Shifting Career Using 5S Process

by Elaine Cercado

When I decided to shift from my successful career to a significant personal endeavor after 20+ years in the corporate world, I picked up helpful strategies and learnings along the way.  I summarized them below as the “5S”.

1. SLACKEN. I took the longest and most relaxed “vacation” after my last day in the office. I didn’t follow any routine. I learned and did things I’ve been wanting to do – from learning the guitar, to swimming and brisk walking, to baking lessons, to joining a Bible study group, to having lunch dates with my husband and friends, to reading books and magazines.  I slackened from my usual mentally and emotionally draining work for about 2 months and I had the most wonderful time! The break and the variety of new things and interests made the “departure” from usual work routines and challenges easy.

2. SOCIALIZE. I networked with old friends and new acquaintances, rebuilt ties from near and far, and tried to penetrate new circles. I went both in to and out of my comfort zones, as I endeavored to reach out, learn from the interactions and share myself.  Fresh ideas came, joyful energy was recharged, and sense of purpose was affirmed. One clear example was when I re-connected with a business network that I had built a very good relationship with while working with my ex-employer. As it turned out, he just closed a global project and was actually looking for someone to represent his company in Asia. It was God’s perfect timing! I reconnected with him because his line of work has always been a passion I wanted to pursue “in the future”. That future became a present reality at that point in time.

3. SELECT. While I enjoyed doing many things, I knew I had to pursue one that could really make my life significant. My criteria seemed simple but it required me to really reflect on important questions: What is really my life mission? What is really my core gift? How can I get going? To whom/what/where can I make the most positive impact to others? Earlier in my life, I had already defined my personal mission and vision, as well as our family’s mission statement. This time, I re-looked at my mission and asked myself if I was fulfilling it. I also reviewed again my “gifts” and passions. I reflected on the times I did something and felt most happy. I reflected on where I’ve been most effective in helping others.

4. STICK WITH IT. Once I decided what to pursue and focus on, I went for it with all energy and passion. I didn’t worry so much about the cost and outcome as I knew I was planting seeds rather than harvesting. Since I decided to put up my own training consultancy with a few partners, I did my homework and calculated my investments, plus the legal and admin side of things. Then I just went ahead and did it! My strong belief and passion for my mission lifted my courage to a certain level I’ve not imagined existed. It wasn’t a bed of roses and there were many lows inasmuch as there were many highs. It was a journey of discovery and learning, of trial and error and of failing and succeeding many times over. Though there were times I was tempted to give up, I did not. I had faith. I stuck with it.

5. STAND OUT. There are a thousand training consultancy firms in the market. My partners and I know we have to stand out and make a real difference. We are a small start up group, with very limited resources. But we have very knowledgeable, experienced and passionate people. The way to do it is to offer something that really connects with our target segment at knowledge and practical level. We have to be fresh and innovative in approach, yet familiar and reliable. We have to add tangible and intangible value. We need to be constantly in touch with the target audience to know their sentiments and stay relevant.  At the core of all these is our “heart” to fulfill our mission of developing and maximizing the power of each person through training, mentoring and consulting initiatives. We try to achieve this mission by reaching out and making a direct and high personal impact to every individual we encounter.

While I applied these 5S to my specific circumstance, it could be useful to other life situations. Whether you are shifting job or industry, or making a big choice like a life vocation, or deciding to become a full-time mom or not, these 5S can apply.  You slacken to take a breather.  You socialize with old and new networks to get inspired and energized. Then you select (make the choice), stick with it and stand out.  When you follow this process, you become more assured and confident to pull it through your new situation.

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