Ahead of their School of Stylist seminar, Sarah Ellis and Helen Tupper, founders of career development platform Amazing If, share their tips on crafting a career to withstand the toughest of challenges.
In the last few months, the world of work has changed unrecognisably. Homes, once sanctuaries away from the demands of work, have become live-in offices. We all hate Zoom. And our carefully curated career trajectories have rapidly been sent off course, leaving us feeling somewhat adrift.
“Lots of people are feeling stuck at the moment, like there’s no positive momentum. And you can see people’s confidence is wavering,” says co-founder of Amazing If, an award-winning career development platform, and author of bestselling business book
Ask for help
Whether you’re on furlough, facing redundancy or the pandemic has given you time to reassess and you’ve decided on a career switch, it’s likely you’ll need some advice and a helping hand to guide you towards your next step. But asking for help can make you feel vulnerable, especially if you’ve been shot down before. Ellis and Tupper insist that first we all need to believe in our self-worth, which may have taken a pounding in recent months.
“Ask yourself three practical question. What kind of help do I need? Who can I ask for help? (Remember it’s never only one person – so don’t get hung up on the first person you ask saying yes). And how specifically can this person help me?” says Ellis. “Then reach out to them. Keep it short and to the point, don’t write an essay. A good example is ‘Hi X, I’d love to talk to you about X because of X and get your help with X,’ which sounds very different to leading with an apology or an ‘I just wondered if…’. If they say no, don’t be disheartened, it happens to everyone.” Move on to the next person.
As Tupper puts it, “Think of it as an opportunity to make someone feel good, because that’s what advice-giving does: it makes us feel useful.”
While we generally think of optimism as a personality trait, rather than a conscious choice, Ellis and Tupper believe, if applied properly, optimism is a powerful tool we can harness to change how we react to a situation.
“The more joyful we are, the more positive behaviour we’re likely to engage in, which will help us achieve in the long run. This doesn’t mean being relentlessly positive all the time, but rather spotting when pessimism is holding you back,” Ellis explains, “I look out for the three Ps (below), and once you’ve identified the one you’re likely to stumble at, you can guard against them.
Personal: this is when we take things personally (feedback, for example). It makes us victim-like in our behaviour and thinking. It’s much more helpful to ask yourself, what can I learn here?
Permanence: this is when we believe the way things are today is the way that they’ll always be, and we can get stuck in that way of thinking. When we recognise that at some point things
Pervasive: this is when you take one isolated incident and make it your story, ie that you always make bad decisions, because you made one. You start to behave in a way that’s based on this assumed narrative, rather than reality. Instead, act based on your positive attributions.
When we look at someone’s career moves from the outside – the Instagram friend who left their day job to launch their side hustle, for example – they can feel enormous and out of reach. “We like to think of this as ‘transitions not transformations’,” says Tupper. “Looking at something as big as a transformation can be a barrier to us actually doing anything, it feels unachievable. Instead, the key is to begin having conversations and explorations about what you want to do in the spirit of curiosity and then map out gradual steps, over months or even years, towards your goal. Focus on the granular, while keeping the big picture in mind.”
Celebrate small wins
If you’re someone who only celebrates the big, shiny moments in your career – new job, promotion –you are doing yourself a disservice. “While those starry moments are great, they’re usually fleeting, and they certainly don’t happen every day,” says Ellis. “Finding time each day to jot down an achievement, however small, is crucial to creating momentum,” she says. “It reminds you of your skills and what you’re good at, which is really important during uncertain times. I recently interviewed Martha Lane Fox (the co-founder of Lastminute.com, board member of Chanel and Twitter and the youngest female crossbencher in the House of Lords – all as impressive as it sounds), who said this was her most impactful habit. It’s astonishing how powerful something so small can be.”
Shift the goal posts
For many who’ve faced setbacks, there is a longing to return to the before-times, when things felt simple (even if that’s through a rose-tinted lens, looking back) and there was a clear path before us. For Ellis and Tupper, though, this isn’t helpful. “It’s problematic in two ways. One, because it presumes things are going to go back to where we were before, which likely isn’t the case. And two, it underestimates how much we can learn and move forward positively when things don’t go to plan. Of course in the moment it’s hard, but it’s often in those moments that we discover what we really like, what we want and how resilient we really are. So remind yourself that, no, it won’t be the same,” Ellis says, “it will be better.”
How to buy School of Stylist tickets
How to handle change at work, with Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis, authors of the bestseller The Squiggly Career. In this hour-long virtual workshop, career experts Tupper and Ellis will share 10 practical ideas, techniques and actions you can take right now to accelerate your adaptability at work and build resilience in the face of change. Learn the secrets to finding your purpose and future-proofing your career and mindset.
School of Stylist is a new series of online workshops, designed to help you thrive. From career masterclasses to hands-on creative workshops, our events and tutorials will arm you with the creative and emotional tools to get more from your world.