Thinking Big Begins with Big, Important Baby Steps
For many people, the mental picture of changing careers is a picture of abrupt change. It’s dramatic. One day you’re a mortgage banker working the commercial loan desk. The next day, you’re chatting with customers at your newly opened dive shop in Aruba.
You leave your unsatisfying job behind and plunge headlong into the job of your dreams.
That’s not a realistic picture, and it’s certainly not the picture of a strategy that will make for a smooth, workable career transition.
Don’t Leap, Ease
There’s a better approach. It avoids the stress that comes when career change is all about standing on the edge of a yawning chasm and deciding to jump. And the need to jump can be self-defeating. Many a career changer has been discouraged by the feeling that you have to close your eyes, screw up your courage and force yourself off the edge of the cliff.
Instead of leaping, it’s possible to ease into a career change in a way that increases your odds of success. Incremental changes can set you off in the right direction, and there are a number of small, manageable steps that will get you started.
Change the Job You Have Now
What bothers you about the job you have now? What bothers you most? Is it the hours? The pay? Your co-workers? The lack of challenge? Look at worst parts of it and try to change things one at a time.
If possible, pick one of the things driving you to career change in the first place. Your efforts at negotiating that area can help you develop strengths and skills that will serve you well when the time comes for a more dramatic change, and those efforts, if successful, also pay off in the here and now.
Once you’ve made some progress on one front, move on to the other things that are driving you nuts. The list may be long, but it can be conquered one problem at a time.
Change Your Role or Change Your Industry
By definition, total career change means changing both your role and your industry, but consider taking on just one side of the equation for the moment.
If you’re a lawyer doing corporate work, for example, and you dream of a career in the arts, what about doing your lawyering for an entertainment company? Or, to consider the other side of the equation, what if you’re in HR and want to move to finance? In that case, there may be a way to get involved in your company’s finance-related operations, perhaps by involving yourself in cross-functional opportunities.
By changing one side at a time, you not only get a chance to do work that you might find more satisfying. You get a chance to personally test the real-world nature of the new role or industry. The results of that test can be enormously informative.
Make Your Free Time Work
If you’re looking at career change as a chance to take on more interesting challenges, to alleviate stress or simply to do something new, put your free time to use in a structured way. You can seek out volunteer opportunities, take classes or simply immerse yourself in a new free-time activity. While the ideal activity is one that relates to the new career you’re considering, that doesn’t have to be the case.
Any activity that’s sufficiently involving will help you to optimize your time-management skills and to assess your ability to take on something new. When “something new” is a new career, what you learn can be put to good use.
Get the People on Board
One important way to prepare for the eventuality of career change is to extend your network now, before you need to. You can make new contacts and solidify old ones without taking on the mark of the one who only gets in touch when looking for something from contacts. That can be a difficult reputation to shake, and while asking for something may well come later, you’re much more likely to get a positive reception if you solidify and expand now, before you need things from others.
Defuse the Stressors
Stress at your current job is one very common motivation for career change. Stress is also likely to return in force when you do make the change, because starting over is inherently stressful. If you haven’t taken steps to alleviate the stress you’re feeling now, now is the time to take those steps.
There’s no universal prescription, because different tools work for different people, but meditation, yoga and regular exercise work for many of us. The point, though, is to find out what works now, not at the point at which the stress of a new career stands a chance of becoming overwhelming.
If you are ready to start taking career change steps, we are ready to help you. Sign up today.