28. March 2023

The career chrysalis

Two monarch butterflie drying wings on chrysalis

True growth is quiet and happens out of sight


In this world full of noise and people trying to gain the attention of people with ever shrinking attention spans, there is unbelievable pressure to talk, communicate and put your thoughts out there…ALL. THE. TIME.

Look at me! I had an idea! I had a thought! Press “Like” one hundred times!

Extroversion has been placed in such a positive light that whole books have had to be written reminding us of the value of introverts. Being quiet and thoughtful has become an indication of weakness, of not “being proactive” and “making your contribution”.

Be honest: who do you instinctively think is good at their job after a meeting: the person who stuck up their hand every five minutes to say something, or the person who didn’t say anything, but simply listened and took notes?

From that one situation, there is no way of telling how good each employee is at their job. But my bet is that the talker is more likely to be perceived as the stronger employee, as if the act of talking alone means a high level of intelligence. This is unfair. We need to collectively reassess the value of shutting up.

[Now, this statement might come across as a tad hypocritical from someone who has a whole blog full of her own thoughts and is now posting some more of them here — but bear with me. This train of thought is going places.]

Career-wise, I’m currently in a quiet, withdrawn phase. Maybe it’s my natural introversion taking over a bit. Or perhaps it’s the last echoes of lockdown mentality taking a while to fade out completely. But, because I am going through a professional reorientation right now, it feels right and necessary to go into my shell for while. Like a caterpillar retreats into a chrysalis to turn itself into a butterfly — I need to get into a “career chrysalis” to work on new skills and ideas before I go back out into the (business) world to try and make them work out there.

But I’ve been feeling so guilty about being so under-the-radar! Shouldn’t I be posting on LinkedIn, staying visible, staying in the loop? Shouldn’t I be shouting from the rooftops about this wonderful new idea I’m developing and this super-duper growth mindset I’m manifesting? (Honestly, you can’t swing a cat in the virtual world these days without hitting someone busy “manifesting”).

No, I absolutely should not is the answer to that.

Any residual uncertainty about this issue dissolved when I read this article by Natasha Nichole Lake. She’s a great writer — definitely worth a read.

It makes absolute sense to get into a quiet, undisturbed place during phases of growth and transformation. You need to be alone with your idea, experiment with it, get to know it, and identify with it.

We’re not talking about doing a complete disappearing act here. It’s important to keep half an eye on the outside world. Mainly to stop yourself going loopy, but also to check whether anything has happened which is relevant to your project. You don’t want to get back out into the marketplace and realise your idea is already outdated or obsolete!

But basically, it is a great idea to keep your mouth shut and your thoughts to yourself until the idea or the business plan or whatever it is you are working on has taken on enough substance that it’s going to stand a chance of surviving in the outside world.

And, since you are the one who is going to be shepherding this great idea towards success once it’s out there in public, you need to have enough confidence in yourself and in the idea before you go shouting “Tadaaaa! Here it is!”

Take advantage of the quiet time in your professional chrysalis to experiment with new ideas, connections and thought-associations — however weird or out-of-character they might be. You don’t have to worry about judgment or failure just yet and — in my experience — it’s exactly this space between the relaxation of “I’m free to do anything” and the stress of “I really need to earn some money” where real creative magic happens. It’s an immensely exciting and invigorating place to be.

A final piece of advice for your career chrysalis period: stay away from social media. Apart from being black holes for time which you could productively invest in more meaningful things, Facebook & Co. are full of people posting only the good-looking, airbrushed versions of what’s going on in their lives. And, you know what? Good for them for going on the exotic holiday, getting the promotion, and winning the award. They probably worked hard and deserved it.

On the other hand: comparison is the death of motivation. Unless you have self-confidence cast from pure titanium — being continually bombarded with how well everybody else is doing while you still have so far to go is just going to bring you down at a time when you need it the least.

Just like that caterpillars inside the chrysalis, you are going through a big transformation — and that requires serious ENERGY. OK, you probably won’t have your flesh digested by enzymes (I kid you not, that is what happens to caterpillars), but you could get digested by your own negative thoughts. Keep them at arm’s length. Log out of LinkedIn and step away!

So that is why I have reduced my presence in the professional world to a minimum for a while. At some point, I’ll resurface and let everyone know what I’ve been up to. With any luck, my idea will be like a beautiful butterfly breaking out of its chrysalis, ready to fly up, up, up and away.


Related articles:

These email behaviours will have me loving you…or judging you

Starting a new career in your 40s – this much I know

The AI mindset

2023’s lesson: to move on, go back to where it all began


Photo credit: Wirestock on Envato Elements