Making a career change can be a daunting – even an overwhelming – prospect. Yet two out of three Americans are disengaged at work, and 51 percent are actively looking for a new job, according to Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace report. Even when you want to make a change, it’s easy to become stuck and succumb to inertia – never quite getting a solid start down the path to a new career.
Here are a few powerful ways to break the pattern of inertia and take the first steps toward making a career change:
1. Embrace change
Change is hard. While neuroscience tells us that our brains are wired to resist change, you can retrain your brain by creating new habits and forging new neuropathways. Once you embrace the idea that change can be good, you can be much more focused and productive in preparing for a career change.
- What uncomfortable feelings come up when I think about change? Fear? Anxiety? Self-doubt?
- Is there a pattern to my negative thoughts or feelings about change? For example, do you find yourself replaying thoughts like “I’ll probably fail, so why try?” or “I just don’t have the time”?
- How can I reframe my thoughts and beliefs in a more empowering way to help me embrace change and see it as a positive? For example, instead of thinking “I’m too busy,” tell yourself: “Even though I’m busy, I can find a way to set aside time – even 20 minutes a day – to focus on making this change.”
2. Gain clarity
First, it’s important to understand why you are thinking of changing careers and to ensure you are doing so for the right reasons. Next is figuring out what you want to do in your next career and why. Once you understand your motivations, desires and needs, it’s much easier to fully commit to making a career change.
- What’s working in my current career? What’s not working?
- If I could start my career over again, what would I do differently?
- Where does my creativity show up most?
- What am I most passionate about?
3. Overcome fear
It’s natural to experience some fear and insecurity about making a career change. But don’t let those feelings derail your efforts to find a more fulfilling career path. If something is preventing you from moving forward, take the time to confront it, deal with it and resolve it. Get support from those around you or seek support from a professional if it is a deep personal issue that is holding you back. If you don’t deal with it now, it will continue to hinder you throughout your career and your life. Once you have worked through your doubts, fears and insecurities, you will be free to set and achieve new goals.
- What am I afraid of? Make a list of the possible negative results you fear.
- Is it a real and rational fear, or am I focusing on something that is extremely unlikely to occur?
- What could I do to minimize or eliminate that feared outcome? When you overcome your fear rather than letting it run the show, it can put you on the path toward a successful career change.
4. Identify your strengths
Your strengths are a mixture of your talents, knowledge and skills. By identifying your strengths and finding a career that makes the most of them, you are more likely to enjoy your job and perform optimally. When your career is aligned with your strengths and interests, work energizes — rather than drains — you.
- What am I really good at?
- What do I most enjoy doing?
- What do others often ask for my help with?
- What roles or tasks make me feel energized and excited?
- What skills and/or knowledge have I gained in my current job that could be transferable?
5. Get help
It’s tempting to think you have to go it alone when it comes to making a career change. However, the more help and support you have, the more likely you are to be successful. One of the best ways to stay on track toward your career goals is to find an accountability buddy – a friend, family member or colleague – who will periodically check in on your progress and hold you accountable for the goals you set.
- Who can I enlist for help along the way?
- Who can I turn to for emotional support?
- Who can I turn to for mentorship, knowledge and/or expertise?
- Who can help me stay positive and focused?
If you’re still spinning your wheels or unclear on how to proceed, a career coach can guide you through the process and accelerate your progress. Just as sports coaches keep athletes on track and help them overcome obstacles, a career coach can provide valuable insights, focus, motivation and accountability. With an experienced career coach as your ally, you can take the necessary steps to prepare for a career change.
What is one thing you could do today to start preparing for a career change?