There’s something about mustering the courage to make the switch from one career to another.
Knowing what you no longer want to do is the basic starting point for career change.
Point 1 – I know what I don’t want to do.
Point 2 – It feels right that I am exploring this, and getting prepared for a new opportunity.
A fulfilling and passionately lived life is many things – it is everything to many people. But here is one thing it is not – easy. No one will ever say that it is something that just falls into place, time and time again. That’s why we change careers.
And that’s also the single most common reason people give up: because they’re not willing to let go of the security of the familiar, to rock the boat, to take a risk here and there and upend the routine and rhythm of life.
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It’s about recognizing the moment and seeing the potential and how quickly that opportunity can flash by. If you want to change and you can see an opening – now is the time and we must not delay any longer. Hesitantcy only creates confusion and usually leads back to where you began.
Going after an extraordinary life requires that you open yourself up to the extraordinary fullness of existence: the sorrows and the failures and the rejection as well as the joys, the giddy heights and true fulfilment.
Even once you’re in a career you love, chances are you’ll find it demands more of you. You’ll be heart-invested, rather than duty-bound, so the work you do will feel important and valuable on a whole new level. Some days, it will drain you. Others, it’ll send you enthused and motivated. That’s what you most likely have lost now you are settled in your your path. The actual process of discovery is what we may be seeking.
If you’re open to this, the starting point begins before you even start editing your resume.
Take self-care seriously. If you don’t already know what sparks you – go and find it. Be gentle with yourself when you need to be, and make sure you’ve got people around you who can lift you up when you need to be pulled out of a dark hole. At it’s simplest it can be drinking more water, and getting adequate rest. No tv after 9pm.
Be honest with yourself. You know when you’re bailing out and being a wuss, when you could take that little risk but it would be easier (in the short-term, at least) to settle for something less. Practise stretching the boundaries of your comfort zone – pushing past the point at which you’d normally stop – and celebrate the things you achieve as a result.
Keep your eyes on the long game. What kind of life do you want to look back on, when you’re old and grey? What stories do you want to tell your grandchildren? What do you want to say in your 90th birthday party speech? Remind yourself of the fact that this is not a dress rehearsal. Life is in session. And you are one of an extraordinary minority who are on the court, in the arena, and playing the game full out.
1. Understand your priorities and needs.
Who are you and what do you want? Simple questions, but the answers aren’t always easy to find. For those accustomed to achievement, carving out time to do nothing is a challenge. But you need that time to assess what gives you joy, what excites you and fills you with passion.
New Directions, a Boston-based consulting firm, provides advice and guidance to C-level executives and professionals on how to make career transitions. That process, which the firm calls Me 101, takes months and costs thousands of dollars. New Directions clients are hard-driven Type A’s, and not prone to navel-gazing, says Jeff Redmond, a company partner. “But you’ve got to slow down and decompress in order to do the R&D on yourself,” he adds.
2. Use a tool or take a test.
Besides taking time out to contemplate your options, there are other ways to jump-start a career switch. In an initial consultation, career coaches and counselors often use tests or comprehensive questionnaires to assess a client’s skills, interests, values and personality traits. You can play career counselor yourself with dozens of self-assessment tests, many of which are available online. Some are free, while others require a fee and sometimes require evaluation by a trained evaluator. Just don’t expect them to provide all the answers.
3. Tell your story.
Mining the past for clues is another time-tested way for career changers to find a road map to their future. Writing an autobiography highlighting critical events, influential relationships and significant achievements often leads to surprising revelations. What were the high points in your career that gave you a jolt of energy and pride? What makes you happy? What do you want more or less of in your life?
It’s just human nature to miss things about ourselves that are apparent to others. You can’t see your own eyes light up or hear your voice change when you talk about the volunteer job at the local primary school, or that week on holiday spent cleaning up the beaches. For that reason, career coaches and counselors often advise assembling a team of advisers to help one recall childhood aspirations and career high points. The team might include former bosses, professors, coaches and high school friends. “Just like a corporate board, you want diversity,” says corporate career counselor Bren Murphy.
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Who’s in charge of your life right now? Is it you – or is it your past conditioning and expectations?
Do you drink coffee because you love it? Or do you drink it because your first line manager told you that you should try a graduate scheme and you listened, so you found yourself in a job that forces you to work 16-hour days and you simply cannot make your body function any more without pouring caffeine into it?
Do you spend your days wrapped up in clothing that makes you feel hot and itchy and stifled because you feel good when you wear a suit? Or do you wear one because somebody told you that your worth was determined by the money you make, and now your tie is so tight around your throat that you can’t even squeeze out a whisper of the voice inside your head, screaming: “I don’t want to be here!”
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What if ‘normality’ is simply a conversation that everyone has with each other, without knowing why? What if this conversation isn’t just going on in people’s words, but in their actions and lifestyles, too? What if a ‘normal’ and ‘acceptable’ life as we know it (university, job, mortgage, marriage) was just an arbitrary idea someone had one day and everybody joined in?
