“How do I start a career change when I don’t know where to BEGIN?”
It’s a word with a big, heavy set of associations, isn’t it?
It comes with a briefcase, a pantsuit, a 9-5, a serious face and a sensible pay cheque.
And it has its very own set of rules and processes too, doesn’t it?
You want a career, you qualify in it. You start at the bottom and work your way up. You get promoted. You get more important. You earn more.
And if you want to apply for a specific job, you search for the right job ad, speak to recruiters, update your CV and make sure you have the prerequisite experience, before sending your application in with hundreds of others.
You face the prospect of disappointing silence, outright rejection (probably for roles you weren’t even that keen on), perhaps the occasional interview.
When you want to change career, suddenly all those processes and the rules about how things are done feel restrictive, unbeatable, impossible.
How do you change career when you’ve got no experience in a new industry?
How do you get employers to take you seriously?
How do you feel sure about what freakin’ work you want to do anyway?
And what if you end up even more miserable at work than you are now?
It feels high stakes and high risk. And to be honest, your confidence is at an all-time low.
You try to apply everything you know about ‘career’ to a situation that it wasn’t designed for.
So it’s no wonder that at the beginning, you have NO FREAKIN’ IDEA how to make the whole thing work.
The good news is, career change is perfectly possible, even if you don’t know where to begin.
But finding work you love is not as simple as just getting a new job.
It’s about getting to know yourself in a whole new way. Uncovering the exceptional and unique individual you are (yes, YOU).
It’s about life change, fulfilment, calling, and contribution.
And there ain’t no traditional career ‘process’ for that.
To get something very different in your career, you have to be prepared to do something very different to what you’ve done thus far.
You need new processes, new approaches, and a new mindset to underpin it all.
So, here are the five foundational, tough truths about how to start a career change that I believe you need to know, right from the beginning.
Start here, to set off on a journey that leads to work you bounce out of bed for.
1. You have to commit, BEFORE you know where you’re headed.
There’s a prevailing myth about how to start a career change that sabotages many shifts.
It goes something like this…
“Once I’ve found something – an idea that feels realistic, a role that I’m qualified for, something that doesn’t need me to retrain or spend thousands to get started in — then, THEN I’ll feel sure about this career change thing, and THEN I can jump in with both feet.”
I hate to break it to you sweetcheeks, but for most people it doesn’t happen that way.
>And if you wait to feel sure, without taking action, you’ll stay stuck, or possibly even make a shift to something that feels equally as bad as your current work.
Because it’s all backwards.
Yes, every journey starts with a single step, but the commitment to movement comes before it.
And if you’re waiting to make that commitment because you’re waiting to know exactly where you’re headed, you’ll be waiting a long time.
Commitment has to come first.
Commitment pushes until vision pulls.
And if your need to control and be sure of an exact career as a destination is stopping you committing to your career change, then try reframing it this way.
You DO know where you’re headed.
You want to find fulfilling work. Work that wakes up your soul, challenges you, and lets you bring your whole self to play.
THAT’S your destination.
It’s the HOW of the whole process that’s a little foggier.
If you’re feeling stuck on this step, try saying this out loud, often:
“I commit to finding work that lights me up. I deserve work that feels fulfilling. I commit to learning what that looks and feels like, and I choose to move forward.”
It’s OK not to have all the answers. You can get going with your shift anyway. And you have to, if you want to make progress.
2. To start a career change, you have to make space for it
We each have the same allotted number of hours per day.
And we get to choose how we spend them according to a list of internalised priorities.
Work. Chores. Seeing friends. Family responsibilities. Sleeping. Eating. Hobbies…
But what we rarely admit, is that the divvy-ing up of that time is a CHOICE, based on those priorities.
Procrastination LOVES to hide in busy-ness.
It can fool you into thinking you simply have no control over the situation, when actually it’s always true that when something truly matters to you, you make time for it.
Life gets crazy sometimes, and never more so than now, in these royally bizarre world events that we’re currently living through.
But even so, you have choices over how you spend your time.
And if you’re not OK with NOT prioritising your career change, it’s time to face head on the discomfort that’s preventing you DOING something about it.
Is it fear of the unknown? Not being able to clearly see your destination (if so, revisit point 1 above)? Lack of confidence? Assumptions about what’s going to be involved?
All of these can be worked on, as long as you’re honest about them.
