The Liminal Period – existing betwixt and between.

Career Development Does Not Always Mean Resigning 

As counterintuitive as this may sound coming from a recruiter, whose very currency is in people moving between employers! Strategic career development could see you staying where you are for longer than you thought. 

My recent sabbatical is what  Hermina Ibarria would describe a “Liminal period”. She defines this as existing betwixt and between a past that is clearly gone and a future uncertain. 

A Time of Surrender 

The important thing has been to give the decision, (about the way forward), time. It’s not always the best tactic to leave a job because the one you have is not fit for purpose. In fact, I would encourage you to maximise every experience out of your current role, or furlough, or career break, until you have a clear picture of next steps, your personal brand, not just what you CAN offer but what you WANT to offer and where.  

Sideways or Upwards? 

I wrote a long time ago about sideways career moves. This is where you stay in your current position, rather than pushing for vertical promotion and expand your responsibilities. Pick up projects, contribute to social networks, start an initiative, pick up some mentors up and down the organisation. Money and title are important but by no means the only focus. 

We want to influence culture, not just absorb an employer’s static culture. We want to believe in the values and we want those values to permeate every process in our companies. We want to include, be inclusive, and be open and honest about our strengths, learning edges and protected characteristics.  

Our Many Possible Future Selves 

This transition takes time and you have to be clear before you get into it. More often than not I will advise a candidate to stay put until they have worked out their options. Ibarria puts this beautifully: she advises us to “develop many possible selves” and pursue a diverse portfolio of career options. From there she invites us to embrace the process of experimenting with these different personas  

You can’t do this in a job interview. It is evening courses, social groups, reading, podcasts, coffees and walks with other curious minds. Asking yourself who am I? What do I want to become? Where can I best contribute? We learn who we want to become by testing fantasy and reality and, of course, by DOING.  

So much of this can be achieved in your current job. If moving jobs is as stressful as a divorce, why not stretch out in a more familiar space. Leverage your existing network (this is the gold that you take out of an organisation, not the pension pot) and build on it. Who are the experts that you can educate  yourself by? Are there courses you haven’t done yet? Social networks you could join or lunch-and-learns that could expand your thinking? Could you write an internal thought piece with an expert in your chosen field? 

The beauty of staying with the familiar is that you are likely to be more relaxed and therefore creative than you would be if you resigned and were up against it to find something else. Equally, you may get into an interview process and realise that all you needed was a few agile tweaks rather than a wholesale job hunt.  

It could just be that you need to have more balance in your week with voluntary work or a crisis initiative.  

The period of self-reflection is countercultural. Somehow we think that we must be on this never-ending upwards career trajectory but it’s not the way we do it any more. 

Take your time and hold yourself some space to explore. Don’t just change your status on LinkedIn, you’ll be inundated and may end up in a competitor company, on the same project with a different company badge on a meagre pay rise. No, arrive somewhere new with a bang, fresh ideas, a clear direction. Don’t join somewhere new because you wanted to leave somewhere else. 

Laura Izard is a recruiter, placing high potential management consultants into their next roles, when they are ready! She is candidate-led rather than client; making approaches to prospective employers based on their career objectives, rather than trying to fit a job spec to an individual.

 

 

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