Take the first step…

Here’s a guest blog from a “friend” of Peak Leaders who very much wishes she could jump off the career ladder – again!

Last year the London Business School (LBS) reported 70% of women admitted to being anxious about taking a career break. You might be one of them? I know I am…

New adventures

Do you, like me, sit at your desk or make the commute all the while daydreaming of snow-capped mountains? Stare out at the world whizzing by thinking, “I’d love to learn to ski better and become an instructor… but not sure I can take time out.”

He'll remember you forever!

He’ll remember you forever!

Why do we, as women, find it so difficult to close down the computer and open up new adventures?

It is certainly not because we don’t want them – adventures at least.

According the LBS report mentioned earlier, 72% of women surveyed (from business executives to MBA graduates) said they’d jump at the chance to relocate for a year or more… but only if it was related to improvement in promotion prospects.

Which rings true with me.

Promotion – or rather the lack of it happening after a career break – is definitely a real risk when you’re trying to decide on that 3-month “out of office” email signature.

After all, once you’ve worked so hard to get on the ladder, why jump off?

Finding the confidence

So while I’d love to travel, and would pack in a heartbeat for a new job somewhere exciting (at the same, if not, better level of course).

I’m just not so confident packing in my job all together… even for 3 months.

And it is not just me who fears a career break is a career ender.

It is a perception held by many (too many!) women.

For instance, a survey from the International Accounting Bulletin (IAB) titled, ‘Women in Accounting’ canvassed the views of nearly 600 accountants worldwide (of whom more than four-fifths were women).

The results found only a third of women believed they could be just as successful after a sabbatical in their careers (in comparison to 56% of the men surveyed on women/career breaks/success).

Sometimes "getting to the top" takes on a different meaning
Sometimes “getting to the top” takes on a different meaning…

Taking the risk

But is it true?

Will leaving the desk for snow-covered mountains really be the end?

Or could it be my chance for a whole new beginning?

Well, a second beginning for me as it happens.

Breaking the cycle

Here’s a confession… I’ve packed it in once already.

Seven years ago, I was in the same place as now.

A bit bored, not really sure of where everything was taking me, and so I took an unpaid leave and went travelling in Asia for 6-months (I know and now I can’t even risk 3-months!).

The trip was probably the best thing I’ve ever done.

Sudden realisation

Funny thing was, when I returned – full of new stories, experience, confidence, and most importantly, ambition – even though I thought I would,  I didn’t really want the old career back.

Life suddenly seemed too important to sit all day long in an office, commute, pre-planned for months’ weekends, and repeat-ad-infinitum-cycle… so I left again.

In the time since, my “career” has rejuvenated itself.

But whereas the first few years were definitely spent partying, the next combined to slowly shift me back towards my skillset (marketing).

And the last couple of years has seen a complete return to…yes, you guessed it… office, commute, pre-planned for months’ weekends, and repeat-ad-infinitum-cycle.

You may be thinking it should be easy – as I’ve done it once already – to pack it in and sign up for something I always wanted to do: become a ski instructor.

But it isn’t.

If anything, it is even more daunting.

So, I asked Elaine France of Women Who Move Mountains for some advice and tips on how to break the cycle –for a second time.

Because I really want to learn to ski better and become a ski instructor.

Move your mountain

Elaine: “I know exactly how you feel, as that was me six years ago. I was working in a senior role, doing government advisory work with very long hours. Finally, I decided to book onto the British Association of Snowpsort Instructors Level 1 as i had some annual leave still pending. It was daunting, but not the career break you’re facing, for me it was just a week away somewhere snowy and relaxing. Well, maybe not all that relaxing as the course was quite a lot to cram into 5 days. However, I’m happy to say that I passed. The course gave me more than just a qualification though. It wasn’t just about becoming a better skier and an instructor, it started a whole chain of events. The sort I feel you are yearning to set off in your own life.

"New shoes are like a new life... feel great, look better, and they make you want to get out there and show the world what you've got!" Elaine
“New shoes are like a new life… you feel great, look stylish, and you want to get out there and show the world what you’ve got!” Elaine

For me, the ski instructor exam was the start of a wonderful journey to a life I wanted – maybe at first without even knowing I wanted it! Because two years after passing the exam, here I am now living in beautiful Switzerland. I’ve never regretted giving up my “career” as I’ve now set up my own business as a leadership coach for women. A role I wake up happy to fulfill everyday, as I know it makes a positive difference in the lives of the many women I am fortunate enough to help. Changing direction is daunting but here are some proven tips for moving forward, sideways, backwards even – where you go doesn’t really matter, it’s getting yourself out there and living your life that matters!

1. Visualise what you want life to be like every day and be magnetised to that horizon.

2. Explore what your your Top 3 Life Values are and how you want to actually live them for real.

3. Understand what makes you fulfilled and choose to do more of it…don’t defer being happy.

4. Map the full range of your skills and experience, so that you celebrate your unique expertise and capacity to keep finding your way forward.

5. Your love of the mountain reflects your life approach…you know how to adapt in a constantly changing environment, you know how to get up after a fall and keep learning, you know how to take risks and make good decisions. Above all, trust your skills.