Career Change at 30, 35, 40 and 50
Living with fear stops us from taking risks, and if you don’t go out on a branch, you’re never going to get the best fruit. ~ Sarah Parish
The right path is not always so obvious
“Would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?’
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where-,” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“- so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Alice has it easy, she only has two paths to take. When it comes to a career change, the possibilities are endless. If there were only two choices, you would have a 50/50 chance of making the right choice.
Overcoming Fear of Career Change at 30, 35, 40 or 50
The reality is there are as many choices as there are career options. You, like most of the rest of us, have already made one bad choice in selecting the career you are currently in. Making the same mistake again without having clarity about your choice is something you probably want to avoid.
And of course, you know you are not ready to change careers if you have not already started on a path. There are just too many choices and the consequences are too grave to set out in a direction you are not sure is the right one. So, you are not able to make a choice at all. In other words, you are confused.
A confused mind is an undecided mind. And an undecided mind will not act.
There are two things you need to know before you can bring clarity to your decision.
First, what are the options at the other end of the path and which one should you choose? There are hundreds of options, so you need to narrow them down to the one you will enjoy and that’s a good fit.
Second, once you have decided on which career to pursue, you probably won’t do anything about it because you need to know if you have what it takes to be successful.
Let’s deal with your options first.
The options are endless, and you are most likely getting career advice from lots of people, a friend, family member or even a trusted adviser.
Most career change decisions are made based on anecdotal information. Maybe your uncle has a career making good money, or your friend knows someone who can get you an interview with the company he works for. Maybe you have taken a test that listed occupations you have checked out. You may have even visited some of the great websites sponsored by the Federal government, like the bls.gov site.
You are not alone, I have been where you are now, four times!
Things at home were not good, so I left home at an early age. People always told me I was good with cars, and I loved cars, still do. So, the first thing I did was start looking for jobs at service stations. I found my first job (that had a regular paycheck) pumping gas and cleaning car windows and garage floors. Those were the days when we checked the customer’s tires, cleaned their windows, mirrors, head and tail lights, checked the oil and battery fluid and we would even ask if we could check the transmission fluid. Automobiles must have leaked a lot in the 60’s.
I worked on cars from the time I was 15 till I was 24. I worked for nine years at something I was not cut out for and really did not like. It ruined my love of cars and desire to work on them for many years to come.
Here’s the problem, regardless of where you are getting your information about different careers, you still do not know enough about the careers to know if you would like them. So, you must research them all to know if you might like them. This takes an enormous amount of time and the frustration of dealing with the unknown for hours on end makes it even more confusing.
This brings up another problem. When you spend a lot of time considering one certain career, it starts looking pretty good, regardless of how well you are equipped to do it, or if it pays well, if there are even jobs available for you. Becoming enamored with a career happens because we are exposed to all the hype people are feeding us about it. Maybe your best friend or someone you respect is telling you how good you would be at the career they have picked out for you. Sometimes, the career they have in mind for you will help them, get them a finder’s fee, or bring you onto their staff for a position they are having a hard time filling.
Often, you will go with something out of necessity, after all, you need a job, a paycheck, a way to take care of your family and most important of all, you need to relieve the anxiety, the frustration of what you are doing now.
Of course, this all assumes you have even begun to make a move. Often, you will continue to procrastinate and put up with the status quo, why? Because the choices are confusing, and you have already experienced the consequences of a bad decision in your current position.
The second thing you need to know before you can be sure about a career choice is, do you have what it takes to be successful? If you knew what career you would like to pursue, would you be good at it, and would you like it?
In his book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,” Daniel Pink demonstrates there are three things you need to have in a career that will give you the motivation to succeed: Purpose, Mastery, and Autonomy.
- the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.
So here is the question, “How do you know if you will find purpose in a career you have never been in? What is it about the career your friend has suggested that is going to give your life purpose?” Let’s face it, most of us do not even know what our life purpose is. Do you know what your life mission is, what would fulfill your purpose? If you don’t know, how does your friend know, how does anyone know?
- Comprehensive knowledge or skill in a subject or accomplishment.
And how about mastery? Will you be able to develop mastery in the career you are contemplating? Do you even know what it is you will be required to master? Do you have, or can you develop the skills required? Can you (and do you have the desire) to learn what is required to master the position you have talked yourself into?
- Freedom from external control or influence; independence.
And then there is autonomy. Would you be able to develop autonomy in the role you are contemplating? Do you know what it would mean to have autonomy in your new role?
If you do not know the answers to these questions, then you do not know if you would have the motivation required to be successful in any career.
There are 550 career handbooks on the federal government’s site bls.gov. That does not even count all the subgroups of careers under each one of the headings. There are literally thousands of occupations you can research. Of course, that is out of the question, so you will most likely start with jobs you know something about, these are the very jobs you should be most leery of, if you already know about them and have not pursued them, it should be obvious you have reservations or have never had a real interest in them.
The chances are, you may have never heard of the career that would be a perfect fit for you. There is just too much that you do not know. No one can know enough. There is just too much data to deal with. What any one person knows at any one time is like a thimble full of water in an Olympic swimming pool. The chances are very high that the right career is somewhere out in that pool, something you, or anyone you know, doesn’t have any knowledge of.
This is where most people get into trouble. The more we think about something, the more emotionally attached we become to it. The emotion has nothing to do with reality, it is something you created by romanticizing about a career you really know nothing about, this is how you got into the situation you are in now. It is how I got into five different careers, all but one was wrong for me. All of them failed to provide me purpose, mastery, and autonomy.
