ALL CHANGE - Why 2021 is the year of career change

SPIRIT • The Journal • March 21

Who doesn’t feel just a little bit lighter on their feet this month? Spring has sprung, yes, but we are also emerging after what feels like a very long hibernation. And that sense of renewal that spring brings - that rush of desire to book a holiday, get the running shoes back on and embrace life - is also playing out in how we are reshaping our careers.

A study conducted last autumn shows that half of us working in the UK were planning significant changes to our careers this year. Most desire more flexibility and to find a way to hang on to at least some home working. Others aspire to retrain or learn new skills. In fact, five million people currently plan to turn a new hobby into an income stream. With almost half of the nation’s adults trying their hand at new hobbies last year, it seems all the knitting and baking, meditating and making has provoked big dreams of career change.

Journal Psychology Today confirms that change is not easy, however. It seems we are hard-wired to resist change and to be fearful of the new. Because, if we go back millennia, staying with your tribe, eating the same food and so on, kept you safe, kept you alive. Change, back then, meant uncertainty. And it still does, to a certain extent. Popular podcaster Tim Ferriss says,’ people would rather be unhappy than uncertain’.

Yet studies show that the benefits of being uncertain, of embracing change, are enormous. Change gurus regularly recommend buying a new piece of desk kit for example or orientating your workspace differently to change the view. Making any adjustment, no matter how small, can translate to a significant creativity boost. Larger changes, such as starting a new job, taking up a hobby or even moving to a new country, reap significant rewards too.

So, why do we crave change, now of all times? Senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioural Research and Technology, Robert Epstein, says that periods of uncertainty cause us to reassess our priorities, and the current environment is no exception.

‘You want your physical and social surroundings to change.’

Those who have made significant change talk of enormous satisfaction. Raja Skogland, who used to be CEO of a major Nordic start-up accelerator programme says, ‘I was coaching and advising entrepreneurs from all around the world. It was taking me a lot of time and exhausting me.’ She made drastic changes, deciding to devote her energy to a single project that she was passionate about. She is now launching an artificial intelligence start-up and has  freed up additional hours to spend with loved ones. Much happier, she says.

So, change is difficult, sure, but switching jobs and throwing things up in the air is necessary for both professional and personal growth. And will leave you thriving, just like those spring flowers.