“This CAN’T BE what my career is meant to be!” I used to scream inside.
I felt like I’d tried EVERYTHING.
I’d stayed up late into the night trawling for job ads until I could hardly see.
I’d made a list of my values and my transferable skills.
I’d researched every career I could possibly think of where my particular mix of qualifications could be a fit.
NOTHING the world would give me permission to do felt inspiring.
Geez, there was only a handful of options to begin with, and every single one of them felt like I’d have to start again at the bottom of the ladder with dewy-skinned graduates, taking a fraction of the pay I was used to.
Even out of the jobs I’d applied to that I was well-qualified for, I was hearing crickets.
I got through to ONE interview, for a position that was more junior than I was used to, with 2/3 of my usual salary. I did a 3-hour assessment, after staying up late working on a project required for a presentation I had to give as part of the process (and which the recruiter had helpfully only given me 24 hours to prepare for). I was suited and booted, fully researched, and brought my fricken A GAME.
They passed me over on a technicality, because I’d exhaustedly given a not-quite-perfect answer to ONE question at the end of the third part of the 3-hour process, having ACED the rest.
After I’d hung up on the dreaded ‘Thanks, but no thanks’ call from my HR contact there, I sunk to the floor and sobbed on my kitchen floor.
In my dressing gown.
I even cried to the poor, bewildered delivery driver who had the misfortune to arrive with a parcel just then.
I felt like I was NEVER going to escape. That I was destined for a life of career misery.
It was my lowest point. “My career change feels impossible!” I wailed. I couldn’t see how I could make it work.
I couldn’t quit — I had bills to pay. I couldn’t get in anywhere else — nobody would have me.
But after I’d cried everything out, and the world went still, I heard a small voice inside that whispered…
And even though I had all of ZERO clues about how to make my career change happen, I knew that was what I had to do.
Have you hit your low point?
Are you sobbing on your kitchen floor?
Does your career change feel impossible?
If so, here’s the thing.
What if feeling this way ISN’T a problem for your career change?
What if this is EXACTLY where you need to be?
It turns out that my career change feeling impossible was exactly what had to happen for my career change.
So in case you’re feeling this way as well, here’s how it helped me to start making progress, and how it might help you too.
1. It turns out that being committed to career change, without knowing if you’ll ever achieve it, is strangely liberating
In the days and weeks that followed that rock bottom moment on my kitchen floor, I had no idea if I would ever make a success of my career change.
In fact, it felt like a serious long shot.
But I also knew that if I was going to have any chance at all, I would have to get in the arena.
So, in the absence of knowing exactly what was the right thing to do, I did the next best thing: anything I could think of.
I immersed myself in psychology and personal development articles online. I looked for new things I could do that felt inspiring. I reached out to people and had conversations.
I didn’t expect any of it to lead to anything.
And what I found was that setting out, feeling it was all pretty unlikely, allowed me to focus on the journey of career change, rather than the destination.
The moment that happened, there was the opportunity for a different mindset to come in.
If there was no destination, I could explore twists and turns without worrying if I was going off track.
(I did. I researched and experimented with entire rabbit warrens of ideas. Most came to nothing. But they were FASCINATING. And each helped me get fractionally clearer about what work areas felt good.)
If there was no destination, I would have to use my intuition to help me decide where to go next.
(I did. I learned to quieten the noise in my head, and to tune in to what sparked my body’s fizzrockety feeling of ‘yes’.)
If there was no destination, there was nowhere in particular I had to get to. The solution to the whole problem could have been miles away, or it could have been around the next bend.
In letting go of the outcome, I was able to be wholeheartedly in the process.
Along the way, the journey gradually started to become it’s own reward. And it allowed me to cultivate an inner compass that it turned out, knew exactly where to go.
2. The things you do without promise of reward are EXACTLY the things you need to be doing.
One of the questions I ask my clients in the mega idea-discovery phase of our work together is this:
“What would you do that you would happily keep doing even if you didn’t need to be paid for it?”
What would you do, if, for example, you’d won the lottery and no longer needed to earn? What projects would you work on? How — after you’d had your fill of holidays, spending sprees and sipping cocktails by the pool — would you choose to fill your time?
Because if there’s something that you feel INTRINSICALLY motivated to do, that’s a good sign that, perhaps, more of it is meant for you.
For me, I was intrinsically motivated to set out on a career change, even though it felt hopeless.
And then gradually, as I tried more new things, I realised that there were some that felt like my motivation never needed to be woken, stirred or prodded for.
Working from home; website tweaking; doing my own accounts (yes, I’m nerdy like that); having deep 1:1 conversations with people about the challenges they were facing; personal development; the nature of ‘purpose’; well-being; empowerment; superheroes; play; storytelling and history.
I call them fairy lights. None a light-bulb of career idea in themselves, but all part of a bigger picture of what lit me up.
As I started to put enough of them together, combining them in different ways, a career picture started to emerge. And I NEVER saw it coming.
3. A dead end means a change of direction is required, nothing more.
That day on the kitchen floor, I thought that was the end of my brief fling with career change.