Let me end this chapter with something to think about. Just because you want to do something, or even have wanted to do it all your life, does not mean you will be good at it, or that you are cut out for it. Sometimes, we are blind to our own limitations. I really wanted to be an airline pilot. But some of the things I did not know about being an airline pilot would have made me miserable at it, and I would have failed. Keep reading, I am going to give you some information that will help you navigate through these costly mistakes.
The Consequences of Indecision
You always have two choices: your commitment versus your fear. ~ Sammy Davis, Jr.
So, what comes out of not knowing what the right career is, and if you have what it takes to be successful in this career?
Fear, a giant monolith of fear, blocking your concentration, confusing your options, and keeping you from gaining the clarity you need to act.
How does fear gain a foothold? Let me explain.
Thinking about something will create emotions. Negative or positive, your friends, career counselors, headhunter, everyone you talk to about your career is feeding you positive warm fuzzies about a career choice you know nothing about. Hearing something positive enough times will create an emotional response which will drive you to make a choice, wise or not.
Let me illustrate my point.
My wife Theresa and I watched a movie many years ago called Arachnophobia, a 1990 American horror-comedy film directed by Frank Marshall and starring Jeff Daniels and John Goodman.
We were sitting on the sofa, eating a bowl of popcorn, which Theresa was holding in her lap. There is a scene in the movie where a large deadly spider is crawling through a long pipe toward John Goodman, who is peering through the end of the pipe…the wrong end of the pipe.
As you can guess, the spider jumps out right at the camera, and the popcorn went flying.
Now think about it, the spider is not real, the story is not true. We did not know the actor, but we only know what the movie was telling us.
Nothing about the situation is real. However, the popcorn still went flying, why? Because what we were thinking about created an emotional response.
Therefore, you buy things, it is why we jumped at a fake spider, and therefore you will make improper career choices unless you know what career you should pursue and that you have what it takes to be successful.
So, thinking about things that confuse you, just feeds the fear, and the more you understand about what you do not know creates a perfect storm.
The paralyzing effect of fear
We create fear, but we also develop a coping mechanism to deal with it. Sometimes, it is procrastination; sometimes it is a rule we make for ourselves, such as “I have to stick it out in this career until the kids are grown.”
Of course, we use this rule to rationalize our behaviors, or should I say inaction.
Twice a year, I speak to a class of graduate students at SDSU. The topic deals with, among other things, fear.
After my lecture, I was asked if I consider myself a risk taker. Having started over 15 different businesses, I think it is fair to say that I am a risk taker, and maybe even take pride in the fact that I am.
On my way home from the lecture, I was thinking about the answer I gave. However, what interests me is the follow-up question, “What is it that makes you a risk taker?”
The answer I gave had to do with growing up without anything, so almost any result is better than where I came from. In retrospect, I am not so sure that is the reason. I think maybe the real reason has to do with fear because I was afraid of being poor again. Fear is a dreadful taskmaster.
There are other mitigating circumstances related to why I take risks, such as my type of personality, my love of business, and the fact that I enjoy advancing new ideas and helping people grow. But I think the biggest reason is the fear of failure, which manifests itself in the constant pursuit of success. As I have grown older, I am not driven in the same way anymore. I think I have faced some of these fears and dealt with them, but they are there, and I find myself often thinking about a made-up story in my mind, of not being successful at something and what the consequences would be.
Do you see the bondage in this? Fear puts us in chains. We cannot trust ourselves or those around us to handle what may happen tomorrow, so we hide behind behaviors we have subconsciously developed to cope with our fears.
I just shared one of the deepest fears in my life. Coming to terms with our fears helps us deal with them and only then are we able to overcome.
If you are going to overcome the fear of changing careers, you must deal with the fact that you are hiding behind behaviors you have set in place to protect you from a fantasy you have constructed in your mind.
What is the worst that can happen? You could lose everything. Let’s look at this fear for what it really is.
I want to start by telling you another story about a very tough personal failure.
I lost a business I had worked on building over a period of fifteen years, partly due to an embezzlement, partly because of the early 1990’s Savings and Loan recession, and partly because of investments I made into a sacred cow (a story for another time.)
I confronted the situation head-on. I met with my banker and tried to get our line of credit (secured by our home) turned into a term loan, but the bank would not even consider it. I tried everything to avert financial ruin, nothing worked. It seemed to fit the storyline of the recession; people were losing everything, and we were some of those people.
Within months, we lost our business, we had to sell our dream home to pay off debts and found ourselves penniless. We even accepted financial help from friends at church. It was humiliating for me and healing at the same time. Let me explain.
The initial pain of financial loss was doubled down by the fact that we had built our dream house with the help of family. People even showed up to repossess our cars, our washing machine, and dryer.
The process was just brutal. We tried everything we could think of, but nothing worked.
Even my attorney doubled down. I went to see him to get help; this is a guy we spent a lot of money on. I told him we were going to have to sell our home, and his answer was, “Good, you did not have any business owning a home like that to begin with.” I do not know how he meant it, but it cut to my core, especially coming from someone I respected and paid to get help from.
So, you get the idea, worst possible scenario; not what anyone would wish for.
In retrospect, it was just not that big of a deal. We survived, in fact, we flourished. None of the fantasies about what was going to happen to us happened. We did survive, we did make money again, we did own a home again and life did go on.