What if you’re living a life that doesn’t honour who you are and what you’re capable of, simply because someone once told you a lie and you believed them? (Wouldn’t that be ridiculous?)
The Renegade Mindset requires that you go back to basics.
The story of your life is the story of your choices. Not necessarily the dramatic ones, but those that seem to be made in the blink of an eye. So what do you do if your story thus far has been made of choices based on fiction?
You start with a blank slate. Stop believing anything to be true – greet yourself afresh – and take up the pen. Take authorship of your life. Begin writing something new, something engaging, and something uniquely yours. Because it’s all smoke and mirrors anyway, honey. You get to say.
Only by noticing your decision-making habits and being radically honest about your desires will you be able to stay true to them.
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With every decision you’re presented with (no matter how small), question your motivations. “Why am I making this choice? What does it tell me about who I am? Is it good for me, or am I just rolling with the punches?
Fill in the blanks in the following sentences:
“I’m just not a very ___________ kind of person.”
“I need _____________ in order to be safe and happy.”
“People are basically ______________.”
Then do whatever you need to do to challenge each of those sentences. If you believe you’re just not very brave, sign up to a trapeze class and leap off a platform. If you believe people are basically self-interested, spend an afternoon volunteering at a soup kitchen or go to a protest march.
Ask a stranger for help with a personal problem. If you think you need an income of more than X dollars to be happy, spend a week or a month living on half your usual budget and make it your mission to have as much fun as possible within those limits. Test your grasp on reality. Open your mind. Surprise yourself.
The three main questions to ask yourself are:
a) What do I need? E.g. a new qualification, finances, work experience, bigger network, an updated CV, increased confidence or self-belief etc.
b) What action(s) do I need to take to get it?
c) Who do I know that could help me? Who could they connect me to?
Think of anyone and everyone you know: friends, family, colleagues, ex-colleagues, recruiters, people you met at a social or networking event etc. Connect / re-connect with as many people as you can. You never know what that connection could bring.
I often recommend my clients to find a role model – someone who has made a similar career change in the past. You might know this person directly, or they could be a contact of someone you know. They could be someone you found while doing some research on the internet. Most people are willing to help others – and enjoy talking about their own experiences – so bite the bullet and connect with them. If possible, set up a coffee or a call and ask them how they made their career change and what advice they would give you.
3) What am I willing to do to get it?
This is a big question – and one that causes confusion for many. Particularly when it comes to the financial side of things. Sometimes, a career change can bring financial uncertainty or a lower salary – at least to start with. And this puts many people off starting something new – especially those with family responsibilities.
Again here, the key thing is to ask yourself – what is most important to me?
When I asked him what was important to him about providing for his family, he said he wanted them to be happy. Seeing them happy was his reason for living. I asked him how working 24/7 in a job that he hated would affect him and who he was. He said he would probably be stressed and most likely depressed.
Knowing that his main driver was seeing his family happy, my next question was – how happy would his family be spending very little time with him, and seeing him stressed and depressed when they did? Of course he said they wouldn’t be happy at all. And neither would he. So while he thought that providing for his family was the key to his and his family’s happiness, he realised that his actions could create the opposite.
There’s a difference between providing a safe and comfortable living environment for your family and providing the latest ipad, designer label clothes and a villa with a swimming pool. Providing a safe living environment can be done without a huge salary and ridiculous working hours. More and more stories are emerging of people who left the rat-race to work a 20-hour week for a happier career change coaching life.
Yes they had to downsize their apartment and they couldn’t buy some of the luxuries they could afford before. But having those extra hours every week to spend time with their kids and help them with their homework, to exercise and take care of themselves, to do the things they love and make them happy, meant more to them than a decent pay cheque every month.
If financial security is a big one for you – and not necessarily something you are willing to risk right from the start – there are other options available to you than making a definitive career change. If your dream involves becoming an entrepreneur, you can always slowly ease into it by keeping your current full-time job and working on your own business in your spare time. This is what I did before becoming a coach full-time. Freelancing in your spare time is also an option.
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So going back to the original question – what are you willing to do to get it? Take a pay cut (remembering it could only be temporary)? Go back to school? Work two more years to save money to go back to school? Sell your car and use public transport? Downsize your apartment? Ask your spouse to take a greater share of the financial responsibility while you find your feet? Go through a period of potential uncertainty or maybe stress?
There are no right or wrong answers here. Of course if making a career change is going to hurt the people you love, or put you in so much debt you could be out on the street, then you need to be smart about this. What are your other options? How could you do this in a way that works?
If you want to change careers but are not willing to do what it takes, then my guess is that instead of focusing on the pleasure the new career will bring you, you are focusing on the pain e.g. what you will have to sacrifice in terms of time, energy and money. What if you spent 30 minutes writing down all the great things that could happen if you decided to go for it? What would life, including your relationships, health and emotional well-being, look like in a year’s time, 5 years’ time or 10 years’ time if you left your current role and followed your heart instead?
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