Getting Real About Career Change

Posted by on May 17, 2017 in Career | 0 comments



“Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end.”  — Robin Sharma


Career change can be exciting – or terrifying – or both. You feel exhilarated about new possibilities, a better fit, a new sense of purpose. But in almost the same moment, you feel frightened about the unknowns. Am I doing the right thing? Am I chasing a pipe dream? Will I actually be able to find a new and better career? Should I just settle for what I know and have? These questions plague career changers, so if you are asking them, you’re in good company.

Sometimes we are forced to change, even when we know it’s for the best. When I was just 28, I was laid off from my first job. I was devastated (even though I was unhappy with my work situation) and at loose ends about what direction to pursue. That job loss, so unexpected and SO unwanted, turned out to be a good thing, signaling me that it was time to grow again. I took stock of my situation, evaluated what I had liked and disliked about my first job, and then made a change. Sometimes a career crisis can lead to new and better things: in my case, a gratifying 20 years as a career counselor and coach.

Still, it’s good to be realistic about the career change process. It’s rarely straightforward, and knowing about the twists and turns can prepare you for the thrilling – and scary – adventure of career change. Here are some guideposts to remember if you are thinking about taking it on.

  1. Career change takes time. It’s rare that you will leap out of one career and into a completely different career in a smooth jump. Only Superman could leap from being a reporter to a superhero. For the rest of us, career change takes time. Expect to take smaller interim steps to get to your final destination. This can take months or even years, depending on the scope of your change. Do you want to transfer your skills to another industry or change your entire skillset and function in the workplace?


  1. Some tradeoffs will be necessary. Be honest with yourself about the ones you are willing to make. Are you ready to move away from friends and family, if necessary? Invest in needed training or education? Take a salary cut to have more fulfilling work?


  1. Career change depends on perseverance. When the going seems slow (and it will), persistence makes the difference. You may need to do networking and research and skill building and informational interviewing and resume writing. When calls for interviews don’t come immediately, discouragement can easily set in. Get support, define your short-term goals, and fine-tune your direction.


  1. Redefine forward progress. Expect that you might have to step back in responsibilities, title, and pay, especially in the early stages of your career change. Take the long view and don’t focus on short-term markers that might feel like setbacks. They are simply part of the journey.


  1. Make investments in your future. Know what skills and education your career change might require. Get help identifying gaps that need to be closed in order to be competitive in your job search. Develop a plan to reduce them as quickly as possible.


Career change isn’t for wimps! Be realistic about the cost, but think of the pay off. You could leave behind the stress of feeling unmotivated, unfulfilled, and unappreciated for a new direction that motivates and energizes you. Don’t you think that’s a change worth fighting for?

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