So, you're thinking about changing careers (or at least changing jobs).
It may seem like a daunting task, especially if you have a busy life or if you don't know what your next career will be.
Below are 12 (sometimes surprising) ideas for making that transition easier, smoother.
Some of these tips are one-time projects; others are projects to start new habits in your life.
Good luck! Let me know how it goes.
(1) Make an envy list
Not sure what you’re really into or yearning for? Make a list of the people you envy, plus the reason your envy them. This will point you towards things you want for you life and career that you (for whatever reason) don’t think you can have. They can be people you know personally, of famous people you know of.
For the longest time I envied a colleague who owned her own business. I envied her self-determination, her creative freedom, and her earning potential. I didn’t even recognize it as envy until I started planning my own career rebirth. My belief that I didn’t have enough knowledge to start my own business prevented me from even thinking about it.
Once I surfaced this desire - this envy - I could look at it more rationally, and I realized what I needed to learn to make it happen.
Once you’ve unearthed the things you want for yourself through your envy list you can set about going after them. If you feel stopped by obstacles (as I did) you can employ the help of a mentor, accountability buddy or coach to help you overcome them.
(2) Revive your passions – off the clock
Research shows that we are most dedicated and creative when we’re doing something for the love of it, rather than for rewards such as pay (see this fascinating short video for more). If your job is stale or stressful, an easy way to revitalize your career is to start first by doing something you care about on your own time – the way you want to do it. This may be a hobby, volunteering for a cause, or taking classes. Once you’ve been doing it for a while, you may have new expertise to add it into your resume or bring ideas back to your work team.
(3) Identify your core requirements for a good, sustainable life
Humans are so adaptable that we get a little too good at “making due” with what we have, no matter how inadequate. We get so good at surviving that we forget what it means to thrive. This is the “boiling frog” analogy.
How to break this cycle? Start by identifying your core requirements for work and life. These are the nuts-and-bolts aspects that are part of your life needs right now. For example, in my program The Flint Career Map, I show you some simple ways to identify the following:
- Financial needs, including savings and other goals
- Preferred salary
- The natural talents that you want to use at work
- Preferred level of responsibility at work
- Preferred places to live
- The kind of company structure you want to work for (public, private or for-profit)
- The size company you want to work for
- The corporate culture you prefer
- The top five qualities of co-workers you prefer
- Your top 5 preferred working conditions
- The timeline of your ideal day (start time, number of hours, etc.)
How does your current job stack up? If there are too many differences between your core requirements and your current work life, it’s time to start looking ahead to your next career upgrade.
(4) Instead of setting goals, create habits
For example, instead of resolving to lose 10 pounds, resolve to eat your five-a-day fruits and veggies and walk every night after dinner. Instead of resolving to get out of the job you hate before you turn (X) years old, resolve to devote X hours every week on the job search until you find a job you’ll love.
Why do this? Two reasons: one, designing the habits will make the path to your actual goal much more clear. If you fall off the wagon you can just get back on again by resuming the habit. Two, habits will create more long-lasting changes in your life, rather than backsliding after a goal is attained.
Instead of setting goals, create habits. The goals will take care of themselves.
(5) Get an accountability buddy (and/or hire a coach)
This will help you achieve any of the other 11 projects. One couple I know decided they needed to loose weight. They, along with some other relatives, had a “Biggest Loser” weight-loss contest in early 2014. The winner got a package of massages, paid for by the others. It helps if you and your buddy agree on both a reward for success AND a consequence for falling short.
(6) Exercise your change muscle every day for a month
It’s estimated that 50-80% of our lives are habit, run on autopilot. The advantage is that these habits streamline things, leaving mental energy for new challenges that arise. The disadvantage is that we get used to being comfortable; change then feels uncomfortable, even if it’s necessary and useful (like a career upgrade).
The easy solution? Get more used to change, starting with small, fun things. Drive a different route to work. Run a small errand on a bicycle. Cook a meal you’re never made before. Watch the sunrise with a cup of coffee. Try a music genre that's new to you. Before you know it, you’ll start to feel more alive and vibrant, and you’ll see change as a welcome adventure instead of a windstorm to endure. This will make the larger changes in life (like a new job) more welcome, too.
