Is January really the right time to make big career changes?

As we start the New Year, a few moments spent on any social media platform will see you faced with suggestions on self-improvement all with the intention of enabling you to become the person you aspire to be; the person we all aspire to be apparently. 

Everything ranging from a new gym membership, the Veganuary challenge, Dry January and more. Of course, all of these are admirable challenges and changes, however scratch the surface and you’ll see that, as ever, the headlines don’t tell the whole story. For example, it’s estimated that Britons waste over £4 billion a year in unused gym memberships, with many of us barely getting beyond the first quarter of the year into our new exercise regime. Of the 165,000 Veganuary participants worldwide(!!), just 60% (of which 11% were already vegan) planned to extend their vegan lifestyle into February. As for Dry January, in 2018 The British Liver Trust estimated that 4.2 million people planned to give up alcohol in January 2019, whilst also reporting that there is a continuing 20% increase in alcohol related deaths since 2008.

While any positive change is a good thing, the long, dark month of January is not what I would consider the ideal time to make sweeping lifestyle changes. These often-become short term fads, which don’t ultimately make a big impact on your life. Instead I’d suggest planning and making smaller, but more sustained, adjustments that last all year.

Take each of the above. I’d suggest walking to work or getting off the bus a stop or two earlier (where you can), taking the stairs and sitting down less as the first step in getting your body and mind ready for the regularity of gym membership – it will save you money too. As a vegan myself, I often think it might be easier for vegan wannabees to commit to 2-3 meat and dairy free days each week, rather than complete abstention just a week after ordering a full-English as your New Year’s Day hangover cure. The same with Dry January. Weekly two-day food or drink changes will see you clock up 104 days of abstention across the year, a somewhat bigger achievement than the 31 days in January. 

Marketers are tapping into the psychology of a ‘new year, new start’ and the making of resolutions to mark the new year – to leave behind all that has gone and begin afresh. It’s been this way since Caesarian times and the introduction of resolutions to mark the start of each year. 

The marketing behind month-long challenges derives from plastic surgeon Maxwell Maltz. In his 1960 publication, Phycho-Cybernetics, Maltz found that on average it took 21 days for an amputee to get used to seeing the loss of a limb in a mirror. As is commonplace, his theory was misinterpreted and here we are believing that simply the repeat of any one activity for a period of 21 days is all it takes to make a change. If only it were that easy! 

In 2009 a study by Phillippa Lally found that it actually takes anywhere from 66 to 254 days for a habit to become ingrained and second nature. Of course, we’re all unique meaning that what it takes one person to adopt a new, positive habit, will not automatically apply to the next person. 

You might be wondering what any of this has to do with your career, after all I am a Career Coach, and this is the blog post aimed at making career change. 

The most popular new year resolutions are centred around health and wellbeing, such as: exercise more, drink less, eat better, stop smoking and spend more time with your family. None relate to finding a new job and yet there are so many ‘new year, new job’ posts on LinkedIn alone. In 2016, job site, Indeed, suggested that over 30% of UK workers are thinking about a ‘New Job for the New Year’. 

The thing is, your career is important. In his publication Understanding Careers, theorist Kerr Inkson outlines the importance of career and describes it as ‘one of the most important features of your life’. Furthermore, he suggests how it affects everything from your status to your wellbeing, your financial position and self-fulfilment.

As eluded to earlier, January is a long dark month; and February whilst shorter is also dark. This means that for many of you your daily commute is done in low, if any, daylight and often in poor weather. It’s also a time when there’s more colds, flu and infections and many of us are feeling pretty miserable. For some there’s Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) that’s known as ‘winter depression’.  

It’s a time of year when we spend more time indoors, usually in front of the tv watching the latest glossy drama or the new season of something or other – yes, many are scheduled at this time of year because viewing figures will be higher. Many of us sitting in the warm, eating comfort food and finishing off the Christmas booze, with the gym a distant memory for many. 

So, if you’re feeling a little low after the excesses of Christmas, perhaps run down and dosed up with Vitamin D, do you really think you’re at your best to make a career change? 

My answer is a simple one, no. 

The advice I would offer is to spend time over the next month or so planning and visualising the career change(s) you would like to make, allowing your ideas to form naturally and begin to take shape. 

My next blog will give you insights as to how best you can do this. 

If you can’t wait for the next blog and would like to start planning the next step on your career path, please get in touch today and we can start a conversation.

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