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Being in-between jobs is normal. Here's how to talk about it

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Difficult bosses, career changes, potential layoffs. From the logistical to the emotional, work can be full of challenging situations and dynamics.

And often, it can be hard to know who to turn to when dealing with career obstacles.

That's why Life Kit asked Payal Shah, a certified career and personal empowerment coach from Embrace Change, to answer a Life Kit listener's question about how to talk with friends and family about a career shift in their life. We're only using the listener's first name to protect their livelihood and career opportunities.

Resisting a work-centered culture

I recently went on medical leave from my job due to mental health issues, and after a few months, I decided I couldn't continue working there and resigned. I'm looking for a new career start and working through options. It has been a liberating but anxiety-inducing time that I know was the right move for me.

While I'm enjoying the break, I'm having difficulty talking about my situation with friends and family, given how work-centric our culture has become. How can I talk about my in-between career state without inducing shame or criticism and make the most of this time off for self-discovery? – Kara


Firstly, congratulations on listening to yourself and making a courageous move in line with your values and well-being. I'm glad that the journey since your leave has felt liberating, and at the same time, it's normal to experience anxiety and other emotions in the process.

I hear you on the difficulty of sharing your journey with others, given they may not understand – or possibly even agree – with your chosen path. Years ago, after I left my corporate job and embarked on a transition period, I sometimes felt like I got blank stares from family and friends as I shared what I was up to. I ended up chalking it up to them not knowing how to relate to my situation, as it differed from the traditional pathways they encountered that fit into their worldview.

And that's the first piece of guidance I'll offer to you on this: The reactions and responses you may be receiving could very likely be due to others not knowing how to relate to you and your current life journey, thus leading them to fall back on old models of thinking in an attempt to relate.

Additionally, if you sense judgment coming from others, remember it's from them making interpretations through their own life filters. Can you take what is valuable feedback for yourself and leave the rest aside?

I also want you to look at how you feel about the change: How do you feel when you share your news? Are you coming from a place of apology, uncertainty or lack of confidence? Or enthusiasm and conviction? Know that people may respond differently to different energies, and the energy and emotions behind our words may play a role in how others react to us and how we respond to them.

Lastly, you're on a courageous path, and I applaud you for embarking on it! I encourage you to see what shows up as you continue to honor and listen to yourself – the clarity and conviction born out of this journey will be your own! – Payal Shah

More of your work questions answered

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How do I get my boss to stop talking about politics at work? When a boss finds out they have differing political outlooks, he treats his employee differently. A career coach weighs in on what to do.

We'd love to hear from you. Email us at Listen to Life Kit onApple Podcasts andSpotify, or sign up for ournewsletter.

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