Is now the right time? When would it be a good time? Certainly there are valid reasons not to change. The economy is tough and if you’re earning a decent living it is easy to rationalize staying where you are. All too often we put this decision off. We wait for the perfect time or for the perfect opportunity to come to us.
Interestingly enough, many of us are living in limbo. We aren’t fully committed to our current career or to figuring out what might be a better option. Isn’t life too short to linger in a career that isn’t a good fit anymore? Why wait — until you’re too locked into your current situation to change, you can’t stand your work situation any longer, or you’ve actually lost your job — before you actively consider a career shift? Exploring options while you’re in your back-up mode — worrying about finances or feeling like you’re living in limbo — isn’t an ideal environment to be open to new possibilities or actively take a risk. (It can work, but the stress can be stifling.)
Why not invest in yourself now? Doesn’t it make more sense to do it while you have the energy to thoughtfully evaluate your possibilities?
Time is life’s real currency. The heart of the question is: Are you living your life’s currency wisely? Many of us start our careers optimistically, without much analysis of our choice. Out in the real world, we gradually figure out that it was nothing like we had imagined. Few of us did more than rudimentary skills testing. Perhaps only a fraction of us found a mentor to help us provide real-world insights to see if we were making a good choice. Maybe you loved your job for years; only now it has lost the excitement or the meaning it once held. Perhaps you’re fortunate enough to be quite successful, too well, in fact, so that you don’t even consider what might make you happier — your “best self.” Let’s hope we don’t sell out for golden handcuffs, especially if the salary isn’t all that great to begin with (or even if it is), because it’s our lives we’re talking about here!
Why not raise the bar? Consider a career change to find one that is more interesting, rewarding, and meaningful — perhaps one that is “more livable” too. Naturally all careers have trade-offs, but the trouble is that we don’t often take the time to find a better match for ourselves. We stay where we started just because it seems easier. On reflection, and once we’ve made the shift, we wonder why we waited so long! (Some of you may find that this process helps you determine that you’re in the right career; all you needed was a little rejuvenation!)
Take the time to imagine what your life would be like if only you could make a shift. According to Civic Ventures, more than 8 million Americans between 44 and 77 are embarking on new careers. We’ve all heard stories, but somehow we can’t see ourselves — our options. So stimulate your thinking with a few real life examples:
- An intellectual property consultant switched to his love of the ocean and now sells sailboats.
- A banker opted out of corporate life; he prefers to work on his own, remodeling houses.
- A computer programmer went back to school for a degree in nonprofit management; and now works in energy conservation.
- A beautician went back to school to become a massage therapist.
- A stockbroker now teaches fitness and relaxation.
- A photographer’s representative switched to planning travel for touring musicians.
- A public relations consultant who loves language, is now a teacher (teaching English to French students).
- A copywriter went back to school to become an acupuncturist.
- A dancer/actress became a marketing consultant (also farms part-time).
- A marketing strategist became a stay-at-home dad, web entrepreneur, and real estate investor.
Don’t start exploring career options with the job market. Start by asking the more important question: “What do I really want?” Career experts often recommend evaluating the future growth in a particular field, researching potential employers, estimating income and advancement options, etc. That’s vitally important, but that’s actually the easy part — and it shouldn’t be where you start.
External analysis should come AFTER your internal analysis, which is often more challenging. You know yourself better than you did right after college or your first job. All too often, we know what we don’t want rather than what we want. Knowing what we don’t want helps us cross options off the list, which is good. Getting us out of our routine and into the more exciting, dynamic world of our passions, possibilities, and motivations is what’s key. Of course, money matters. But it’s not solely about the money. As Henry David Thoreau said, “Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.”
- a career that taps into your values (meaning), interests, and abilities and
- a vibrant field with plenty of job options and upward mobility — and one valued by society.
Start exploring career options by expanding your network. One of the biggest barriers is your existing network. Colleagues know you only in your current role — which is a very narrow view of your potential. Schedule informational interviews with people outside of your current circle — people who are open to seeing you in new roles.
The good news is that it is fairly easy to network these days. Even though everyone is busy, most people want to expand their network too. Make a commitment to yourself to meet at least one new person each week — with the precise intent of helping to identify what you value, your deepest passion, and your strongest interests. Meet in person, over coffee or lunch, so you can truly to get to know one another in a meaningful way. Be sure to help them expand their network too.
Remember to document what you learn from each interview. Keeping track of your efforts will help you feel like you’re making progress. It’s likely to take time to piece together all the components of a successful career move. Unless you’ve been training as a concert pianist since the 2nd grade, and built up 10,000 hours of practice, chances are you’ll be in the research phase for a while. If you’re typically used to making quick decisions, try to enjoy the process and allow yourself time to dig past the first good idea. For people that love thinking about options, find someone that will help keep you on track so you don’t get lost in the options — a colleague, a coach, or mentor.
It’s important to remember that your career isn’t limited by your direct experience. Sure, many employers are looking for someone with a perfect fit. But more and more, smart business people know that skills can be taught. What matters more is a person’s ability to learning and adapt. As the senior editor at Inc Magazine, Norm Brodsky says, companies should “hire for attitude not skills.”
Filed under: Uncategorized Tagged: | adapt, career, career shift, change, choice, coach, experience, Happiness, interests, interviews, job, Meaning, mentor, motivation, network, opportunity, options, Passion, possibilities, potential, progress