We often think of careers in terms of taking hold of things. The very language we use reflects this mindset: You seize an opportunity, acquire skills, accumulate professional capital and contacts, grab the brass ring. Those are all entirely valid and appropriate ways to think about professional growth, but they’re not the whole picture. The ability to let go can be just as important. Moving forward in your career often means leaving things behind: familiar people and places, accustomed tasks—even the way you’re used to thinking about yourself, your place in the industry, and the industry itself.
Letting go can be unsettling and hard to do, but it can be necessary for us to take the next step in our careers and our lives, whether moving up in our organizations, making a lateral shift within the company or elsewhere, taking maternity or paternity leave, or making a wholesale change in profession. This time of year, the change of seasons reminds us that a falling leaf isn’t an occasion for sadness; by shedding its foliage, the tree prepares for new growth—and the change itself can be a thing of beauty.
There are many ways a willingness to let go can be a vital part of a growth mindset.
- Saying goodbye so you can say hello A natural first reaction to the prospect of moving on is to think of the people you’d be leaving behind. But sometimes a situation has run its course. You’ve learned what you can, taught what you can, and helped build something to be proud of. Now it’s time to take on a new challenge and help a new team succeed. There are more perspectives out there to explore, and a diversity of experiences will make your career more satisfying and rewarding while deepening the skills you bring to your next role. You might not have met the most important person in your career yet—and who else out there has been waiting for you to come along?
- Releasing fear, doubt, and uncertainty Who wouldn’t want to let go of unpleasant feelings like these? But it’s not always that simple. That little voice in our heads that tells us where our limitations are, where we’re weakest, and what the worst thing that could happen might be? It’s a deeply held part of ourselves, a set of instincts that’s helped us stay safe since the dawn of humanity. Fear can even be comforting, since it helps us find excuses to avoid doing things that make us feel anxious. Now it’s time to evolve. “I can’t do that” becomes “I haven’t done that—yet.” “What’s the worst that could happen?” becomes “what exciting new possibilities could this open up?” You wouldn’t want to be rash or blind yourself to legitimate concerns, but it’s important to question that voice, challenge it, push back against it. Acknowledge your fears, then pivot to your internal cheering section as you prepare to cross the line of courage.
- Changing your storyline Narratives play a big part in the psychology of work (and every other kind of psychology, for that matter). We develop a certain way of understanding our industry, profession, and role, and the paths they each follow. Narratives help us make sense of what’s happened before and anticipate what’s likely to come. Of course, we in the tech industry are well aware that stories take abrupt turns all the time. Surprise endings—and beginnings, and middles—are just another day at the digital workspace. Your career can hold as many twists as any thriller, and they can make it just as exciting.
At Citrix, we work every day to overturn standard industry narratives about the way people work, the relationship between flexibility, security and productivity, the manageability of complexity, and so on. By saying “What if?” and letting go of old standards we’ve discovered new and better ways to innovate.