With millions of people currently out of work, now is the perfect time to reassess your career goals. It can be easy to fall into a downward spiral of fear and worry, especially if you can’t get food on the table. But it’s also a chance to reinvent yourself in ways that you may never have thought of before. It’s an opportunity to get creative and stop and ask yourself if you’re really excited about what you do or if now is the time to change careers. With automation and a changing economy fast approaching, now is a great time to think about your options and assess whether it’s time for a change.
Many people consider changing careers a daunting task. Most will stay in their current career because it provides “security” or “stability” even if it doesn’t necessarily bring much joy or satisfaction. We might stay in jobs for years without any growth or career development opportunities because it’s the safer option to do so. But for some, there comes a point where a lack of fulfillment and happiness gets to such a level that you know it’s time to switch careers. In fact, research shows that the average person will change careers 5-7 times during their working life. The key is not to get stuck in fear or a lack mindset that can stop you from taking the necessary steps toward finding a new career path.
I had a personal experience with changing careers about ten years ago. At the time, I was working in Silicon Valley at a prominent tech company as an Event Marketer. I had a great job, travelled, and was able to buy a house in my mid-twenties. I felt confident that my career was on the right track. But at a certain point, I became aware of an inner voice that kept telling me I was meant for something bigger. I felt the urge to somehow make a bigger impact in the world. I tried ignoring those whispers, brushing them to the side. But they got louder and louder until I couldn’t ignore them any longer.
One of the reasons I wanted to ignore that voice was because I really had no idea what else I could do with my career. The only thing I did know was that I wanted to help others and make an impact somehow, but I didn’t know exactly what that would look like. So I put an intention out there to find out and began to take steps in exploring various possibilities. After about two years of searching, taking classes, reading about different careers and digging deeper, I stumbled upon a professional called “life coaching” which was still rather new at the time.
When I heard about the skills one needed to utilize as a coach, I thought this could be aligned with my skill set. The icing on the cake was when I heard that coaching was about helping people meet their full potential. Now THAT was what I was looking for! Could this be the career for me? I set out to find out. I signed up for an introductory class at the Coaches Training Institute, and after my first weekend workshop, I was hooked. I knew this would be the career I would pursue. I knew because of the way I felt in my body when I practiced coaching. Even though I was a total newbie at it, the experience of coaching a client and the transformation it produced in others made me feel alive and full of energy. At the time, I had no idea how I would build a business or support myself as a coach, but I just knew that this was the career I wanted to dedicate myself to.
So when the decision to switch careers has been made, you have to go about the challenge of figuring out how best to do that. Does it make sense to pivot within your own field or is it possible to change sectors/industries? How do you build on the strengths and background you’ve accumulated thus far? How do you deal with the fears and doubts that keep tempting you to stay in your current job – you are employed after all!
To address these concerns, I’ve put together a simple step-by-step roadmap that can help you make the transition into a new career more graceful based on my personal experience and having coached many clients on transitioning to more fulfilling and satisfying careers. Of course, I always recommend working with a career coach to help support you through these steps. But for those of you who want to get started, here are a few tips to help you.
1. Set a clear intention and create a strong “why”
Even though you might have already decided to switch careers, you may not have a clear alternative in mind. This is totally normal; many people don’t have a clear idea what they want to do when they set out to switch careers. In order to start the process, set a clear intention for yourself. Tell yourself you want to discover a new career path, one that is much more fulfilling and purposeful. Set out a clear why – what type of impact do you want to make? You may not know the “what” but many of us already have a sense of what would give us more fulfillment. It might be as simple as “I want to help people” or “I want to make the world a better place.” Set that intention and write it down to set the wheels in motion.
2. Make a list of all your strengths and prior experience
When one has worked in a certain field or career for a long time it’s easy to forget the skills, qualities, and strengths you bring to the table. It is important to take stock of what you have accomplished as well as look at your education, background and capabilities. Take time to make a thorough list of all these things to get a full picture of all your assets – it will help in your discovery process. It will also give you the self-confidence you need when interviewing or putting yourself out there for a new job.
