Maintaining momentum around career change

Written by
Changeboard Team

07 Jun 2011

07 Jun 2011 • by Changeboard Team

Establish and maintain a sense of urgency

John Kotter, an international expert on change management in organisations, has spent the last 30 years researching how to make positive change happen quickly and effectively. Of his findings, there is one key component that he says must always be part of the change process – that there is a real sense of urgency.  

Urgency or motivation to make a change is usually created by either the goal being so desireable that you are compelled to go for it, or that the consequences of not changing are too painful to accept. So in making a change it’s critical to start to develop a compelling picture of the future. You may not know what this looks like initially but developing this in more detail is a key motivating factor. Once you’ve got this, keep reminding yourself of what you want it is so you don’t lose track. Moving towards the positive instead of just stepping away from the negative will also stop you from leaping before you look.

Start from the best case scenario

Challenge yourself to create the best case scenario when you’re working out what you want to do. Starting out with lots of constraints may limit your chances of making a significant change. If you hear yourself saying ‘I can’t do that because...’ you may be reducing your potential options. Instead ask ‘what would my ideal scenario be’?

Every action moves you towards your goal

One of the hallmarks of top sportspeople is their belief that every action they take makes a difference to achieving their goal, no matter how big or small that action is. In competition it’s often the smallest difference in performance that makes one person stand out (e.g. in sprinting this can be milliseconds). 

When changing career, every action - whether it’s a conversation, a piece of research or a commitment to try something new - will help move you forwards and increase your knowledge and learning. Divide your change journey up into manageable chunks and keep action focused. 

Know that there will be tricky times

Where you’re not in control of what’s happening or what the outcome will be, know that this is normal and the key thing is to keep going. You may want to ask a mentor or friend to encourage you and help you to keep focused, particularly during the points that feel difficult or unknown.

Be aware of what other change is going on

Career change is inevitably linked other aspects of life such as family, relationships and where you live. It’s unusual for a change in one area of life not to have an effect on another. Think about timing your career change in relation to other big changes in your life, for example, moving house. In simple terms if you are juggling too many changes at once you may lose energy and focus.

Recognise and celebrate progress

Too often when we are in the process of making a big change we think about the 10% that isn’t going well instead of the 90% that we’re actually really happy about. Make a point of regularly reviewing progress and recognising your successes. Setting some interim goals towards your overall goal is a good way of doing this.

Photo credit: Nicholas Moore /