How to Embrace the In Between Stage of Your Professional Life

“The more we enjoy where we are and fully embrace the moments before us, the more natural it will become to welcome the in between stages of life. With continued practice, the in between stages no longer feel like dull or uncomfortable places to travel. They become the magical spaces where we get to experience what it feels like to be fully alive in the moment.”~ Emily Madill

I keep meeting people in between. The in between stage of transformation that is.

I think of it as an being in between, a bridge in time, where someone has not yet reached the next chapter of whatever they are going through. They might feel a growing need to make change happen but blocked from taking action – and worried about that. But I recognise it as being on the threshold of something important.

So, I suggest to them that their in between feeling, might feel deeply uncomfortable but is also just what you (and your career) need to crossover to What Next.

It sometimes helps to know this sense of being in between has a word of its own. Liminal. In Latin it means ‘threshold’.  And it comes with any feeling of being in transition – sometimes it’s momentary. Sometimes it can last for years. And it can look a lot like getting stuck at a career-life crossroads.

For example: 

  • Being the new entrant when you’ve changed companies … not yet feeling you belong in your new landscape 
  • Being pregnant … excitedly awaiting your new arrival and parking career concerns for future-you to confront 
  • Being the founder of a start-up … that now needs building from the ground up or it won’t succeed 
  • Being recently redundant … shocked and unsure what to do next  
  • Careering in a crisis…like groundhog day with new pressures and different dynamics until the real world reopens

Why Being In Between Is Exactly What Your Career Needs Right Now

Now, being in between, on the threshold of transformation isn’t the problem people keep having. But it is where we have a tendency to go into overwhelm, prioritising productivity and plenty of ‘doing’ to feel back in control. Or risk giving into our Stuckness and keep doing the same thing we’ve always done, as if we’re committing to what we’re not happy with as our new normal.  

Whichever coping mechanism kicks in, it’s not making the most of being in between. And ironically, that resistance of moving into the middle is the problem keeping us from our goals. 

I’d go so far as to say embracing the power of this ‘crossing over’ space is transformative for confident transitions. Like a bridge – it’s how you can get to the other side.  

Having helped a range of clients, each at different crossroads recently, leverage being in between, I wanted to share its’ transformative power so you can harness it too. 

Broadly speaking, there are 3 phases to liminality – the in between stage or your threshold to transformation. I hope knowing them will help you recognise which one you might be standing in. And why being betwixt and in between is the very best thing for What’s Next. 

The 3 Phases to Embrace the In Between Stage of Your Professional Life

1. Time To Separate

I met Louisa when she was pregnant with No2!

The Pandemic was still a thing and with clinical vulnerabilities in the family, outside caretaking for No1 wasn’t a good idea. And of course, her full-time career required full time attention. Louisa was feeling overwhelmed and stuck. Which is quite a hopeless state if you inadvertently choose it as your everyday. 

Better to consciously uncouple from a career problem. So, it was time for Louisa to separate from this status quo, not persevere through it.

But how?

2. Embrace The Margins

When we explored what was good about the upcoming maternity leave, there was a lot there apart from Stuckness. 

The obvious integration of a brand new baby into the family! And a less obvious window of opportunity to explore what she wished career-life synergy would look like when it was time to weave work back into life. 

The shift from stuck to opportunistic unlocked something important.

Louisa recognised she no longer felt drawn to her current role. And that maternity leave wasn’t an unwelcome pause (albeit for a good reason). It was entirely helpful that time stands still when you’re on maternity leave. Not at home clearly. But at work, where expectations are paused for a time.

So, embracing the margins for Louisa means going on a treasure hunt in the months away from work. We made a plan to do some exploring that will ‘flesh out’ what career-life synergy looks like. 

We’re nowhere near career redesign in our work together yet – and there is real openness to not knowing the answers, and that’s the best thing about being intentionally in between – the creativity that comes only from crossing over. 

3. Bring It All Together 

The final stage will come later for Louisa. Which we’re conditioned to hear as a bad thing – we think we need ‘now’ and anything else is unresolved. But Louisa is looking forward to her baby and having pockets of time to investigate possible career moves in baby-steps, with no immediate intention to solve anything.

She can’t see the vision yet but is entirely happy in her bridging period – looking forward to the time she’ll be collecting todays unknowns and having exploratory conversations that spark ideas for tomorrow. Confident we will bring them together into a cluster of career ideas she can act on.

Later. When the time is right. 

So, here’s the thing. The in between stage of any transformation is not a mistake or a problem. It is the threshold to your transformation and part of getting it right if you spend time wisely there – exploring and innovating as you feel your way through. Then that bridging period is purposeful – exactly where you need to be and what it takes to successfully navigate even the most excruciating experience of career-life transformation. 

Please make the most of being on the threshold – recruit your memories so you can make meaning from them, but keep moving, keep embracing the liminal stages of your in between knowing this is the bridge where innovation happens and that will help you emerge on the other side. 

What have your being in the in between experiences felt like? I’d love to know so feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section bellow.

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Helen Hanison

Helen is a leadership coach, writer and speaker based in the UK. A former director for some of the worlds’ largest PR companies, today Helen draws on her background in psychology and trainings in co-active coaching and narrative therapy to help seasoned professionals who are at a career crossroads and feeling blocked from taking action. Together they make a fresh plan realigning work they love with what matters most so they can stop the cycle of trying to solve their career problem on their own and finally make aligned, confident transformation happen instead. You can request a framework to make meaning from memories that will help plan your career-life redesign here and sign up for Helen’s free newsletter (featuring her brand of actionable articles and regular resources to help you redesign your career) at her website, www.helenhanison.com. She’d love to connect on LinkedIn too.

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