I know it is almost a proverb, but what I learned through that process was invaluable, not that I wanted to go through it again, but it was invaluable. And by the way, we did go through it again. Another business failure during another recession; this one was brought about by the dot-com bubble.
However, we thrived through the great recession, mainly because of what we learned in previous losses. You might be wondering, why I did not learn enough in the first disaster. I mark that up to hard headiness!
I have learned the hard way that if you face your fears head on, you will likely find you have a lot less to fear than you have led yourself to believe.
It really is about the journey, what we learn along the way is more valuable than most of us realize. The cost to you personally, the cost of indecision, the cost of procrastination is too much of a price to pay. You need to be able to look back on life and know you lived your life doing what you loved, not what someone else designed for you, but the life you designed for yourself and your family. Don’t let fear rob you of that joy.
How Fear is Experienced
Action is a great restorer and builder of confidence. Inaction is not only the result, but the cause of fear. Perhaps, the action you take will be successful; perhaps different action or adjustments will have to follow. But any action is better than no action at all. ~ Norman Vincent Peale
Have you ever noticed that when you get on the other side of something you feared, it is almost never as bad as you thought, and it usually turns out to be a rather exhilarating experience?
The proper way to deal with fear is to face it. To face it means you first must understand what you fear, and only then can you stand up to the invisible fantasy fabricated in your mind.
When you are overcome by fear, it stops the creative juices, and the ideas will not flow. Fear starts the fight or flight mechanisms in your brain. It is impossible to move forward in any meaningful manner if you are in constant fear.
So, here is the bottom line: you either face the fear or stay where you are at.
Remember, if you are not growing, you are dying; maybe not physically, but emotionally, a part of you will die, and it is the part you love most, by the way.
So, what is it that is torturing you?
We have all experienced things that give us anxiety just thinking about it. Sometimes, we even dream about it. I’m 65 and I still have dreams about not finding my locker in high school!
Let me illustrate.
My first career was in the automobile industry as an auto mechanic. These days, we call them auto service technicians. In the 60’s, we called ourselves mechanics.
I loved fast cars, and still do. I love the way they sound, the feeling of G forces pushing me back in the seat, and speed shifting a manual transmission as the RPM nears red-line (a point right before the engine comes apart.)
As you might expect, at fifteen years old, I started working on cars, not because I loved working on them, but because I loved going fast, still do. From the time I was fifteen until the age of twenty-five, I was an auto mechanic. For two of those years, I had my own shop at 6th and University in San Diego.
However, I had a major problem…I did not like the work, and I hated the customer relations part of the job. When you must spend money to repair something, do you think it is a pleasant process? What really sucks is when you must spend money on something you did not expect, and especially if you cannot afford it.
So, people were often rude, and bent out of shape when I delivered the bad news about how much it was going to cost. They were really bent out of shape when I had to call them once we got into it and found out things were worse than we thought. I did not own their car, it was not my problem, but people made it my problem, complaining about the bill, complaining because they thought I might be ripping them off and on and on it went.
One incident was the icing on the cake. A young guy brought in his car, he started off by saying “Now I don’t want to get ripped off, but I need my car fixed.”
Of course, as luck would have it, he needed something else, not very expensive, but a part that needed to be replaced as part of the service. I called, and of course could not reach him (in the early 70’s, there were no personal answering machines, and the guy was at work.) Telling someone their bill is more than expected is one thing, but not doing anything and risking upsetting the customer because I did nothing was another. Well, I choose to fix it hoping he would understand; well, he didn’t. As soon as I tried to explain what happened, he accused me of ripping him off.
Now I remind you, it was not my car, not my problem. I did him a favor, a small amount of money by the way, but I could not get in touch with him to authorize it.
He was mad, but I went ballistic, my bad, but it happened. I was behind my desk when I was talking to him, and by this time, we were yelling. One of the guys that worked for me was about fifteen years older than me, and had come over and stood by my side as we argued. He said something about my honesty or something to that effect. I lunged at him over the desk, but luckily, the guy next to me grabbed me and kept me on the right side of the desk (I will always be grateful to him for doing that.)
Well, I had the guys take all the parts off the car and give the car back, no charge. Not my best day, and certainly not something I was proud of. And to top it all off, I was young, very young to own my own shop, twenty-two when we bought it to be exact. No one knew I had worked full time on cars from the age of fifteen, so they just treated me like a kid who didn’t know anything, which was not true, I was good at it, very good.
As a matter of fact, I think the fact that I was good at it made it even more frustrating and fueled my desire to do something else, anything other than disappoint people full time. OK, I am being a little dramatic, but you get the picture.
At the tender age of twenty-five, I wanted a change. I loved running a business, and the management (now I realize it was the leadership I really wanted) was something I enjoyed. So, I decided to change careers; I wanted to get into business management.
That means going from being an auto mechanic into a business manager. I thought because I had managed an auto repair shop that I could run any business – ah the foolishness of youth. The point is, I was in the same spot you are in now:I did not like my job, did not know how to change careers and fear was holding me back.
I was young and foolish. I didn’t know where to begin, I didn’t know how to go about a career change, especially the transition phase. So, what did I do? Mostly all the wrong things. I sold the shop without a new career to go to, did not even know what industry I was interested in. My wife and I had a new baby boy, Michael Jr., and we had little else, accept a mortgage and a car payment of course.
