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Professional Transitions: Reject the Default and Choose Your Future

There are successful professionals in other fields—along with coaches here at BLOC—who found themselves stuck, took the road less traveled, and now find themselves doing work that satisfies them and pays the bills. The first step in a career transition is making the choice to commit.

Professional Transitions (Part 1)

Reject the Default and Choose Your Future

By: CJ Gotcher (BLOC Academy Director) with Mike Burgos (BLOC Exclusive Coach)

Knowledge about coaching methods is spreading faster than ever, and the count of masters athletes and mid-life lifters grows every year. As these athletes come to recognize the impact of strength training and learn how to do it effectively, more and more are considering a second or third career as strength coaches.

This might be you. Perhaps, progressive strength training has made a huge impact on your life and health. Your friends and family have noticed the change and started seeing you as “my strong friend,” seeking you out for tips and answers about strength training. You want to help others see the same success you did and think there might just be an opportunity to make a living doing it—or at least make it a self-funding passion project.

But you feel stuck. You’ve been following the grooved path to success for long enough that it’s not clear whether you can make a full transition, and you’re so busy already working through career and family obligations that adding another project on top of that invites dread, not excitement.

Luckily, this path isn’t quite so unprecedented. There are successful professionals in other fields—along with coaches here at BLOC—who found themselves stuck, took the road less traveled, and now find themselves doing work that satisfies them and pays the bills.

Make the Choice

The first step in a career transition is making the choice to commit.

This doesn’t mean jumping out of your career airplane without a parachute and hoping for a soft landing. It means reflecting on your story to this point, examining the values you live by, and taking ownership of the next step, whatever it may be.

This sounds easy, and if we were perfectly rational, it would be. After a careful analysis of the costs and benefits, we’d decide to stay in our current job, shift into a full-time coaching position, or settle for something in between.

Instead, we ignore, blame, obscure, and flip-flop on the problem as ways of not-choosing. If you’re feeling trapped or frustrated about the decision, you may be suffering through one of these four traps, and there are a few practices you can apply that won’t make the decision easy but will put the power in your hands:

  • Get off the Rails: For some, helplessness is a habit. Taught to us from a young age, we’re placed on a single track—grade school, then college, then employment in something related to our major. While on the train, we’re given an ever-expanding range of choices—electives, majors, which job—that mostly serve to hide the infinite possibilities off the track. Exploring those alternatives may be costly, especially if we’ve invested a lot of time and energy into our current path, but simply acknowledging there are other options is a start.
  • Choose your Problems: We point fingers and blame when we feel like we have no control, but we’re rarely without at least some choice. As Cypress Hill points out in the song (Rock) Superstar, even getting everything we want comes with problems. (“I wish it was all fun and games, but the price of fame is high. And some can’t pay to play.”) To some degree, however, we can choose the problems we get to solve. None of the apparent options may be appealing, but we can peel away some of the anxiety by deciding which problems we are best able to solve: the uncertainty and risk of a new venture or the soul-crushing grind of our current 9–5.
  • The Two Questions: One helpful tactic borrowed from motivational interviewing is to ask two quirky questions:
    • What is good about the status quo?
    • What is bad about the proposed change?

This seems counterintuitive, but these questions serve a few purposes. They remind us that what we’re currently doing solved a problem. By making it explicit, we can better answer how to meet that need with our next choice. Secondly, it shines a light on our hazy, worried feelings. When we make them explicit, they resolve into solvable problems we can address.

  • Get Clarity: Oftentimes, our stuck-ness comes from fixating on one particular option. We’re on a mission to help people, so of course, we have to coach. But maybe coaching isn’t the right option.Dr. Jonathon Sullivan, BLOC Staff Coach and author of The Barbell Prescription, was directly saving lives as an emergency physician. Still, he gave up his practice because he saw coaching as a way to save not just life, but quality of life, through strength. Others start as coaches only to find that they can serve others best by creating apps, editing articles, or advocating to improve others’ health outside the gym.

Coach Mike Burgos faced this same stuck-ness in his own transition from occupational therapy to strength coaching.

Mike originally went to nursing school to meet familial and cultural expectations, but it wasn’t a good fit. Instead, he shifted to specialize in occupational therapy on the recommendation of a professional placement exam. Once he stepped on the train, it was just a matter of hitting the next benchmark: he graduated as an occupational therapist in 2012, developed a practice, and moved toward a specialty—hand therapy.

In 2014, however, he started interning with Danielle Rodier at Coliseum Strength and Conditioning and found he was helping more people and feeling more excited as a strength coach than as an occupational therapist. Three years of lifting and learning later, he earned his first coaching credential and was at a crossroads:

Should he stay with occupational therapy, eventually becoming a Certified Hand Therapist—the next step along the path—or become a strength coach full-time?

Doing both wasn’t working—his therapy practice required ten to twelve-hour days, so he was squeezing in training, online check-ins, and in-person clients into early mornings, late nights, and weekends. Like many of us, he tried to hold onto both as long as he could, soldiering on for almost a year until he hit the breaking point, faced the difficulties presented by each path, and made a choice.

In his own words, “Coaching is the only occupation I willingly chose for myself.”

The skills he learned along the way serve him well, undoubtedly, but the first step was taking ownership of his choices and giving himself permission to follow his values instead of others’ expectations.

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