Making a career shift is one of the most difficult, albeit important decisions in one’s life. You are often plagued by indecision because you are concerned whether you have put enough research and thought into it. In a way, this indecision is the result of you trying to either balance all the forces together, or to haste after a lot of procrastination. The most interesting question here is what is the ideal time period that one requires to successfully plan and execute a major career transition? Based on my personal experiences, I have come to the conclusion that 9 months is the ideal time.
The most important 9 months of our life are when we are in our mother’s womb. The second most important 9 months, justifiably, are when we are deciding on our choice of occupation. Whether it is our dream job or an entrepreneurial venture, the anxiety of putting the best foot forward, as well as making the correct ‘first move’, often becomes overpowering for us, which is why, we need some time to plan.
There is at least one more, or rather third, life-defining 9-month period in most people’s lives. This period comes when they decide to go for a mid-career change. This, I believe is another very important 9-month period, as the decision made at this stage has the potential to propel you into the orbit of self-actualization and fulfillment.
“It is when we are in transition that we are most completely alive."
Now, obviously, I don’t have too many details of the first 9 months of my life except that I shared that space with my identical twin brother. Research shows that twins (or at least one of them) are five times more likely to die than single babies, in the first year of their life. As I know from my mother, I was close to that eventuality, but then someone somewhere decided that I was better off living and walking on earth, and sharing this blog with all of you:).
The second 9-month period was really eventful for me (I know for many of you it may have been shorter than 9 months). After completing my Masters degree from Jodhpur, I came to Mumbai in search of some job. I was still pursuing my second Masters qualification at that time, but I prioritized getting a job over that. I was carrying the contacts of two people in Mumbai with me, who I could meet to seek guidance and help. Those days, I was staying with my twin brother at his office, in Kalbadevi area of Mumbai. He used to run a textile exports business from that office, and we used to use it as our small abode after office hours. We were sharing space once again.
The first of the two contacts who I had to meet in Mumbai was a distant acquaintance of my father. I went to see this guy in his office; he held a very senior position in the Securities Market. Given his position, I had hoped that he would help schedule couple of interviews for me. However, for some reason, he chose not to help me. I remember feeling choked up as I walked past Eros Cinema area in Mumbai, after meeting this guy in Nariman Point area.
The other contact I had was one of my friends’ uncles. This friend of mine was already placed in a good job through this guy so I was feeling very optimistic. This person turned out to be helpful. He forwarded my resume to a couple of places. Meanwhile, I had also been trying on my own, based on newspaper advertisements.
Since there was no certain time frame or surety of job, and it had already been 4 months in Mumbai without any success whatsoever, I decided to pick up studies on my second Master’s degree, from where I had left off. My friend and I had also planned a 3 day budget trip to Goa, around that time. We travelled across the length and breadth of Goa on a rented bike. It is still one of the best short trips of my life.
A couple of months later, I received a call for interview from one of the places where my friend’s uncle had forwarded my resume. After three rounds of interviews, spread over 6-8 weeks, I was sitting in front of a panel of 4 members. I recollect responding passionately to all questions, especially about my academic credentials, badminton, my summer internship and so on.
Around the time of this interview, I had also cleared the written test and appeared for an interview with another financial services organization.
At last, good news arrived, during the 8th month of my stay in Mumbai. I had got offers from not one but both the companies where I had appeared for the final rounds. I felt like a king now that I had a choice. I decided to forgive my father’s friend, went to his office and sought his advice to decide on which of the two offers to accept. He didn’t mind helping me this time. Moreover, my own preference matched with what this guy suggested, which made it much easier for me to decide. I finally stepped into the financial world in the financial capital of India.
Maslow says that once you take care of your basic needs, your actualization needs start calling for your attention. After 15 years into my second job, I had a similar calling. I had no intention of slowing down at all but felt like pursuing something more meaningful. This marked the beginning of the third life-defining 9-month period of my life. At that time, I was the Managing Director in my organization.
Later, I heard many of my friends and peers passing their judgments that it was quite gutsy for me, or anyone for that matter, to quit and start something totally new after reaching that level. However, for some reason, I didn’t feel that dramatic or stressed about my decision of making this sudden career transition from job to entrepreneurship.
On one of the weekends, I sat down and made a list of everything I loved doing. The things that I wrote down included: interacting with people, interviewing, mentoring, and managing (which came naturally to me). I had also written down reading, writing and sharing knowledge through individual or group trainings. Few weeks later, I took up one of the ‘Strengths Finder’ tests, to find out and understand my core strengths. I also hired a personal coach to help me understand the results of that test. The results, thankfully, resonated with what I wanted to do.
After a couple of sleepless nights, I came to the conclusion that becoming a coach or a trainer or both, would be the best use of my talents and experiences. As is said, ‘when the student is ready, the teacher appears’; I came across a newspaper advertisement about a 5-month part-time course on ‘Train the Trainer’. I joined that. Subsequently, I also joined a 7-month certification course approved by International Coach Federation to get trained as a ‘Certified Executive Coach and ‘Certified Wealth Coach’
I couldn’t have asked for more from these two programs, in terms of knowing how to set up and run a coaching and training business. One of my mentors advised me to be prepared to invest at least two years in setting up the new business. Another one advised me to be clear in identifying my niche. If you are selling to everyone, you are selling to no one.
All of this happened alongside my job as the Managing Director.
During that 5-month part time course, I developed a keen interest in the topic of ‘Wealth Creation’ and ‘Executive Coaching’. Over the next 6 months, I went through almost all possible books, audio books and material on those two topics, some as old as late 19th century especially around wealth creation. My unusually long commute to office helped me find time to study the subject. I started following all the top successful coaches, globally. My confidence soared, as I started getting a better grasp on the subject.
“If you read and study passionately about any topic for 9 months, you are bound to become more knowledgeable about the topic than 99.9% of the rest of the people.”
Meanwhile, at my job, I started making some subtle organizational structure changes to make my transition as painless as possible, especially for my team.
At home, I finally announced my plans to my family. My father took the longest to be convinced, but the others were on board from day one. I formally resigned from my job, approximately 9 months after I first conceived the idea of making a career move.
I am an entrepreneur as I write this today. And I can tell you with full confidence that the 9-month period I took to research, study, prepare and plan for the career shift, made all of this very natural, smooth and easy for me.
Then of course, that’s my personal take and viewpoint. In your opinion, what is the ideal time period to plan a major career move?
Hitesh Porwal is a Certified Executive Coach who specializes in transcending one's growth ideas. He achieves that by using his proprietory P2A2 model of one-to-one coaching that focuses on an individual's uniqueness. Hitesh made a successful career transition at the age of 45.