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The Things Most of Us Forget When Making a Career Change

The Things Most of Us Forget When Making a Career Change

Actually making a successful career change can seem terrifying. Your usual way of doing things is so embedded in you that thinking outside the box can prove challenging. Heck, I left the country and stopped working for a while and my initial gut reaction was to go back to event management! It happens to many of us.

Consider this: according to a study by consultancy Lee Hecht Harrison and covered by Glamour, 48% of people wanted to change careers and 13% were “almost ready” to do so. That’s 61% of people. This is a little (ok, a lot) unscientific, but are 61% of people in your life making a career change? I didn't think so. So, where have all the career changers gone? 

It can be boiled down to the fact that there are a few things many of us are forgetting when we embark on this zany, wacky world of career change. If we can keep these top of mind, then I think there’d be a lot more fulfilled people and a lot more stable of a workforce to boot (removing self from soapbox… now).

We Forget About What Matters To Us. This goes back to my point above about being stuck in our ways. It really is imperative to check back in with your values and understand what motivates you. For me, I wanted to pursue meaningful work that helped others in a way that provided me with work-life balance, so going back to pursue a next step in my previous career where working long hours, advancement & promotion, and money were king would not have been a good fit. I’m glad I pulled myself back from the brink there. So, how can you?

  1. Ask yourself, “What matters to me? What makes me tick?”
  2. Work with a coach to understand your values
  3. Take a values assessment. (Google is your friend!)

[Related: Managing the Emotional Toll of Career Transitions]

We Forget to Dream Big. There are many jobs out there that we’d never consider because we say no before we even get started. That’s fear right there. One of the most critical elements to a successful career change is spending some serious time thinking outside the box. I’m a career coach, for the love of Pete, and I’m still learning about new jobs and fields, and new fields are emerging all the time, with the ever-quickening pace of technology. This can be tough to do when you’re chained to your day-to-day routine, so I’ll give you some ideas:

  1. Start cataloguing or bookmarking articles you gravitate toward online or in print (besides Buzzfeed's “Top Toys Every 90s Kid Had”). Start to think about commonalities between those topics and what that might say about your professional interests.
  2. Don’t dive right into job descriptions and job boards. Nothing says, “Stay in the same place” more than just looking at in-the-box job descriptions. We don’t want to put a name to what we want to do just yet.
  3. Spend some time alone doing a hobby you love… or doing nothing at all. Let your mind wander and see what comes up.

We Forget That There Are Freakout Moments. I said this to a client recently, actually. I have never worked with someone who was cool as a cucumber the entire time we worked on her career change. It's normal, people! What I’m saying here is if you’re just about ready to take the plunge and do something about your career unhappiness, take a pause to recognize that this won’t be the easiest thing that you’ve ever had to do, but that it can be done, and freakout moments are ok and normal. Once you take yourself off the SuperWoman pedestal where nothing gets to you, you can better embrace the uncertainty and move forward.

We Forget There Are Naysayers. Ah, the naysayers. I hired an accountant when I was first dipping the toe in Business Land a couple of years ago and while he was doing my taxes, he asked me to sit down. “Jill,” he started. (Meanwhile I never had met the guy in my life.) “Jill, I want to just make sure you realize that most coaches don’t make it. I’ve seen a lot in this business and-” At that point, he started sounding like the Muppet Babies nanny with the green and white striped stockings, and I have no idea what he said. Needless to say I stopped having him on my team. My point is, if we listen to these knuckleheads, we make them right. Nothing like a side of Self-Fulfilling Prophecy with that Naysaying Main Course, amiright?

[Related: The Career Risk You Don't Know You're Taking]

Now, another thing that can and likely will happen is someone in your desired industry will warn you about burnout or fiery hoops you need to jump through. And if you’re doing your career change in a conscious way, you will be talking to other professionals so this is likely to happen. This is where my #1 point above comes in: If you know what matters to you and it’s aligned, then you’re in a more stable point to listen. And, maybe that’s their reality but it doesn’t have to be yours. Also, if you do the new career for a couple of years and find yourself agreeing with this person you’re talking to now, great! It's information you can use to continue growing to the next step or next phase of your work. In other words, naysayers provide us with a win-win no matter what.

If you really get on board with the above 4 things most people forget in a career change, you’ll be more dedicated to the task at hand -- and more resilient at brushing away Muppet Baby Nanny Accountants.

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.


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Community Discussion
Meredith Kerekes
Meredith Kerekes

Great advice Jill! Especially about the freakout moments. As a career career changer there are always freakouts and the more prepared you are to handle them the better. Thanks!

Wednesday, Feb 10 11:25 AM EST