I did do one thing right, I contacted a company that specialized in career change, a career counselor. Looking back at the process, most of what he did was to help me overcome some of the fear of career change and help boost my self-confidence, which at the time was very low.
Now that I have personally coached over fourteen hundred people in how to start or change careers, I realize just how poorly equipped I was and how totally inadequate the services of the career change counselor were.
What I needed the most help with was in overcoming the unknown. I did not know the two things required to reach a desired destination, I did not know what career I should pursue, and I did not know if I had what it takes to be successful at it. All I really knew was that I was unhappy at my old career.
So, what did I do? I made a bad career decision, as a matter of fact, I made bad career decision after bad career decision. Now I am not saying it was wasted energy, in fact, I am in a great position to help others because of it. Who else is better to consult about changing careers than someone who has gone before you? Someone who has made all the mistakes, learning from them, and then developing a solid process and system to help others in their career change. As it turns out, I am good at it, very good. That was hard to write, but it is true, and I am proud of how many people I have helped and the referrals I get from clients are my proof, and by the way, I love it, it is my true passion.
Again, the key to overcoming fear is to face it, not blindly, but face it with the weapons you need to conquer it. So, what are these tools?
You need to know what careers fit you, you need to know if you have what it takes to be successful at those careers and you need to know how to transition from where you are now, to where you want to be. Then of course, you need to know how to get a job in a career you have no experience in. This is the stuff I can help you with.
Reality! Until you search and discover the reality of where you are now, what you need to move forward and begin, you will be stuck in “the pit of despair.”
Like I said, when you get on the other side of something you feared, it is almost never as bad as you thought, and many times, it turns out to be a rather exhilarating experience.
Sifting Through the Advice
As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence actually liberates others. ~ Marianne Williamson
So, let me see if I can guess what is going on in your mind these days.
- This is too complicated, I am not sure I can do this
- I’m not happy with my career
- I don’t know what career I would like to move into, or if it is the right one
- I have a career in mind, but it sounds more like my hobby
- I can’t see my way through the process of career change
- I’m wondering what a transition could be, or even if it is possible
- I’m hearing seeds of doubt, both from within and outside
- My anxiety increases when I even think about what the short term financial implications are
Using our Alice in Wonderland decision making model (remember Alice needed to know two things, where she wanted to end up and whether she has what it takes to get there), let’s look at the top recommendations from the Internet and give them grades (A – F, with A being the best) based upon how useful the recommendation is for someone starting out to change careers.
On-line Recommendations from the Top Sites on the Internet
Industry Associations – Grade D for correct advice at the wrong time.
Getting engaged at industry association events is a fantastic idea, once you already know your career direction and that you have what it takes to be successful in it.
Idea Parties – Grade F for just plain bad advice.
So, get people together to help you decide your future. I love brainstorming, but letting other people decide your future is a recipe for disaster. At the end of your life, do you want to look back on life and realize you lived someone else’s idea, or that you lived the life you were designed for?
Career Books – Grade B for good advice.
I have read lots of them and I assume you have either read some of them, or have considered reading a few. There are a few good ones out there. However, tread lightly, most career books deal more with how to find a job and getting jobs, not careers.
College Catalogs – Grade F for bad advice.
Talk about putting the cart before the horse. Before you decide on what additional education you need, you might want to figure out what you are going to do in your new career. Even if you are just taking classes you find interesting in hope of getting inspiration, it is a terrible waste of time and human capital. This is the reason the average person changes majors five times in college and why almost half drop out.
U.S. Dept. of Labor Sites – Grade D for the right advice at the wrong time.
The BLS.gov and ONetOnline.org are great sites, but they are only relevant once you know what you want to do. Else, you waste mountains of time searching these sites, looking for inspiration.
The 11 Best Career Quizzes to Help You Find Your Dream Job – Grade C for helping people know themselves, but not telling them what to do with what they learn.
Literally, hundreds of quizzes, tests and assessments exist to help people know more about themselves, from every angle imaginable, and some of them list careers that are helpful.
9 Questions That’ll Help You Find Your Dream Career (What jobs do you like) – Grade F for a bad idea
Asking someone what they like about a job and using that information to tell them what they should do for a career, makes an incorrect assumption. We only store small amounts of information in our brains (227 Megabytes), relative to the amount of information that exists (3000 terabytes). What a person knows about the present is a very poor way to predict the future. I have an eBook on my blog called the “Should I Paradigm” that deals with this issue at length. It is currently free to download at http://www.careerchangeplanning.com/.
Choose Your New Career and Six Quick-Change Careers (hot new careers) – Grade F for bad advice.
Entire nations of miserable workers use this method to decide on what they want to become. Deciding on a career, based upon what is hot in the market, what pays well, or is in growth mode is terrible advice. If you are unhappy with your current job, or are looking for your first career, do not pick it based upon these factors.
Work Out Why Your Current Job Makes You Unhappy – Grade C for being a piece of the puzzle.
Knowing what you do not like is a great step in the right direction. Often, understanding the problem is half the battle. In the case of career change, this is only a small step in the right direction. It should be a part of your journey, but it is not going to be a priority.
Make Time and Take your time to go Over Your Options – Grade A for being great advice.
Great advice, you must create a margin of time in your life if you want to make a change as big as a new career. Creating blocks of time in your week, will give you one of the resources necessary to make the process work.
Do your Research and Ask for Help – Grade A for being great advice.
