you’re not clear on where the change is coming from, it’s much harder to discern where to start. Take a layoff, for example. One of the classic and common examples of an externally driven change, the decision to make a career change has been made for you. – Kt McBratney

All you can do is move forward from this point, driving the next steps for your career. And while a layoff is an external forcing factor, it can lead to powerful internal change. Countless people I’ve spoken with have used layoffs as a catalyst to make a professional shift they’d been contemplating for some time. (Hello, Great Resignation career pivoters!) 

Others still have used this external change to drive meaningful internal change including resetting boundaries as a working parent, redefining what success looks like for them now or even taking extended time away from working to heal and reclaim their voice.

The inverse is true, as well. 

“Internal change, like choosing to start a new relationship or adopting a growth mindset, can fuel external changes in your personal and professional life.” – Kt McBratney

3. Be open to changes in perspective.

Hindsight is 20/20, right? Not always! But it’s common for our perspectives on life changes to shift over time. The facts remain the same: you launched a business during a pandemic, you found an incredible mentor, you landed your dream job. As your journey unfolds from these moments of change, your perspective on them may shift.

That pandemic launch that felt like the biggest challenge of your career? Two years later, that still might be true — AND it’s been the most rewarding professional experience as well. That amazing mentor? Maybe you’ve fallen out of touch but the insights you shared still serve you today. And that dream job? It’s quite possible that your dreams have evolved since then, and that role isn’t it anymore. While those are just a few of the infinite possibilities, acknowledging a shift in your perspective allows you to make the right next decision for you right now.

4. Let go of finding the right answer in order to embrace your answer.

There is no one single right path in life, so your version of the right response to change needs to be right to you. – Kt McBratney

It can be helpful to explore how other people have or would handle a change like yours, but you are not them. You are the expert of your life. When you fixate on doing what appears right to others instead of what’s right for you, you lose valuable time and energy that could be poured into your right next step.

That doesn’t mean to throw away all advice, best practices or recommendations. 

Ask for your inner circle’s input. Find folks who have been in similar positions and explore how they responded. Lean on your first, second and even sixth level connections for information and inspiration to open up possibilities you may not have known existed! Some ways you can do this:

      • Intentionally build a community for yourself to make changes and transitions easier. 

      • Explore trails on OwnTrail and create your own custom path

        • Searching or filtering for the experiences or keywords that are important to you.
      • Find people who are a few steps ahead of you.

        • Make a list. Think of everyone you’ve witnessed go through a similar change. What did they do? How did they feel Where are they now?

Remember that all of this is just data, and you are the ultimate decision maker in your life. Just because the majority of people did X, you can still absolutely do Y.

5. Handle change like a practice, not a quick fix.

Everything is changing all the time — including change!

Over the course of our lives, we’ll face countless moments of change of all kinds, which means countless opportunities to practice how you manage it. – Kt McBratney

Learn what works for you during times of change, and let go of what doesn’t. Keep building your toolbox for managing change. You’ll be glad you have options that support you when you need it, and you’ll save yourself the added stress of trying to make something work that just isn’t for you.

We can’t avoid change, but the more prepared you are to embrace change, the better you can use it as a moment to align your response to the life you want for yourself. – Kt McBratney

Our journeys are always unfolding in new directions. We meet forks in the road, get thrown through unexpected loops and take detours that bring us to new destinations. Finding your way through change is all about how you course-correct along the way — sometimes doubling down on your true north and other times throwing out the existing roadmap in favor of something that’s better for where you are right now.

With practice, reflection, and a growth mindset, navigating life’s changes can be an incredibly meaningful part of your journey.


About Kt McBratney

Kt McBratney is a Member at The Lola and the Co-founder & Chief Community Officer of OwnTrail, the social OS to help you achieve your next milestone in life and work.

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