Marathon running race people competing in fitness and healthy active lifestyle feet on road

I don’t know about you, but I found the London Marathon inspiring and not a little instructive. I participated in the marathon-length London Moonwalk a few years ago, so I know that it’s a great undertaking to cover 26 miles at any speed. I remember the training, the sore feet, and the occasional sugary intake (chocolate, I’m afraid) that helped me stay the course!

Back to last Sunday, and it quite tired me out, watching these brave, committed people from the comfort of my armchair, as they pushed themselves to a new level of achievement that I am sure many previously had thought inconceivable.

For beginners, there was the daunting (but exciting) prospect of running over 26 miles for the first time in their lives. Could they do it? Might they get hurt? What if they let themselves down? For the more seasoned runners, too, the challenges were still there: It was the familiar challenge renewed, the personal best, or at least the better-than-last-time. For the professionals, perhaps, the rival to beat.

Whatever their perspective, I bet most of those 38,000 runners put themselves through an awful lot of preparation to be ready to tackle those 26.2 gruelling miles. Few would expect to be able to do it without some carefully calibrated preparation.

When your professional circumstances change, it can feel like you’ve just been told you’ve got to run a marathon when you’ve had no time to prepare for it. I simply couldn’t avoid the analogy as I watched those runners last weekend. My experience providing Outplacement services has taught me a few things about supporting people during a very testing time, and I believe that, approached in the right way, Outplacement can be a good opportunity to take stock, however uncomfortable the process may be. That process can also be as exciting as it is daunting if you embrace it properly – and that means preparing, just like those runners.

With this in mind I thought I would go through some of the steps you can take if you find yourself in a work environment that is likely to incur change, whether natural or forced.

Take time to think about what you want to do next. Time spent planning your next move is time extremely well spent. Consider whether doing “more of the same” is the best thing for you. Some of the happiest people I know are professionals who used an un-asked for career break to change their direction. If you possibly can, put time in to think about what you want from your next role, so that once you put your best foot forward, you can be fully committed to the journey, and make the sort of positive impression that only a fully committed person can.

Align your CV and LinkedIn profile. Get your CV together, and get it right. It needs to be relevant for your next role, and your LinkedIn profile also needs to sell you in the right way. Keeping your CV up to date is something few senior professionals do. It’s worth investing the time.

Use your networks and use head hunters – but make sure your activity (and theirs) is targeted. If you have your eye on a particular business, find out who’s who there, and write to the person you want to work for, telling them why. Demonstrate passion for their business, as well as knowledge. Once you get into the interview process, make sure you make the most of this unique networking opportunity by following up, as an Ennis & Co colleague wrote about recently.

Just as in a marathon, when it gets tough, you’ll need to dig deep. It can be hard if you’ve had your confidence knocked, but you have to treat the process as a job in itself, with the same level of application.

If you can’t find the energy, direction or drive in what can be a really difficult time, go and work with an Outplacement company. I’d suggest not one that just wants to put you in front of a screen, but one that can give you the confidence and the push you need. You may just discover it’s a bit like finding a good teacher again: you are a person and you will need someone who can interact with you in a way that inspires you and helps you to find your way. Suddenly, you find it all starts to make sense.

Above all, you need to persevere. With the right preparation, the right support and the right attitude, you have every chance of getting to the finish.

If some of the above sounds familiar to you (either at an individual or company level) and you want some help, I’d be pleased to hear from you. Meanwhile, if you did run on Sunday, I hope you’ve recovered, and I salute you.