But there’s more to the story I haven’t shared — what led to me applying for that job in the first place.
I had sent in that application because of an almighty wobble about my career change.
I’d experienced my first couple of fairy-light moments by that point: enough to sense that — possibly, terrifyingly — running my own business could be a good fit for me.
But because it was big and scary, I’d had my wobble…
“But running your own business is risky!” said my inner finger-wagging, negative voice (Let’s call her Nelly, shall we?).
“And it’s hard. So hard.” said Nelly. “Can’t we just find an easier way? One that just gets you out of here quickly? Pleeeeeeeease?”
Nelly won, and I applied for the job, even though it gave me a subtle, strange, falling sensation in my stomach. I still get that sensation now when I think about it.
It would have got me out of the job I was so unhappy in in one fell swoop. I would have been instantly rescued. I have to admit that Nelly was onto something.
And when I didn’t get the role, it felt like a HUGE dead end. A road block.
I felt clumsy, like I’d failed. I felt embarrassed and ashamed.
But what I had NOT been expecting was that after all the sobbing was done (and that poor delivery driver was safely away from me and my mascara-stained dressing gown), there was a subtle and surprising sense of relief.
I didn’t really WANT that job. It might have temporarily relieved me of my spectacularly SHIT work situation, but it would still have left me doing work that didn’t feel inspiring. It wouldn’t have given me the sense of freedom I craved.
Looking back, it’s easy to say with hindsight that the relief I felt was my intuition telling me that I was not supposed to take that path. That I was always supposed to start my own business.
But the more important takeaway was this: when you are committed to keeping going, even when there are setbacks, those setbacks don’t have to scupper the whole process.
They can instead offer fascinating and valuable insights that add to the bigger picture as much as the successes. And when, the journey is the focus, not the destination, the setback just becomes a new question…
“This way is not the right way for me. I wonder why that could be, and what could I try next?”
I realised that even though it was the harder path, I was supposed to work for myself.
Nelly slunk back into her cobwebby corner, and I was in charge again.
If you’ll allow yourself to be ‘in the arena’ in this way too, EVERY time you come up against a setback or dead end, and you don’t throw in the towel, your resilience will increase, along with, counterintuitively, your capacity to make a success of your career change.
What to do when your career change feels impossible
I’m not there with you right now, to know if you’ve had your kitchen floor moment.
If you have, I want you to know that I see you.
I want to hold for you that career change feeling impossible, bears no relation to your ability to make it happen.
And if you’ll let me, I’d like to share with you these certain certainties of career change, because they’ll help no matter how strongly your career change feels impossible.
1. Seek new inputs
If there were a simple solution to your career change challenge, you’d have found it by now.
If it existed in your life as you can see it today, you’d already be aware of it.
So, if you’re still stuck, that means you need to try something new to get unstuck.
You need new experiences, new perspectives, new guidance, that flood you with new inputs, so that you see ideas, possibilities, and pathways that you can’t see right now, and that you might never have been able to imagine.
And each something-new you try could be the thing that finally gets your career change moving.
- Go to an online meetup on a topic that’s always fascinated you?
- Arrange a conversation with that friend of yours whose career has always intrigued you?
- Volunteer a little of your time to a cause you feel drawn to?
- Do an activity that you’ve always wanted to try?
- Seek help from someone who knows career change inside and out?
Any of these could give you a dead end that helps you pivot, a baby step that inches you forward, or an insight that gives you a fairy light of your very own to play with in your career change.
2. Be a scientist
I remember a sense of desperation about that job I applied for, as if I needed it to rescue me.
There was a lot of pressure on it to be a quick all-in-one fix. And when it all went wrong, it felt like my whole career change had come crashing down around me.
But thinking about it that way took away my sense of agency in the whole process.
The MOMENT I claimed that back (my realisation that I was supposed to start my own business), I felt a sense of calm.
So, remember that while you may not have any control over the outcome of your career change, you do have control over your process.
Even when your career change feels impossible.
From this point forward, my career avenging friend, consider yourself a SCIENTIST.
Transform every worry, panic and fear about your career change, along with any ideas you have about how to overcome them, into a working hypothesis.
No idea where to start with your shift? Lying awake at night worrying about it? Let’s turn it into a new hypothesis:
“I propose that if I talk to three new people this week who have fascinating careers, I’ll find the spark of an idea for my career change.”
“I propose that if I seek help,, even though my career change feels impossible, I’ll feel better and I’ll learn something new that might help.”
“I propose that reworking my CV might help me get noticed by employers in my new field.”
Then you run your experiment to test your hypothesis.
When the results are in, you decide, did you prove or disprove your hypothesis?
If you proved it, you pursue the next phase of your experiments — inputting your results into a new hypothesis: “I propose that if I explore X, Y and Z related to the idea spark I found, I’ll get clearer about whether this work area resonates with me”.
If you didn’t prove it, consider the possibilities why: do you need to speak to a greater volume of people in more varied careers? did you learn something about your three contacts’ careers that made one or more of them feel like a dead end?
