Here’s a little secret no one tells you – even careers you love can break your whole dang heart.

The goal of my business – as a career coach, trainer and facilitator – is to help people design careers that they love.

But the reason for my business is that our work lives can be so thoroughly confounding, challenging, depleting and sometimes heartbreaking.

Have YOU ever experienced a career heartbreak?

Maybe you:

  • Discovered corruption, manipulation or abuse in a beloved institution or field.
  • Witnessed or experienced oppression in a workplace espousing inclusion and belonging.
  • Experienced betrayal or rejection by a long-time colleague or mentor.
  • Had your work or ideas appropriated or downright stolen.
  • Made a public mistake that brings you guilt or shame. 
  • Fought valiantly for something you believe in – only to lose the battle or even the war.

When deeply shitty things happen in our careers – it can be difficult to tend to our own healing and recovery in the moment. This is because heartbreaking experiences often require immediate, active responses. 

Yours may have required:

  • Whistleblowing;
  • Lawyering up;
  • Intensive time with HR;
  • A frantic job search;
  • Organizational restructuring;
  • Tending to the team;
  • Public relations and crisis communication.

In the face of great difficulty, we lean on our guts and our heads. We kick into high gear and make things happen. We work to repair what’s broken. We work to restore trust. We care for those who are impacted. Sometimes, we even have to leave and start over. 

But, left unattended and unhealed, a broken heart itself can soon become the biggest barrier to realizing our future goals and desires. Compelling visions and brilliant strategy are nothing in the face of a heart that whispers: “It’s not safe to try.”

A broken heart locks us in place, digs in its heels, and refuses to allow us to move forward.

When we pour love and passion into our work – we risk a broken heart. To continue to thrive in our careers, we need to learn how to heal one. 

Healing our hearts is an ongoing process that may not be linear, but it can be supported by turning toward our heartbreak and giving ourselves some tender attention. 

So – when you have some distance and time…here are 3 things that may help:

  1. Write it Out. Capture the story from your perspective. 
    • What happened?
    • Why was it devastating or heartbreaking for you?
    • Which of your needs were unmet OR which of your values were violated? 
    • Why did you respond the way you did?
    • What would you wish to have happened?
    • What will you do now?
  2. Share Your Story. Choose a few people to share your story with. 
    • A loving partner
    • A dear friend
    • Trusted (and possibly uninvolved) colleagues
    • Coaches, counselors, clergy and/or other professional listeners
  3. Create a Ritual for Letting Go. Dedicate a metaphorical action to the process of healing your heart.
    • Write out the most challenging parts of your story and burn them in a bonfire.
    • Embrace a new beginning by plunging into cold water.
    • Create an original piece of art to represent what was gained and what was lost through the experience.
    • You are so creative…I know you have better ideas than mine <3.

Above all, remember you aren’t alone. 

A heart that loves can break. A heart that breaks can also heal.

Kate

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.

– Leonard Cohen

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About the Author: Kate Cockrill

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A little about me... I am a social scientist, facilitator, and professional coach. Through my business: Kate Cockrill Coaching, I support mission driven managers and directors with 1:1 career coaching, leadership coaching, team workshops, and retreat design. My clients include leaders in healthcare, education, research and social innovation.

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