Again, this is great advice for anyone deciding they hate their job, and need to make a change. You need to know some things all along the way, and you must research to find them out. Tools like Compass are designed to assist you in highly targeted research and can save you mountains of time, and help you narrow down options. In the end, you will be helped immensely by working with a career consultant or coach (I hope you decide to work with us, of course.)
Focus on quality, not quantity – Grade A for being great advice.
Getting into a new career is a painful, time-consuming and often long process, and is not something you want to get wrong or work at halfheartedly. Use systems, be diligent, be persistent, develop a foundational understanding of your strengths, talents, behaviors, and personality. Get help making decisions because decision making in times of crisis (read emotionally unstable), is very difficult and you need someone to guide you through the process.
As you can see, advice is everywhere, but great advice is hard to find.
The R5 rule of Right
If you are going to be successful at your new career, you must make sure you are the right fit for the job. Your dream career means you will be a fit in each of the five R’s. Not aligning with the R5 paradigm is probably why you are unhappy now.
What is the R5 rule of Right?
The Right Person in the Right Place doing the Right Things the Right Way for the Right Reason.
Right Person: When you go looking for your new career, the person interviewing you will want to know if you have the talents and strengths, the personality, and behaviors your new occupation demands. Think about it. You do not know anything about his company, the job and most likely, you will be new to the industry, so this is what you really have to offer.
Right Place: Maybe you are the right person, but do you know what role you should be in, a leader, a manager, a practitioner? Where is your personal influence going to have the greatest impact? Will you have the most influence with people, or things or information? Again, knowing this gives you something else to offer a prospective employer and puts you in a great position to succeed.
Right Things: Will you be working on the right things? Do you even know what the right things are? Should you be working with people, with things, or with information? Are you a leader, manager or practitioner (practitioners are people who know how to do things, like doctors, lawyers, carpenters etc.)? Do you know what the tools of a leader, manager, and practitioner are? Leaders use principles and concepts to advance an organization. Managers use processes and methods to advance the organization and practitioners use the tools of the trade.
Right Way: How do you convince a prospective employer you will do things the right way, the most efficient way? You can and should know ahead of time. Would you hire someone if they could not assure you, at least to some degree, that they will do things the right way? How do you know and why would someone believe you?
Right Reasons; will you do a good job for the right reasons? Will you be accomplishing your purpose? Can you develop mastery in the position you are applying for? Will you eventually be able to work with little or no supervision?
Ignoring the R5 Rules of Right will put you at a significant disadvantage. You can spend the time and effort on your own to learn these things, or you can spend some time with a career coach who has helped hundreds of people in the same situation as you.
Seven Steps to Overcome Fear of a Career Change
It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live. ~ Marcus Aurelius
Why take your true genius to the grave with you? You need what a new career can provide you, and your family needs a person who is excited and energized by what they do. The world needs you, not at your worst, but at your best.
So, let’s talk about overcoming fear relative to your new career.
Overcoming fear involves one of two approaches: fight or flight. The fact that you are still reading tells me you want to at least learn what you must do to make it work.
Getting past the fear of the unknown is no small feat, but ask yourself the question, if you knew everything there is to know about how your plans are going to turn out, would you be as fearful as you are now? Of course not. However, no one has that kind of crystal ball. But what I can do is give you the tools to discover much of what lies ahead and prepare you with answers to the two things you must know. First, what is the correct path and second, do I have what it takes to be successful once I take that path?
Overcome Fear of a Career Change
No doubt, you are wondering what you got yourself into. This is not a journey for the weak of heart, but you already know that, and you also need to know that I have successfully navigated through this journey several times and I can and will equip you with the tools that will give you the confidence and ability you need to make the journey.
NOTE: This is going to sound like a sales pitch because some of these steps require the use of Career Compass. However, you can take the individual assessments and aggregate the results yourself. With what you learn, you can compare occupations on the www.bls.gov site and test them against what you learn about yourself.
- Develop a comprehensive personal profile
You have probably taken personality assessments. The problem is that personality assessments can tell you about yourself, but most of them can’t tell you what to do with what you learn about yourself.
Back in 1997, I was helping small businesses do business planning. Part of the process was the development of vision, mission and core competency statements. These three critical documents need to be guided by the motivating passion of the owner. The method I use to discover an owner “motive passion” involves, among other things, discovering the owner’s talents and strengths, behaviors, and personality. At the time, I was using the Myers Briggs personality assessment and the DiSC behavior assessment. The StrengthsFinder assessment was developed in 1998 and I began incorporating it into my work in early 2000’s. These three assessments represent the best science currently available in their areas of expertise.
It took me a couple of years to fully comprehend the amazing insights all three of these assessments provided. By combining the results of the three assessments, anyone can have a very comprehensive understanding of who they are. But something significant is missing. Just because you know something does not mean it is going to change things. You must also know what to do with the knowledge you have gained, you must have actionable recommendations.
There are several organizations that have taken one of these three assessments and use the results to provide career guidance, but they are inadequate, they are just not comprehensive enough to guide someone in a process as complex as career change. Personality identifies how people experience you, behaviors identify how you deal with life, and strengths and talents are the invisible attributes that make you approach life the way you do. Individually, they provide an incomplete picture. However, together, combined with actionable recommendations about what to do with what you learn, they have the power to change your life.
