4 signs you should consider a career change as an executive
In every executive’s journey, a moment will arise where the path forward becomes less clear, signifying that a career change may be necessary.
Here, Vistage Chairs Marty Stowe and Jim Walsh identify the signs indicating when it’s time to move on. They also touch on how embracing change can pave the way to a more gratifying professional and personal life.
At the crossroads
For executives, the crossroads of this moment can cause intense inner turbulence. “There’s something that happens inside of us when these changes start that really gets to your core,” says Walsh.
To navigate this period, start by closely analyzing your emotions and their origins. Are you feeling restless, frustrated or even bored? Are these feelings new, or have they been looming around the edges of your professional life for a while?
When you are unsure of what your next step should be, determining the ‘why’ behind your feelings, frustrations, motivations, and decisions is essential. This “why” will be a guiding light as you determine the way forward.
The 4 signs
It’s important to determine whether you’re simply having a bad week or are genuinely unhappy in your career. It’s easy to conflate the two!
“Many times, the executives I coach are ready to head for the door,” Stowe says. “As we talk, I always ask them, ‘Are you running away from something, or towards something?’”
“The grass isn’t greener on the other side, and jumping ship is a very difficult situation. When you leave to something, and not from something, executives have a better sense of direction and purpose,” adds Walsh.
These four key signs indicate you’re not just experiencing a difficult moment and it’s time to take that leap:
1. Waning passion
For a person who once thrived on the dynamic challenges of their role, loss of passion can be a huge shock. Life changes people, so it stands to reason that our life’s calling changes with us.
While normal, it’s crucial to identify diminishing enthusiasm early, as “checking out” from your role can affect your performance, team morale and even your personal life.
Stowe weighs in, “What do you want your life to be like at 55 or 60? That’s what you want to be working towards. If you’re not motivated by money, don’t chase the largest paycheck. If you are motivated by helping others, figure out how you can harness your skills to do so.”
You don’t need to love your job to love your life, but as executive coaches Stowe and Walsh would say, it definitely helps.
2. Misalignment of values and goals
Companies go through many different life cycles. This means that executives can eventually find themselves in opposition to the evolved values and goals of their organization. Stowe is familiar with this issue, having experienced it himself.
“The culture changed before my eyes,” Stowe says of a previous environment. “I realized I just didn’t fit in anymore.”
Wisely, he recognized the mismatch and moved on – avoiding the frustration and resentment that grows over time in these situations.
“If you’re no longer, or never were, aligned with the culture, or don’t have leaders you can get behind, that can be a steady source of tension for an executive,” adds Stowe.
This is a clear indicator to make a change that will bring your professional life and personal values back into harmony.
3. Better work-life balance
CEOs and executives are famous for having poor work-life balance. The demands of these high-stress roles are overwhelming, causing many people to crave more personal autonomy or a flexible lifestyle.
But, as Walsh says, “If you want to make a change and get yourself to a place where you’re truly happy, you’re going to have to ask some tough questions.”
These questions could include a hard look at your career and realizing that jumping from your job at one company to the same job at a different company probably isn’t the solution to a quality of life issue. The pressures of the C-Suite exist everywhere.
Walsh believes that becoming an executive coach is a great avenue for CEOs in this position. It offers the opportunity to select the clients and companies you choose to work with, set your own schedule and balance your priorities more evenly.
4. Tired of climbing the corporate ladder
For some, climbing the corporate ladder may have lost its charm — if it ever had one. The constant grind takes a toll, and in many cases, you’re putting all those hours toward a brand’s success, not the success of yourself or your community.
“I encourage executives considering transitions to really define what success looks like to them. I ask them to be very clear about what the future they want really looks like,” says Walsh.
The best way to do this is by reflecting on what isn’t working in your current situation. Take your personal strengths, weaknesses, goals, and priorities into account.
This reflection could reveal that you desperately need a break from the rigid structures of a traditional career. Executive coaching provides the independence of entrepreneurship, a welcome change for executives who have spent years in corporate settings.
Embrace change for a more fulfilling career
If you’re experiencing these four warning signs, don’t panic. Instead, try to view them as an opportunity to embrace personal and professional growth.
Like Walsh and Stowe, many executives who are looking for a career change find it rewarding to switch to an executive coaching role. Coaches discover a unique sense of fulfillment in passing their hard-earned expertise on to others in need of a helping hand.
“You get to be inquisitive and use your knowledge to help guide someone on their way. It’s not a consultative relationship, it’s really collaborative,” says Walsh. “I find when you help a CEO create clarity and alignment around the life they want and the career they are committed to, that’s a beautiful gift to give.”