If you’re in a career that isn’t right for you, you’re probably already aware of the impact it's having on your whole life. Maybe you feel a Sunday night sense of dread about Monday morning approaching. Or it's like you’re climbing into a straightjacket when you arrive at the office every day.
Being in the wrong career is a miserable experience. That's why you must make a lasting career change – and soon.
But how do you do it?
It requires a long-term approach with planning to create a strategy to get where you want to go.
That's because making a career change isn't about taking a big leap into a new industry or role. That’s unlikely to work because you have little to offer a potential employer. Instead, you need to make a succession of moves to reach your goal over a period of time.
Of course, making numerous job changes is what makes a career change so challenging. It’s not just forming a strategic approach that’s hard, it’s sustaining your energy, enthusiasm and self-belief long enough to reach your goal.
If you don’t have the determination and resilience to keep going -- or the support to keep you on track -- you’ll likely give up when the going gets tough. And that could leave you feeling even more stuck and hopeless.
To make a lasting career change, have an inspiring vision of where you want to get to, have confidence that it's the right choice for you and know your goal is realistic and achievable – even if it does demand effort and a few sacrifices along the way.
Applying a strategic approach is critical to your success, so let's look at creating a plan for it.
A strategic plan is the glue that holds together your career change. It will help you transition in a series of carefully laid out steps.
You’ll not only know what you’re doing at each stage but also why you’re doing it. This will help you stay focused and ensure you get what you need from each planned move.
Recognise that the power of your plan comes not from sticking to it ‘no matter what’, but in being willing to adapt and shape it as you gain knowledge and experience.
The first step to forming your strategy is to assess where you are right now. This includes looking at who you are, what you’re good at, what you enjoy and what skills and experience you have in your toolkit.
First, make an inventory of your skills and the experience you’ve gained. Once you have your list, cross off any skills you don’t enjoy using and highlight areas where you have experience of doing work you enjoy.
But it’s not all about what you can do. Your personality is very important too. There are a range of personality tests that can help you gain greater clarity around who you are and what makes you tick. Sometimes these tests reveal aspects of yourself you haven’t seen before, traits you’ve forgotten exist or characteristics you’ve never fully acknowledged.
You can also do tests that reveal your preferences about how you like to work (alone or as part of a team) and what kind of work you like to do (working with people, ideas or data for example).
There are a huge variety of personality and careers tests you can take, so it’s worth working with a career consultant to obtain guidance on which test to take and when. A career coach can also help you interpret the results and discuss their implications. It can help you see what hasn’t been working for you in your current career and help you choose a far better fit when selecting your next one.
Once you've stocked your skills inventory and clarified who you are, you can start investigating potential career options.
A fulfilling career is one that makes work feel worthwhile and enjoyable. Your purpose may not be something you’ve spent a lot of time considering before and if that’s the case, now is a good time to begin.
A purpose doesn’t have to be grandiose, like creating world peace or curing cancer. For most people, their purpose is much simpler and more personal. Maybe your purpose is to help young people feel more engaged with their education or to help people make better financial decisions. Perhaps you enjoy making sure someone has an amazing holiday or a fantastic wedding.
Most purposes are about helping others and making the world a better place. How do you like to help others? What do you believe would make people’s lives better or make the world a nicer place?
You may already know what you want to do next. But if you don’t, you’ll need ideas. If you’ve been stuck in a job you hate, it might be difficult to feel any enthusiasm for any career because you’ve been beaten down by the daily grind.
Thinking by itself won’t move you forward, so you need to be willing to take a more hands-on approach to finding what you want to do. Here's how to do that ...
Fear is a strong emotion that alters your perceptions and makes it difficult to change. Fear can arise in a variety of ways, but it mostly manifests itself as being stuck. You may be afraid of taking a cut in salary or be worried what your friends and family may think of your plans. Perhaps you want change but resist the idea of doing anything that feels uncomfortable. However, these internal blocks aren’t real. But changing your career does involve changing yourself. Only then can you change what you do.
It’s easy to get into analysis paralysis when considering a career change. You look and look, but you find nothing. Books, articles and tests are important, but they can only help you so far. At some point you need to get out there and start doing something different. Of course, analysis is much safer than action, and far less challenging. But if you get stuck in analysis, you won’t make any changes in your career.
As you may have gathered by now, when it comes to initiating change, your biggest obstacle is likely to be inertia. When you get stuck in your comfort zone, anything outside it looks super-scary and you end up doing nothing. If that’s the case for you, you need to get help. Finding a career coach who can help you focus on completing a set of tasks or actions each week is a good first step. You’ll not only be directed by someone else, you’ll also be held to account too.
If you’re trapped in analysis paralysis, stop thinking and start doing. Enrol in a relevant course, shadow friends in careers you’re interested in and do some voluntary work to get experience with different kinds of work. You'll gain you ideas, information and knowledge to help you make your career change a reality rather than an idea.
When you connect with other people, you’ll feel less isolated and more energised to work on your career change. Meeting and speaking to others allows you to share more of yourself. They’ll get to know the real you, not just a set of data on a job application or CV. They'll also feel your enthusiasm, experience your personality and assess your suitability for a role. The easiest way to do this is by networking or simply meeting someone for coffee. Start by talking to people and building relationships.
Once you know where you're starting from and where you want to go, you can plan your route to achieving lasting career change. This ‘route’ begins with you.
If you’re going to succeed in creating lasting career change, you need to rebrand yourself so employers see you differently. For example, if you’ve been a teacher for a number of years, all the roles on your CV will say ‘teacher’ in some capacity or other.
Maybe you’ve decided to move from education to corporate training and development. That means you need to change the way you present your background and experience on your CV and LinkedIn so that it’s clear how your teaching skills are relevant to your new career as a trainer.
By doing this, you’ll make it easier for others to see your potential in the new field and appreciate the value you offer to their organisation. If you need to make a bigger step out of education and into management consulting, for example, you will either need to either step into a bridge field or do a career pivot.
Taking a step into a bridge field means taking a sideways step or even a backwards step in order to gain the vital industry experience and skills you need. You might also need to do some additional training. A bridge field is one that allows you to gain industry experience, even if you’re not in your ideal role. It gives you an insight into the industry and allows you to demonstrate your enthusiasm and determination to make the switch.
A career pivot allows you to change direction without sacrificing your financial stability. So, you could build on your experience, skills and achievements while at the same time learning to apply them in a different role or industry. A career pivot allows you to make the most of your existing value by using it as a foundation for a shift in direction.
Making a career change may feel as if it’s all about what you want, but it isn’t. The other side of the equation is your employer.
Despite what people tell you or is presented in TV advertisements, making a career change isn’t just a matter of searching through the ads on the job-boards, seeing something you like the look of and applying for it. If you do this, you’re not likely to get very far because you won’t have the experience employers are looking for.
To be successful as an applicant, you need to look at the situation from the employer’s point of view too. After all, if you ran your own business and needed to recruit someone to perform a specific role, would you choose someone who had little or no experience over someone who did? Of course not.
This is why you need to be strategic when creating lasting career change so you minimize risk to your own security while making yourself a credible candidate to the employer.
At Career Consultants, we offer a range or career change and career purpose programmes to help you create lasting career job fulfilment. And yes, the change starts with doing the internal exploratory work so the "inner you" – your ideas, thoughts and dreams – becomes the "outer you" who employers see and want to employ.
Know where you are and what you want and have a plan for a career change that sticks. Get excited and raise your energy. Take action and get the support you need to keep moving towards your goal. Our range of career programmes will help you do this in the way that works best for you.
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