My team and I have integrated the same science that went into the development of these three assessments with the art of personal career coaching in an affordable, yet comprehensive on-line system called Career Compass. Career Compass uses what it learns about your talents, strengths, behaviors, and personality to produce actionable recommendations you can use as the foundation of your career search at a fraction of the cost usually associated with career coaching. You can learn more about Compass by going to www.careerchangeplanning.com.
- Create margin in your schedule
Once you have completed Compass, you must set aside or create margin (blocks of time,) to do the research and execute the plan you are going to develop (outlined below).
Those of you who have the free time can skip to number three.
Now, you might be asking yourself, “How do I make more time in my day?” It is not easy, but here is a summary of some things that might help.
- Eliminate things other people can do (delegate.)
- Hire a Virtual Assistant.
- Ask for help.
- Take time off work.
- Remove yourself from volunteer activities (until you are in a better place.)
- Loose the social media fascination.
- Stop playing video games.
- Limit the amount of time you spend on the phone.
- Limit your social engagements.
If you want to shock yourself, write down everything you do, every day for an entire week. List the day and time and make sure to list all the gaps. At the end of the week you should not have a single hour unaccounted for. Now review the list, you will see many hours of wasted time that can be cut.
Here is an article with excellent ideas on how to create margin in your life. http://www.lifehack.org/articles/featured/21-ways-to-add-more-hours-to-the-day.html.
- Research careers that fit you like a glove
Compass provides video tutorials which explain in detail, how to use the career research functions of the system.
First, it gives you a comprehensive career goal, written in plain English that will provide you a guide in decision making. Next, it lists the occupations your passion, purpose and potential suggest are a good fit for you
Here are the steps:
Find three occupations that sound interesting, you have what it takes to be successful at everything on the list, but start with what peeks your interest, especially the ones you know nothing about.
Watch the “Day in the Life” video link provided for that career. The video will allow you to shadow someone in that occupation, so you can see if it interests you.
Review the occupation handbook by clicking on the provided link. The handbook will give you details about the occupation that include things like:
- Summary of What They Do
- Work Environment
- How to Become One
- Job Outlook
- State & Area Data
- Similar Occupations
Once you decide you are interested in an occupation, ask yourself, “Based upon what I have learned about this occupation, does the career I have researched, fit my Unique Career Goal identified by Compass?” If not, go to the next occupation you have picked out. If it is a good fit, make a note of it in the notes section of the occupations listing in Compass.
- Decide on a rewarding career path
When you have completed the previous section, you should have narrowed down a list of occupations you are interested in.
Go back and read the notes you made about each occupation and prioritize them in order of how well they fit your purpose, passion, potential and career goal, all provided in Compass.
The ranking number provided by compass will do this for you automatically.
All other things being equal, the occupation with the highest-ranking number will be a career you will have the highest probability of success at. There are other factors to consider such as educational requirements, the time required to make the transition etc. But you now know the two things that will remove the fear from the process, what your career path is, and you also know you have what it takes to be successful
- Complete your “Career Change Planning Guide”
The Career Planning Guide, when completed, will provide you with a step by step, actionable plan for completing your career change.
You can download the Career Planning Guide from my blog at www.careerchangeplanning.com.
- Complete your “Career Change Transition Guide”
One of the more perplexing questions you will have about career change is “How do I get from where I am now, to where I know I want to go?”
The answer can be found in the completion of the transition guide.
You can download the “Career Change Transition Guide” from my blog at www.careerchangeplanning.com
- Execute your plan and pivot as necessary
Once you have completed the above steps, there are a couple of traps I want to warn you about up front.
If you are not a detail-oriented person, you will need to get help in this area, if you don’t, you will miss the little things that will make the process problematic. You most likely already know someone that can help, if you don’t, you can hire a virtual assistant on www.fiverr.com or www.upwork.com or any of the other freelance sites. Do not miss the importance of this step.
Conversely, if you are a detailed, maybe even the perfectionist type of person, you will deal with analysis paralysis and take more time than you should, making decisions and will procrastinate on acting. For you, it is all about finding someone to coach you through the process, someone to encourage you to take the next step, to push you along if you will. This person may well be someone already in your life who you trust, or someone you could ask to help you who you know and respect.
There you have it, seven steps to overcome the fear of career change.
If you still cannot see how you can possibly make this work, consider the consequences of not acting. You only have one life, do not waste your potential. Why take it to the grave with you. You need what a new career can provide you, your family needs a person who is excited and energized by what they do. The world needs you, not at your worst, but at your best.
Six Steps to Successful Career Transition
Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy. ~ Dale Carnegie
So far, you have learned how to conquer fear, how to decide on a career path and how to figure out if you have what it takes to succeed. Now, I want to help you understand the process and the methods you must use to achieve a successful transition.
Before I get into the six steps, I want to help you understand how processes and methods work and the proper way to implement them.
Processes and methods must be guided by the principles and concepts you believe in. Without applying what you believe (the principles and concepts) to what you do, you are not going to have the persistence and determination you will need to properly complete your transition.
Let me give you a little backstory and then illustrate what I mean. My wife Theresa and I own a family restaurant in Ramona, California called the Kountry Kitchen. Theresa runs the restaurant using processes and methods we have developed.
A lot of people ask us what made us buy a restaurant. It is because Theresa was in the same situation as you are now. When our four children were all raised and out of the house, she wanted to find an occupation she would enjoy. I remember her exact words, “I cannot trim roses for the rest of my life,” so of course, we used her Compass profile to help her determine the kinds of things she would be passionate doing. Her profile pointed to several key attributes. She is a methodical, people-oriented organizer with good management scores. And her career suggestions included hospitality and the food industry. A restaurant fit her quite well.
