A few years ago, I was introduced to the concept of cocooning in Sue Monk Kidd’s memoir When the Heart Waits. Inspired by the caterpillar’s process, cocooning describes a time in your life in which you are strongly encouraged, or more likely forced, to wait — to sit, get comfortable, pour yourself a cup of tea, and prepare for the transformation that is taking place in you.
Many of us are being forced to deal with career cocoons right now: cocoons of job loss or career anxiety or general helplessness as we navigate working from home or virtual job searches for the first time. It is dark down here in this cocoon, and we don’t know how long we’ll have to wait here, but in the meantime: What are some ways we can gain clarity around our career goals and envision an exciting post-pandemic work life for ourselves?
One of my favorite ways to practice career envisioning is to create a vision board. A vision board is a visual representation of your goals and dreams, typically made by cutting out pictures from magazines and putting them in a collage format! I won’t go into all the ins and outs of creating a vision board (Autostraddle already has us covered), BUT some of the more important questions that you should ask yourself when making a career-specific vision board include: How do I want to feel at or after work? What are some images that illustrate the ways I want to show up at work? Why did I choose the industry I chose to work in and are there other industries I am interested in exploring? What are my goals and where do I eventually hope to end up in my career?
If you are a journaling and writing nerd like me, there are so many ways you can practice
your career visioneering skills while cocooning. You can write a poem from the perspective of someone in your dream career role or create an advertisement for your perfect job posting. You can write a short narrative of what a day in your future dream career would look like. Where would you live? What would you wear to work? Would you work in an office or would you work from home with two Border Collies’ at your feet at all times? You can write down the details of an award ceremony where you are the recipient of the highest honor. What will they say when they introduce you? What are you winning the award for in your field? Make a list of all your favorite TV and book characters and write how you hope to use their energy at work.
Writing activities like this can give you clarity about your personal brand and what you’d like to be known for in your field. They can also show you what you value when it comes to work, and help you to seek out job postings that can lead you to the opportunities you desire and deserve.
When butterflies practice cocooning, they are preparing for a physical transformation, so what are some ways you can transform yourself at home to match the energy you want to convey in your career? When I work from home, I wear comfy pastel sweaters, cardigans, and cozy, fluffy socks (off camera, off camera of course). This changes from what I wear when I go in for interviews and want to feel confident and assured (think: blazers, dress pants, and pointy toed flats).
What colors and textures feel the most you when it comes to your #careergoals, and what kind of energy do you want to give off to others with your clothing, hair, and make up choices? Start wearing those clothes around the house to get into a productive and motivated mindset. Also, choose a lucky outfit you’ll wear to interviews!
Get your friends, loved ones, and/or pandemic buddies involved in the process. Do one or all of these activities with them and hold each other accountable as you take your next career steps. Brainstorm ways that you can support each other’s career goals. Utilize each other’s connections or find ways that you can collaborate with each other.
Cocooning can be a process of joy if you can let it! Use this time to be creative, to allow yourself to dream, to realize new ways of thinking and dreaming about your career. You deserve it. We deserve it. And hopefully we can come out of this with new wings.