(7) Expand your social circles – strategically
It's still true that the best way to get hired - or find new career opportunities - is through networking. Expanding your social circles will expand your career opportunities. But your time is valuable, so it's important to do this strategically, without spinning your wheels too much.
Meeting new people at parties is fun, but it's hit-or-miss when it comes to opening new career doors for you. Instead, go where the people are that are already doing what you want to be doing.
Think about your passions and your envy list. Would you like to learn how to start a business? Get into professional photography? Learn how to manage people? Become a skydive instructor? Think about where you could make friends and contacts with similar skills or interests. This could be through Meetup.com, Facebook groups, your local Chamber of Commerce, Toastmasters, conferences/professional associations, and virtual groups online.
Even if you don’t think you’re qualified (yet) to move into your new career, you can get into the field as a hobbyist or learner. Your new friends will support you to keep going, and provide valuable networking contacts down the road.
(8) Seek out a career mentor
Actually, finding a formal career mentor is easier said than done (See my series on this, in this blog.) It’s a big commitment for the mentor, and as a result I find many people are reluctant to ask. If you can find one, wonderful!
If not, focus on finding mini-mentors for specific things you want to learn. Take someone out to lunch so you can pick their brain on something specific, like marketing as a musician or what it’s really like to be a physical therapist. If the person seems receptive to share what they know, ask to continue the relationship.
(9) Turn off the TV for a month (Including video games)
Some of you have already joined the growing club of people who don’t watch TV. For others, this may seem like radical advice. But consider this: the more disconcerting this project seems to you, the more you may need it.
The average American watches about five hours of TV every day. Surprised? Since there are about 16 waking hours to every day, if you cut out the TV, it’s like getting two more free days in every week. Cool eh?
What happens when you turn off the tube? Like any habit change, it feels a little wobbly at first. Then, a wonderful thing happens: your time fills with other things. More leisure. More interactive playing with the kids. More outdoor time, more fitness, more hobbies, more sleep. And, if you need it, more time on career-upgrade projects like job-hunting, networking or taking classes.
(10) Make your health and vitality a top priority for an entire month
Why is this advice in a list of career-boosters? Because it’s all interconnected. If you feel better, you’ll have more energy and mental stamina to work on your career. If you look energetic and healthy, you’ll have an edge in interviews no matter what your age.
You don’t have to reach some pie-in-the-sky perfection during this time. Just resolve, for one month, to PRIORITIZE your health and vitality. Give it the time it needs, and actually DO whatever you’ve been resolving for ages to do: cook more meals instead of eating out. Get enough sleep. Hire a personal trainer, or get a fitness buddy (see above). Fix your desk ergonomics. Eat your five-a-day fruits and veggies. Drink enough water. Kick the soda habit. Get some massages (or other care) for your aching body. Start meditating. Whatever. Think of it as the oil change for your body-car that’s been overdue for 6000 miles.
(11) Start each day with something inspiring or uplifting
This is an easy one – once you start you won’t want to stop. One friend of mine starts most days with Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” Another friend posts four things he’s grateful about to Facebook every day in November. When a client's previous job started getting old, she got into watching a TED talk (https://www.ted.com) every morning instead of the news until she got up the gumption to get another, better paying job. Another friend of mine, a very successful fitness coach, gets up at 5am (before the kids) to read inspirational books with her first cup of coffee. I guarantee that, whatever you day has in store for you, it will be easier if you start this way.
(12) Surround yourself with more honest, supportive people
When I first became a supervisor in nonprofits, I inherited a team that was mostly comprised of people who liked to tell me what they really thought – especially when they were unhappy. At first I found this stressful and draining.
After a while, though, I realized what a gift it was. They all really cared about what was happening, and cared enough to tell their boss when they thought something was wrong. That takes integrity and a bit of courage.
Having positive people in your life is nice. Having honest ones, who will call you on your stuff in the name of your own goals, is priceless.
Remember, this is your year.
Setting up a great support structure in your life, including people, personal reflection and good habits paves the way. With persistence and support, you can have a career that fits well, pays well and makes a difference in the world.