Some of the things that are core to what Theresa believes are quality, service, and hospitality. They are the guiding principles that make the Kountry Kitchen the best it can be.
Here is how principles and concepts play together with processes and methods.
A process starts at one point and usually stops at the same point. At the Kountry Kitchen, the process starts when someone enters the restaurant. We welcome them, seat them, give them a menu, take a drink order, deliver the drink order, take their food order, cook the food, deliver the food, check back to assure everything is OK, check back on their drinks, bring them their bill, they settle the bill, thank them for coming.
At each step, we use specific methods to accomplish each task. How we accomplish each task and why we do it the way we do it, is very important. The first step is a greeting. There are lots of ways to greet someone, but we believe (our principles and concepts) in hospitality, so if someone comes in and our hostess says something like “Find somewhere to sit and don’t bug me for a few minutes,” they have violated what we believe. If we are truly going to provide great hospitality, we need to greet in a way that demonstrates what we believe. So, something more along the lines of “Oh, hey you guys, you brought someone with you.” This is how we greet people, we are genuinely interested in the people who come in and so there is no “say it this way” prepared statement for greeting, we greet people because we are glad to see them and are excited about serving them. If we are not, then we have the wrong person in the wrong place, doing the wrong things the wrong way for the wrong reasons!
The methods we use must be guided by what we believe. So, you must know what you believe before you set out to change careers, it is imperative.
It is important to understand what you believe about something before you set out to accomplish it. The reason is simple, a career change is one of the more difficult things you will attempt in your life. It is true that it is like birth, once it is over all you remember is the joy of the accomplishment, but during the journey, you will need to remember why you are doing it.
I have talked a lot about what not to do, now let me spend some time telling you what to do.
- Make your plan
- Prepare for the journey
- Execute your plan
- Measure your results
- Pivot to get better results
Make your plan (see the previous section)
- Develop a comprehensive understanding of your personal profile
- Create margins in your schedule
- Research careers that fit you like a glove
- Decide on a rewarding career path
- Complete your budget and your “Career Change Planning Guide”
- Complete your “Career Change Transition Plan”
- Execute your plan and pivot as necessary
Prepare for the journey
Preparation is not as simple as making up your mind. It means doing the work of lining things up to execute. Spend the time you need to prepare for each part of your plan.
This means you spend the time set aside for it and you work until you have a comprehensive understanding of who you are, what your career direction is and the tools you have at your disposal to be successful.
Make sure you have developed a schedule you can live with. It does not have to be perfect, but it should be an actual calendar, either on your computer or on paper, but not just in your head. You have a lot of information to deal with in this process and the details will start to run together if you are not diligent about your schedule.
You must select a career. This is the point where you do the work to select it, talk to a coach, talk to friends, do the work on Compass (if you have it) to make a wise choice. Find someone who is in the career you are considering and meet with them, ask if you can shadow them, and research the position on the web. But you must decide.
Work the budget, make sure you and your family can live with it, even if it means sacrifice, stretching out the time it takes to make the transition. This is one of the toughest parts of the process. The career transition plan will help you through the process, but this is the time to fill it out and get buy-in from everyone impacted by your change.
Execute your plan
Some of us are in a better position to accomplish different aspects of a career change. Some are just naturally gifted to accomplish certain things. The execution phase is especially impacted by who you are. If you are the detailed perfectionist type, you will struggle starting. If you are the free-spirited type, you will miss the details; if you are the over confident type, you will gloss over things that are important.
The execution phase requires you to fill in the holes, to find an accountability partner to help you through the process. Sometimes, this can be a family member, maybe a spouse, parent or good friend, but know your limitations and fill in the void. You can find out what your limitations are by reviewing your Compass profile in the “Things to Keep in Mind” section.
Keep on the schedule outlined in the planning guides you downloaded. If you miss dates, make up the time or reset the schedule. Don’t let yourself get lazy, and don’t let things get in the way. You will not like your results if you do not discipline yourself to stay on task. Get help from your accountability partner.
Measure your results
Are you getting the things on your plan done on time? What are your results? Do you need to change your approach? This is a critical step, so you must know what is working and what is not working, otherwise, you will make the same mistakes over and over. Decide what is working and what is not, then pivot.
Pivot to get better results
Pivot means you change your approach. So, you make the adjustments and go back and prepare, considering the changes.
Like the other steps, this one is critical. There is no way to foresee all the setbacks you will encounter. Setbacks are just little learning phases. They are important, they help you understand what you don’t like and what you don’t want to do. So, take advantage of the pivot, you will be wiser and more determined next time. Don’t let this discourage you, turn it into an opportunity to find something better.
You must repeat the process as many times as necessary, so prepare, execute, measure and pivot as necessary. Do the work and success will come, millions have gone before you and have been successful, you can too. Just don’t get down on yourself and lean on your accountability partner.
Seven Outcomes of a Successful Career Change
How strange this fear of death is! We are never frightened at a sunset. ~ George MacDonald
I am not going to tell you that working in a career that fits you like a glove will make you happy, or even bring you joy, those are emotions beyond the scope of this book. What I can guarantee you is that working within the context of your talents, strengths, positive behaviors and personality, will be rewarding.
So, how do you know when you are in the right career? You will know when you are the “Right Person in the Right Place, doing the Right Things, the Right Way for the Right Reasons”.