Last week I had a Career SOS call with Lauren. She had an inkling that something to do with HR could be a good fit for her, but she was deeply put off at the thought of admin, processes, policies and procedures.
So, broadening her idea out around the theme of ‘people’ and ‘work’, she came up with a new hypothesis…
“I propose that organisational psychology could be a better fit for me than HR (and might involve less admin and procedures).” Now she’s testing this idea out.
Scientists don’t get disheartened when an experiment doesn’t produce the result they hope for. They simply work the information gained into a new hypothesis.
I don’t need to tell you about the incredible, creative results that science gets. About how many things that once felt impossible are now woven into the everyday fabric of our lives. (electricity, international flight, vaccines, to name a few). You know this.
Approaching your career change like a scientist could get you further that you could possibly dream.
Because things are only ever impossible until they aren’t.
3. Act as if your career change is possible.
I once worked with Sian, a former teacher who wanted to explore a career in educational psychology.
Her confidence level was through the floor. She doubted herself at every turn.
We worked together on lots of different things that were holding her back. After several sessions, she applied for a job with her local authority. When she didn’t get it, her confidence crashed even further.
She looked at me, “I just wish I had more confidence. It would have made such a difference.”
“What would a confident person do in this situation?”, I asked her. She thought for a moment.
“They’d probably phone them up and ask for some feedback, so that they would know what to work on for next time.”
“OK, so do that.”
“But I’m not confident enough!” she said, surprised.
“What if you don’t have to be?” I replied. “What if you could ‘try on’ acting as if you were?”
Sian did make that phone call.
Actually, she had an in-depth conversation with the hiring manager. She ended up hearing about another role which was one sidestep away from the work she wanted to do, but which would have brought her much closer to it, and bridged the gap between her previous experience and the new work area nicely.
At each stage of the process, she asked herself what a confident person would do in that situation. And then she did it.
She got the job. And then a short while later she moved into doing exactly the work she’d wanted to be doing all along.
Interestingly, after a while she stopped acting ‘as if’ she was confident. She simply was.
She wrote to me not long afterwards to say that this was what had been the turning point for her.
“Thanks to you for giving me the confidence and a different way of thinking about things, everything I wanted, I now have.”
I didn’t ‘give’ her confidence. She took it for herself.
And the same goes for you. It doesn’t matter if your career change feels impossible. You just have to act as if it is possible.
So, what might someone who believed that a career change was possible do in your situation?
Now go, do that.
4. Bring other people on board
You are not alone.
Every week I work with people who are navigating their career changes. For some of them career change feels impossible, others are starting to realise that it is possible, and some are busy actually moving, or have already moved into their new work.
A recurrent theme that comes up again and again in those who land work they love is how important other people were in making it happen.
Whether that means talking to a supportive friend, joining a community of people who are in the same situation as you in some respect, asking to speak to someone who inspires you, or getting dedicated 1:1 support with your shift, the common pattern is CLEAR.
When you don’t do it alone, you do it faster, and it feels lighter.
Charlotte took part in my Elite Squad career change coaching programme last year, and landed her ideal job within 3 months of finishing the programme. Here’s what she had to say about how important other people were in her shift:
“The programme really increased my faith in humanity and how much people are actually prepared to go out of their way and give you their time to help you. I remember being very scared about putting myself out there and thinking, you know, ‘Who am I to ask these amazing people for their time? And why would they want to speak to me?’ But I was really shocked by the responses that I got: people were really kind and really helpful.
And there were probably only a couple of occasions where I didn’t hear back. Most of the time I did, which which was great! I think those times where you may have a bit of a lull and things might go quiet for a bit, those times can just test your resolve slightly. That’s where you came in. I could reach out to you straight away and just tell you what my concerns were or if if I was feeling lost, and you were always there to support me, encourage me, give me feedback on everything that I was doing, in a really kind way.
I find it hard to think of whether I would have even had had a journey, to be honest, if I hadn’t worked with you. I really don’t know how I would have ever thought of or had the tools, the frame of mind or support to do what I’ve done. If I had, it would have been much harder, much less clear, taken much longer, and drained me so much more.”
So I’d encourage you to do this. Reach out. TODAY. To someone, anyone.
- Perhaps there’s someone you know who has a career that you find intriguing. You don’t have to want to do exactly the same thing. Reach out. Talk to them. Listen. Spend time feeling intrigued and curious.
- Talk to a friend about what you’re going through. Let someone in.
- Join a group of people like you. Share, and ask questions.
- Reach out to me for a free discovery call to find out more about my Elite Squad coaching programme, and how it might be able to help you.
Your career change is perfectly, beautifully, and powerfully POSSIBLE.
And not believing that doesn’t have to stand in your way.
If your career change feels impossible, what are your biggest takeaways from this post? Let me know in the comments!
I can help you with structured, expert career change support, even if your career change feels impossible. I am opening up three spots on my VIP, 1:1 career change coaching programme, the Elite Squad. Find out more and book your free discovery call HERE.