Career Threshold Moments or Change On Your Own Terms

A career threshold event can be defined as the point at which a stimulus results in such intense pain that it forces someone to act and explore other career options. Examples of such threshold events are being made redundant, having a serious illness, failure to be promoted, discovering how underpaid one is relative to the market. getting zero-ed out of a bonus, receiving a disappointing performance report or review, or perhaps other negative experiences, such as being bullied.

All of these ‘threshold events’ have in common a sense of something serious happening to you and the abruptness of this realisation. Indeed, the realisation is so abrupt and profound that deciding to change one’s circumstances is almost unavoidable. In some instances, such as being made redundant or a contract not being renewed, you may not even have that choice.

There is also, perhaps, a more sneaky cousin of the ‘abrupt threshold event’, where the changes are slow and marginal, but no less dangerous, and where the creeping realisation that you will need to make a career change can only be denied for so long. This sneaky type of threshold event might be an awareness that things have changed, or there are rumours, guesses, hints and calculations that maybe all is not well.

The threshold event itself is the cold moment of acknowledgement that change is inevitable.

This can be a tricky subject when I meet potential coaching clients and I ask the question: “What would have to happen for you to decide that it is time to act?” This is difficult because I am gently forcing an issue that may have been brushed aside. However, as a career coach, it is important to bring these issues to light.

So, what can professionals do when faced with a career threshold event?

  • Have a mental or - better yet - a written list of red warning flags that let you know that a threshold event may be on the way. When some of those warning events happen, you can bring forward your preparations. In addition, the mere fact that you are awake and alert to the situation will lessen the negative impact on your psychology.

  • However, this is not to say that you should become paranoid and be jumping at shadows - however, you should take note of the changes that you observe and not get caught unawares.

  • One signal may be changes in management behaviour - out-of-character niceness and pleasantries might be a warning sign.

  • Make sure you watch your industry and your firm’s business model for developments resulting from changes in technology, industry regulations and geopolitics.

  • Watch the internal politics of your organisation from the sidelines and see how it might impact you.

  • Have a plan B. What are you immediate actions should you be made redundant? How much cash have you saved up as a reserve?

  • Always be expanding your professional network and be building the amount of value that you contribute to others. When you need it, you will really need it, so always be building and investing, principally by helping others.

Has this article made you review your own career situation? Is there a career threshold event on the horizon for you?

If so, get in touch for a free conversation: