When is the right time to ‘disrupt’ your career?
Nicola Sturgeon is the second woman after Jacinda Ardern to resign recently from the top political role of her country. Both have been open about their reasons and thinking behind this big decision.
So what can we learn from this and apply to our own careers?
Dr Susan Doering, author of ‘Smart Career Moves For Smart Women’ offers a fresh perspective to the reporting of Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation as First Minister of Scotland.
Nicola Sturgeon is the second woman after Jacinda Ardern to resign recently from the top political role of her country. Both have been open about their reasons and thinking behind this big decision. Even if the controversy over her transgender bill, as some are saying, was what made Nicola Sturgeon take that decision, she has now revealed that she knew even from the moment of taking office that there would come a time when it was right to make way for someone else. Crucially she knew even then that it would take courage to make and go through with the decision.
I admire Nicola Sturgeon for saying she knows “in my head and heart” that the time is right. In Smart Career Moves for Smart Women. How to Succeed in Career Transitions, I encourage women to make career move decisions based both on rational criteria and their feelings, because our feelings help us to recognise what we need. Her comments show clearly that she first thought the situation through with all the requisite facts and strategic considerations around the way forward for Scotland. At the same time her gut feeling is telling her she can’t go on,
“…usually I convince myself that I’ve got what it takes to keep going and keep going and keep going…But then I realise that that’s maybe not true.” [BBC]
This is courage – to recognise your feelings and act upon them.
Nicola Sturgeon’s belief in the right to Scottish independence – and a constitutional route to that goal – is one of her most fundamental values. The decision by the UK Supreme Court to block a second referendum meant for Sturgeon losing faith in the values of the entity that is the UK. She will continue to believe in that goal, but she had to resign to remain true to her values.
We can only be credible and feel authentic in our roles if we believe in the organisation where we work.
“Nicola Sturgeon will have been preparing well in advance for such a career move, at least since the turn of the year, possibly even before that, she will have been preparing herself mentally and emotionally for her move.”
— Dr Susan Doering
Prepare for your next move
I coach my clients to prepare well for a career move, and I am certain that Sturgeon has done just that. At least since the turn of the year, as she has said, probably since the Supreme Court’s decision, and possibly even before that, she will have been preparing herself mentally and emotionally for her move.
It’s a good idea to constantly check your bearings to see how you are doing in your career. You can begin to think strategically about your options at any point; checking the landscape for potential places to go. Nicola Sturgeon has had a solid career in politics, having worked as a solicitor before joining the Scottish Parliament in 1999. She became First Minister in 2014. Eight years in the top job. And still only in her early 50s.
Now she can take a deep breath and ask herself, what am I really interested in? What do I want to do next? What would I find exciting? Where is the next (ad)venture going to take me? I encourage women to listen to their hearts and desires. After a successful period in one organisation, it is time to look for a new playing field and perhaps to fulfil a long-cherished wish.
In preparing to step down from her position, Sturgeon will have been scanning the horizon for potential opportunities. Her strengths, political skills and experience will be much in demand. She will be in a good position to choose from a variety of options. It is key to know your strengths, not only in your professional area of expertise, but also your transferable strengths. Sturgeon’s transferable strengths are legion: resilience, negotiating skills, strategic influencing skills, to name just the top line ones. We might add thick skin, which is a huge asset if you are in the public eye. At the same time, it would appear that she also has considerable empathy, which is an even more desirable strength.
Your network is your greatest resource
If you have a dream job in mind, where you know you would flourish and make a difference, you must do your research and find out where that dream job is. Or you can create it. Perhaps Nicola Sturgeon is going to do just that.
Her network will be formidable – nationally and internationally – and she will be able to leverage that network. I have the feeling that she will already have been putting out feelers and asking trusted advisers in confidence for their suggestions and further contacts. Now the cat is out of the bag she will be receiving phone calls from many different quarters with offers. Your network is your greatest resource, and it is vital to nurture your network, ready for the moment when you need the contacts and support. It is worth noting here, that the support our family and friends give us is also vital in any career transition. They believe in us. They are our cheerleaders.
I applaud the way Nicola Sturgeon is embracing her future. If she wants to spend more time with her family, good on her. That is her choice. But I have the feeling that we will see her in a new professional role fairly soon. She can be confident of her ability to secure another position and do exactly what she feels will be right for her next career phase. Eight years is quite long enough in this top position, as there is always a chance of burnout or stagnation.
In any transition, some people are left behind. When a leader leaves an organisation, it is to be hoped that transition planning has taken place and in this case, that the SNP is prepared. As Nicola Sturgeon said, right from taking office in 2014 she has known there will come a moment when she will leave. Her closest allies and advisers will have known that. It will not be easy to fill her shoes, but her legacy lives on, and her successor has a solid foundation to work with for the future.
Finding self confidence
Nicola Sturgeon appears self-confident and comfortable with her self-confidence. (I may be wrong; I do not know her personally).
Self-confidence is a gift and a huge asset in career moves, so it is worthwhile checking how confident one feels, because the good news is that we can learn to increase our self-confidence. We can remember the moments we succeeded and build on those memories. If we made mistakes in the past we can say to ourselves: that was then, this is now. We can look to the future. We can learn to rely on our abilities.
Nicola Sturgeon has always impressed me with her steadfastness and clarity of purpose. I wish her all the best for her career move.
Self-confidence is a gift and a huge asset in career moves, so it is worthwhile checking how confident you feel.
The good news is that we can learn to increase our self-confidence. We can remember the moments we succeeded and build on those memories. If we made mistakes in the past, we can say to ourselves: that was then, this is now. We can look to the future. We can learn to rely on our abilities.
— Dr Susan Doering
Dr Susan Doering has had many successful international career transitions and is now a leadership coach who operates globally, coaching individuals to achieve professional success and facilitating career development training courses for private and public sector organisations.