It is appropriate now to talk about outcomes. Outcomes are different than activities.
Doing an activity does not necessarily mean you will get the outcomes you want. If you have not defined the expected outcome up front, you can get different results than you expected. If you ask someone to wipe down the windows, they can fulfill the requirement by wiping the windows. If they are streaked when the person is done, they did the activity, but the results are not what you expected. You asked for an activity and got it.
If you request someone to make the entire window crystal clear, there is no confusion about the expected result.
Activities are something you do, while outcomes are a state of being, and are a consequence of having done things. If your plan defined what your outcomes need to be, and you have done the right things, you will have good outcomes.
So, what should your outcomes be?
Here are seven outcomes that should exist upon a successful career change.
You will have clarity about your career goals
What you know now should be vastly different from what you knew before you started on your journey toward career change. Let’s look at some contrasts from when you started and now (assuming you have followed through with what you have learned so far.)
- Before you began, you were confused about career choice, now you have clarity.
- Before you were confused about how to transition, now you have clarity.
- Before you didn’t have a path forward, now you have a plan.
- Before you had no actionable intelligence about who you are, now you not only know yourself better, but you know what to do with what you have learned about yourself.
- Before you could not make a good decision because you were confused, now you can make decisions about your career with more confidence.
You will feel fulfilled
There are few things that feel as empty to me as watching life pass me by. Time is unforgiving, and once it has passed, it is not something you can replenish. Time is a nonrenewable resource, this is important to remember as you progress through your journey. When you are unfulfilled at work, it will always feel that life is passing you by.
Once you make the correct career move, that feeling will diminish significantly. You will no longer feel that your work for the day was a waste of your life. In contrast, you will feel like what you did that day was important.
It is rare when I feel like I have not accomplished something important, something that matters in the bigger picture. I feel like I have a purpose, and what I do matters to others. I feel like I have a small part to play in changing the world for the better.
Do you want to change the world? Do you want to have lasting impact? Do you want to know that your life counts?
If you are in the right career, all these things will gradually start to sink in. The Right Person in the Right Place is a good thing when it is you!
Your professional relationships will have significance
There are few things that feel as good as telling your story to someone who has the same basic goals as you do. Professional relationships blossom when two or more are all about making great things happen, and the goals are synergistic.
No one is an island, life is a team sport. If you are in the right career, doing the right things, the right way, then you and those you work with, have significance. This is not something you can buy, it is something you earn as you work toward common goals, goals that make the world a better place.
Every career can have impact on the world, it must work that way, or no one would buy or support the products and or services of the organization you work for. The career one-person dislikes are one someone else loves.
I was at a meeting with a group of people I enjoy being with last week, one of the women in the group mentioned how she did not enjoy accounting, especially when little details, like being off a few cents, would drive her up the wall. Immediately, someone else in the group commented on how it made her day when she got to chase down a seven-cent error.
What we do matters, what we do together can have a huge impact on the world.
Your story will be something you want to talk about
My guess is that your current or previous occupation was not something you were excited to tell people about.
I still don’t like to tell people that at one time I worked on cars as a mechanic, an honorable profession by the way, one I have tons of respect for, just not something that gets me excited. When I bring it up, it is usually in the context of a story about where I have come in life and where I am going. Invariably, someone starts talking about what is wrong with their car, or trouble they had with it. I want to put my fingers in my ears and do the blah blah blah thing you see on television all the time.
Now, if they start talking about race cars, or hot rods, then I am in, but I do not care to talk about daily drivers or the art (or science as many would claim) of working on cars.
Your story, the story of what you love to do, will change just like mine has. It will be exciting to talk about. When I bring up what I do now, people always tell me about how passionate I am about it. Of course, it is who I am, and it is what I believe in. I am helping change the world, why wouldn’t I be excited about it, in fact, I am excited just to write about it.
I am also excited thinking about your new story. Who knows, you might be the subject of Mark Twain’s “The Greatest General That Ever Lived.”
Get a new story, get the life you are designed to live, not someone else’s idea, but yours!
You attitude toward life will change
When you are working within your passion, purpose, and potential, your attitude about everything will take a positive turn. You cannot be distraught and excited about what you do at the same time. Your attitude will rub off on your family, coworkers, and friends.
Your work will be satisfying
When I get done with a career consulting engagement, I am on cloud nine. Nothing beats the feeling of accomplishment I get from helping someone make great strides in their career. It is unlike anything else I have experienced.
People tell me I am incredible at what I do, and they refer clients to me every week. I have never done anything for anyone that resulted in these kinds of referrals.
At the end of the day, I want to know that what I am doing is helping people.
That is satisfying beyond words. You can find the same satisfaction, and you do not have to wait most of your life like I did. I had many careers before I figured out how to do this stuff. What you have been reading is a comprehensive guide to avoiding what I had to go through, don’t waste the opportunity…please.
Your outlook on life will change
My outlook changed and so can yours. Life looks much different on this side of my last career change back in 1997. So, what does it look like to have a different outlook?
It’s like driving down the road with darkness and destruction in the rear-view mirror and forest, mountain and waterfalls in the windshield before you. Ok, that’s sappy, but honestly, I have been through it, and once you get on the other side of a career transition, you will have a different outlook on life, so expect things to change for the better.
I hope you will take advantage of what you have learned in this post.
Watch for the rest of this career change and transition series on my blog at www.careerchangeplanning.com.