So You Want To Change Your Career – But You Don’t Know What To Do
You have just had another crap day at work. Some of these indicators may be familiar to you! You are tired and you wonder what went wrong. Everyone told you (family, friends, neighbours, the guy on the toll bridge) that this was a great job with great prospects. Now, you are just tired of it. Tired of the politics, the changing requirements, tired of your boss who always seems to be changing the goal posts? You want to change careers not just change job. The problem is that you have no idea what you want to do. You have had vague ideas about working in the Third World or doing something to “help” people…whatever that means. There has been so much talk about life purpose...what does that mean anyway? How could you find your life purpose? And will you have to get fired before you do? And does a career change mean that everything you have done up until now is lost? The good news is that there are answers to all these questions.
- Yes, you can find your life purpose (and there are clues if you look back over your life)
- No, you don’t have to get fired…but sometimes getting fired or experiencing redundancy is what you need to get on track
- As for losing everything … nothing is lost. Everything you have done will benefit you, even if it’s only to teach you that you never want to do X again.
Laura Berman Fortgang outlines a powerful 12-step career change plan in her book: Now What? Uncover your Life Blueprint. Here are some of the tools she suggests you use to get back on track.
First of all get really clear about what you hate about your current life. It’s not really enough to just say “I hate office politics.” For example, one client I had described how he hated how his boss always seemed to nitpick over every small detail of what he did. Get really specific. The more specific you are, the easier it is to identify a remedy. There is a big difference between saying, “I hate the long hours I work,” and saying, “I hate that I feel I have to stay until 7pm every evening and then commute for an hour to get home.” The second lends itself to a solution.
She also recommends writing your life story and watching out for golden threads in it. For example, a constant interest in a particular topic throughout your life is a clue (e.g. I had one client who noticed that she constantly mentioned property in her life story). That became a clue for her future direction.
Once you are about half way through the process, she advocates interviewing people who are doing the work you are interested in. This is a powerful step on the way. There is an interview template in the book. This allows you to form a very clear picture of the reality of the job … as opposed to the fantasy of it. For example, one client of mine decided she wanted to be a psychologist but found after interviewing people working in the profession, that she was not prepared to undergo the 5-10 years training required. So once you have identified the clues from your life story, got some job ideas and then interviewed people in those professions, then what?
Laura Berman Fortgang then suggests using a filter: using your values to assess these opportunities. For example, one client recognized that she wanted to have more music and creativity in her life but not by going on the road as a singer. She had a family and instead chose to create music at home. Whatever job you choose must be compatible with your values, otherwise it will cause too much internal conflict.
One of my favourite strategies for moving into a new area is to leverage your existing skills. For example, I have one client who wants to move into working with more non-profit organizations, and we are working to leverage her existing financial / administration skill set so she can move into these sort of organizations using these skills. Of course, there are other ways to move as well. For me one of the fun parts of the program is where she gets you to write your own fiction about how you can move into your dream job. I had a blast with this. When I did the program first, my ones were a bit dull, but by the time I got into doing them a second time … I had time travel included! This is a great way to explore fun ways that avenues can open up when you get clear on what you really want. My personal favourite story of these is a client who thought it would be fun to write music for a particular book. It transpires that a film got made of the book, and a friend of his knew the author and would have been happy to introduce him … and while he didn’t get to write the music (that had already been decided on), he was genuinely amazed that his casual fantasy could match reality so rapidly.
Money is often used as an excuse why people can’t pursue their dream … and this is dealt with in a chapter of its own in the book. This is a powerful exercise and for some people it’s actually quite reassuring. They find they had more money than they thought. For others, the simple exercise of just getting a clear view point on their financial situation was incredibly empowering. This piece is about acknowledging and telling yourself the financial truth. One of the important pieces which we can forget is the importance of a strong support team. And one key part of this is getting clear about who can give you that support. For example, I have a friend who is very analytical and is great at coming up with ideas around ways to get more business. However, she is not so great at being a listening ear when I need it. For that I would choose someone else. So a key part of this journey is looking at your friends / family / work colleagues and identifying who would be really good for what … and then asking them to help you out with that aspect. It’s extraordinary how much people are willing to help if we ask them and if we are very clear about the sort of help we want from them.
One of the final pieces of this plan is to get really clear about what you want to be doing … and then giving yourself some milestones for each month of the journey.