How could you make time to prioritise your shift? Try this:
- Look for time that could be repurposed as blue sky thinking time: showers, walks, cleaning, washing up, gardening, and during these activities allow your mind to consider and ‘try on’ ideas for your career change.
- Block out dedicated appointments in your diary to spend researching, connecting with inspiring people and understanding what drives you. Treat these appointments as you would a work meeting.
- Find yourself an accountability buddy — someone who knows what you’re exploring, and whom you can be honest with about your shift ideas. Get them to check in with you regularly and cheer you on, so that you have to report the activity you’ve undertaken.
- Think about whether it could be possible to restructure your work to allow dedicated time for your shift. Could reducing your hours, condensing your working week, or asking for flexible working patterns be an option?
3. You need to understand your values, before you think about your transferable skills
A super-common place for people to begin thinking about career change is by asking “What am I good at?” or “What are my transferable skills?”.
Both are important questions. But they are not how to start a career change.
Because if you’re looking for fulfilling work, you first have to understand what feels fulfilling for you.
And to understand that you have to be aware of your internal values.
This is the launch pad for your career change. It leads naturally on to what drives you at work, to understanding why your current work feels like a poor fit, and forms the beginnings of a compass which can point you to fulfilling work.
When a career change is values-led, it doesn’t feel like you’ve found something new, it feels like returning to something that was always there, but had been forgotten somehow.
It feels like coming home.
So, before you go straight to listing all of your transferable skills, try this.
And use them to guide all your decision making.
4. Start collecting ideas, but don’t evaluate them (yet)
If you assess, critique, edit and write off your ideas at the beginning of your career change explorations, you won’t have any ideas left to work with.
Yes, it’s important to find ideas that are viable, but testing for viability comes LATER.
You can’t simultaneously come up with ideas and shoot them down. That’s like trying to accelerate and brake at the same time.
So for now, give yourself permission to add ideas without judgement.
Go big, go crazy. Add fully formed ideas, fragments, inspiring ideas, features of work environments you’d enjoy, qualities of people you’d like to work with, ideas of people you’d like to help.
Collect them all, in a big juicy melting pot.
That’s all you need to think about doing with them for now.
5. Create liminal energy
If you’ve done all the steps up to this point, you’re well on your way to a career change.
If you want to go faster, and further, and have an inspiring experience along the way, you’ll need to do something to add a little rocket fuel to the whole process.
I believe that magical element is liminal energy.
Liminal. It comes from the Latin word ‘limen’ or ‘threshold’.
A doorway. It’s the very definition of being in the process of transition from one thing to another.
It’s the point where you’re not in the old space anymore because you’re moving on. Yet, you’re not in a new space yet either.
It can be as uncomfortable as it is inspiring.
And it’s in this space that I see career changers experiencing powerful and exciting insights about themselves: who they are, what they truly want, the connections that make everything make sense, and how they want to use those to show up in the world.
Liminal energy brings with it an open mind, a readiness to explore new approaches, and a willingness to make inspiring connections, both internal and external. It heightens creativity, curiosity and play.
All are vital in career change.
And it’s all yours for the taking, if you can let go of the need to control the specific destination of your career change, if you can let go of having to have all the answers.
How do you get there?
By committing to the journey, and by embracing new inputs.
- Undertake personality assessments online. From the outcomes of these, what resonates with you?
- Read a personal development book on a topic that you’re intrigued by.
- Do something, today, this week, that inspires you. Make it something completely different, that you wouldn’t have done without this prompt, something that makes you smile and get excited flipperty flops in your stomach to think about.
- Connect with someone whose work you find fascinating. Reach out. Ask if you can have a virtual coffee and ask them three questions you’d love to hear their answers to.
- Work with someone who can show you new approaches to career change.
And what then?
Yes, there’s more to career change than this.
But by creating the right foundation, you’ll get far much more than a new line of work out of your career change.
You’ll feel powerfully connected, engaged and in love with who you are.
You’ll feel strongly that your work is an extension of that, and you’ll love who you get to be when you’re there.
Your confidence will soar. You’ll feel like the world is yours for the taking.
The superhero version of you gets to come out to PLAY.
And it all starts with getting the foundations in place.
Need help to start your career change? Book a Career SOS call with me and we’ll spend a laser-focused hour on your unique situation, working out a strategy to move you forward and an action list you can get started with straight away. Click here to find out more.