Imagine a boulder at the top of a hill. It’s been sitting there for months — maybe even years. One day, a curious wolf comes along and nudges it. The boulder then begins its journey down the hill.
If you’re toying with the idea of a career change but having trouble motivating yourself to take the first step, this scenario might have a familiar ring, according to Maura Koutoujian, a career coach in Jody Michael Associates’ Chicago office. Perhaps you’re feeling stuck, like the boulder at the top of a hill, waiting for something — or someone — to come along and give you just a little push to get you started. Many people think about making a career change when their current situation feels intolerable. Certainly, job dissatisfaction — whether caused by a difficult boss, an overwhelming work load or a lack of opportunity for advancement — can be an impetus for exploring your other options.
In most cases, however, the dissatisfaction isn’t strong enough to motivate people to act.
It’s not uncommon for many of our clients to feel career unrest long before they do anything because they believe that it “isn’t the right time” to make a change. And yet, any time is the right time, because you don’t have to take action right away.
In fact, when you’re not ready to make a change can be the best time to begin a career discovery process. When the need is less dire, you tend to think more clearly.
One career coaching client (I’ll call him “Scott”) arrived at his first session in a frenzy. Scott likened his circumstances at work to boiling water. His need to make a career change was urgent. Through our work together, Scott was able to tone down his work environment. The once-hot water became lukewarm, providing a far more comfortable environment for exploration.
Scott’s motivation took on a different flavor. It became active inspiration.
Instead of focusing on his need to get away, Scott was able to think — with a clearer head — about what he wanted in a career, applying creativity, flexibility and curiosity.
3 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Explore a Career Change
The term “get motivated” implies passivity. It’s why so many people struggle with motivation; they’re waiting for the wolf to nudge them.
Often, they wait … and wait … and wait.
When you’re intrinsically motivated, you recognize and honor an internal pull. The problem is, when you’re making a career change, the external pulls can be stronger, ranging from financial risk to your boss’s disappointment. Following are three strategies that can help you motivate yourself to explore a career change:
Identify your values — Developing an awareness around your core values is the first step in cultivating motivation. Knowing what’s most important to you is integral to paving the path to a fulfilling career.
Envisioning the future “you” can be a powerful motivator for any type of personal growth, including making a career change. Even if you don’t have a concrete answer to “what do I want to be when I grow up?” (regardless of your age), how do you want to feel once you discover your best-fit career — or, better yet, when you wake up for work on a Monday morning three weeks into that new career?
Acknowledge your role — Another client, “Caryn,” discovered that her motivation came from recognizing her ability to steer her own future. “I want to be able to tell my career story to date, succinctly and clearly, so that I can write the next chapter. I don’t want it to be based on luck and chance,” Caryn realized.
Motivation is what you need to break a pattern of inertia. All it takes is one step; but only you can take that step.
Passive inspiration comes from observing — and being somehow stirred or moved by — the success of others. Taking that a step further, you become actively inspired when, based on what you see, you begin to formulate ideas that you then apply to your own goals. Active inspiration leads to creativity; motivation leads to action.Equip yourself — Positioning yourself for success incorporates having the right partners, tools and plans in place. Weight Watchers encourages members to make healthier choices when eating out by looking at the menu online before heading to a restaurant. Planning ahead reduces your chances of making impulsive, emotional or peer-pressure-induced choices. By exploring your options ahead of time, you empower yourself to make an informed decision when you order your meal.
In the same vein, it makes sense to explore your career options before you feel like your hand is forced, as Scott did when he first came to see us.
While many people find career clarity on their own, identifying a career that aligns with their innate talents, interests and values, others find it a challenge. A certified career coach can help you objectively navigate the process, incorporating a variety of assessments, tools and exercises tailored to your unique situation.