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  • Writer's pictureCynthia Sharper Snodgrass

Be Like Iron

"The beauty of iron lies in its ability to adapt. " - Man with the Iron Fists 2

Presumed job security and household obligations have a way of hardening our professional skills into iron clad inertia. The illusion of iron is that it's in a fixed, permanent state.  

Say for example, if someone hands you a cast iron skillet – you know that you’ll be cooking in it, you also know that it can conduct very high temperatures and fry a battered-chicken wing to crispy Southern perfection!

But what happens if that same cast iron is heated to a glowing 2,800 ˚F? That skillet is now malleable and ready to be redefined without losing any of its core properties. It can be recycled to produce new steel for railways and  vehicles, appliances, and hundreds of other items – including life-saving surgical instruments and maybe even art!

Like iron, we have to be willing to heat up and adapt the skills we develop along the way. For most occupations,  gone are the days when you could enter one job industryand stay there for 30 years. 

So whether you want to take that job and shove it --  or are being kicked-out of your comfy nest  – reinventing your professional profile will be a process. Change, in itself, is a process. Especially if you're a stubborn capricorn like me.

I'm not alone - many of us are actually quite rigid in our career perspectives and willingness to change.

Kurt Lewin’s Change Model for organizational change can be adapted to career change. His model involves 3 steps: Unfreezing, Changing and Refreezing. For the sake of the iron analogy, I'll rename his steps Melt, Mold, and Solidify.

Let's take a look  ...

Step 1. Melt

This is the undoing of the current status quo. Something has to heat you up, and not necessarily in a bad way! Challenge old thought patterns, behaviors and fear of the unknown.  Blow the dust off of your resume and challenge the way you are representing your experiences, career highlights and contributions.  Honestly reflect on your finances and see what can be cut back - change often means sacrifice of some kind, with ultimate gain in the end.  Pray or meditate to find your inner voice and then perhaps talk to someone removed from your immediate situation. Friends and family mean well, but they may only recognize the iron you represent on the outside and not necessarily the faith or insight to understand your deepest yearnings and dreams for the future!

Step 2.  Mold

Once you've melted your own resistance, it’s time to implement change before you harden again!! What hardens career change? Fear, hesitance, internalizing the criticism of your haters ... But keep it moving, my friend, and spring into action!

It may seem easier to go back to what you know because it's familiar. It may seem easier to toss your true goals and passions out of the window because the risks are high and odds of success seemingly low. Do your best to resist that urge go back to the same job industry or position that is safe but drains your life force.  You have the right to redefine your life on your terms at any time. You have the responsibility, though, to weigh the consequences and then take action!

Change-actions could include researching back-to-school options to get certified, specialized or to obtain a college degree. Change may mean getting more aggressive in recreating your professional presence on-line (via youtube or LinkedIn, etc.). Most importantly, change-action needs to happen on the inside. Challenge your self-talk and self-sabotoging behaviors that sneak up as false truths. Know that you can be and/or do just about anything you focus on with intention -- applying faith and consistent, dedicated action.

Step 3. Solidify

Lewin states solidifying change, or "freezing" change is critical in order to prevent people from reverting to old ways. As I mentioned, challenging self-doubt is one way to solidify change. Positive reinforcement is another way to reward yourself for overcoming fear of career change. For example, I am a classic introvert and one that learns hard lessons through experience (specifically failures, ouch!) -- when I started to publically advertise my coaching service I was completely horrified! To move beyond that fear and stay true to my coaching practice, I regularly read my testimonials and the many, many thank-you cards and letters I’ve received over the last decade. It reminds me that changing lives through career coaching is what I was put on this planet to do! Living in the shadows is no longer an option. I cannot go back to the old ways! Neither should you.

In closing, I need you to be like iron: strong and reliable - but willing to heat and mold your professional identity!  As Mastin Kipp would say, I'm waiting for you to become the "best version of yourself" and I know you long for that as well.

I believe in you. 

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