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Career Springtime

Rick Jarow, author of Creating the Work You Love, introduced many of us to the notion of career seasons. When we're struggling with a career, we're most likely to think of winter. At some point a career change (or other transition) feels like being buried under a coat of ice, hibernating through long, dark days. Hopefully we learn to see the beauty of winter -- sun on the snow, clear air, the bare outlines of trees denied their leafy cover-ups.

Spring gets promoted as a time of new beginnings -- and it's a fragile season. Buds appear on trees, only to become leaves in a matter of days. Cherry blossoms, forsythia, and daffodils seem to last just long enough for us to learn their names.

Spring also brings energy. Here in New Mexico, we're blown about by winds. The dog races around the park like a young puppy and the cats spend hours bird-watching.

Spring can be harsh. Frost can crush the brand-new blossoms and a sudden snow will take care of next summer's harvest.

And you can be fooled. Just when you think it's safe to shut down your heating system, pack up your parka and begin a joyful summer of shorts-and-a-tee, you get a cold day. The dog is thrilled -- but you're not.

You probably see where I'm heading with this. Often clients seek out my coaching services after a long, hard job search, or a long dry period of seeking customers for a new business. They've glimpsed a taste of success: a few nibbles to the resume, a few customers who seemed happy but then disappeared. They're really ready for summer.

Spring can be harder than winter. After slogging through ice and snow, you're ready for warmth! I remember living in cold climates -- Alaska, Connecticut, Manitoba -- when a gray, cold spring seemed like the last straw. We deserve more!

Inevitably, we do move on because the earth turns and life goes in cycles. Longer days bring more sunlight to fight the frost. Icicles start dripping and then one day we notice they're gone and a dandelion sprouts on the front lawn. At last!

Your experience of spring depends on where you lived up to now -- literally and metaphorically. By midlife, some people have experienced only summer. The first winter can be terrifying. You don't own a parka and have no idea how to shop for one. Boots? Gloves? Where do we start?

If you've been there before, it's easier to believe spring is coming -- and you've learned some tricks to protect your fragile new growth.

Need an extra boost to get through spring -- your own or the season's? Talk to people who have been there. Find a coach or counselor. Join a new group. Take the dog for an extra long walk. Devise your own Spring Festival. And keep looking for glimpses of summer every day -- even when you've had to pull an extra sweater out of storage.

Exercise: I recommend keeping a record of spring. Write down the changes you see -- and the dates. When do you first notice a snowdrop or a dandelion? When does the ice start to melt? How are you responding? How does this spring compare to the last one? And put aside your record in a safe place -- to read the next time spring comes around.

Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D. is an author, career coach, and speaker. She works with mid-career professionals who want to make a fast move to career freedom. Visit her site or call 505-534-4294.

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Career and life transition