I once had a client who lacked self-confidence and was staying in her job out of a fear of not being good enough. She was an MIT graduate and was at the top of her field at the young age of thirty. She worked as an engineer but had ambitions to run for her local City Council. After working with her for close to a year, she built the inner confidence that was necessary to leave her high-paying job and run for office. Because of the work we did, she had the confidence to pursue her dreams and six months later was elected City Councilwoman.
3. What are you most passionate about and what excites you?
Next, make a list of all the things you are passionate about. What are your interests? What are you curious about? What fields/sectors/industries intrigue you? Give yourself permission to think big here – you can list hobbies, areas that you’re knowledgeable about or even those that intrigue you but you don’t have much experience with. You might find yourself judging your passions and being worried about how you could make money with them. Try to suspend that limiting self-talk and write down whatever comes to mind.
4. What is the impact you want to make?
Now you’re ready to look at what type of impact you want to make. What change do you want to see in the world? What demographics or groups of people do you want to work with? Do you want to work with children? The needy? Is there a specific problem in the world you want to solve? These are all good questions to ask yourself when looking at the type of impact you want to make. Again, make sure you are not allowing limiting beliefs to sway you from making this list. Be honest with yourself and remind yourself that you can make a difference in the world.
Once you’re done with the above three steps you can create a Venn diagram to find the overlap between your strengths, passions and impact you want to make. One additional thing you want to consider is what people will pay you for. However, try not to get too hung up on that one – sometimes we shy away from going for our dreams because we aren’t 100% sure how we will make money or support ourselves. Personal experience has shown me that when you follow your dreams and passions, the money follows. There are a thousand and one ways to monetize your interests, especially now in the digital age we live in.
The more important question to ask yourself is: How could I use my strengths to make the impact I desire in the area that I am most passionate about? This is what the Japanese call “Ikigai” or your True Purpose.
5. Do your due diligence
Once you’ve narrowed down your list to a handful of careers or areas of interest, it’s time to take a deep dive. Before you jump into applying for graduate school, take a few classes at your local community college, or check out a LinkedIn Learning or Udemy course. Find folks who currently work in the field you’re interested in and interview them – find out what it’s like to work in that field. What are the opportunities or types of jobs that exist in that field? What is the day to day like, what type of activities would you be doing? Read books, blogs and do as much research as possible to get a better understanding of that career before you commit to any type of expensive education or training.
6. Make a list of your values around work/life balance
One area that is often overlooked is how this career aligns with your personal goals and values. Is autonomy important to you or is a steady paycheck more important? Do you want to be your own boss or would you rather work with a team? Do you want flexibility so you can start a family in a few years? This is an opportunity for you to design your desired work/life balance. Perhaps you want to have children in a few years and would like to have a job where you can make your own hours and work from home. Write down a list of your top values/needs and think about the type of work/life balance you want as it will help narrow down your choice even further.
7. Check-in with your body
Lots of times we make decisions based on what we think we “should” do or the most “sensible” or “logical” choice. We allow society, our spouse, friends or parents talk us into careers that sound really good on paper but at the end of the day don’t really resonate. Ask yourself – what makes me feel most alive? What excites me? What option fills my heart with the most joy? When we make decisions aligned with our values we are setting ourselves up for success. At the end of the day, the body never lies so lean into your body’s wisdom to steer you down the road that will bring you the most fulfillment.
If you follow the above steps and allow yourself to go through the inquiry process instead of jumping into a new career just because it sounds good, you’ll save yourself a lot of time, money and energy. Allow yourself as much time as necessary to go through this process – you may have to explore multiple options before you find “the one.” But once you do, it will be a very rewarding experience to move toward a career that is more aligned with your skills, passions and one that fills you with more purpose.