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Why Being In-Between Is Just What Your Career Needs 

I keep meeting people in the middle. I’m not being literal – but liminal. 

The liminal phase is the middle stage of transformation. Think of it as an in-between bridge in time, where someone has not yet reached the next chapter of whatever they are going through. The word, Liminal comes from Latin roots that mean threshold. So the liminal space, with its’ in-between feeling, might feel deeply uncomfortable but is also just what you (and your career) need to crossover to What Next.

Liminality can come with any feeling of being in transition – sometimes it’s momentary. And sometimes it’s not. 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 

Now, liminality 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 in control. Or sometimes we submit to our Stuckness and keep doing the same thing 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 liminal, ‘crossing over’ space is transformative for confident transitions. Like a bridge – it’s how you can get to the other side.   

Having leveraged liminality to help a range of clients, each at very different crossroads recently, I wanted to share its transformative power so you can harness it too.  

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

1. Time To Separate 

I met Louise 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. Louise 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 Louise 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 unit!

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. 

Louise 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 Louise 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 – but 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 Louise. Which we’re conditioned to hear as a bad thing – we think we need ‘now’. But Louise 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 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 liminal stage is not a mistake or a problem. It is part of getting it right if you spend time wisely in the middle. Then it’s 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 in the middle – keep moving, keep embracing the liminal stages of your in-between knowing it’s the bridge that will help you emerge on the other side.  

What have in-between experiences in your career felt like?  

Helen Hanison

Helen Hanison is the only executive coach bringing a unique blend of marketing savvy and commercial edges to coaching that draws on her background in psychology. She helps seasoned professionals who are stuck at a career crossroads to make a plan aligning work they love with a life they want to lead.

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