Career Changes – Taking the Leap

Do you give your career a lot of thought? Are you committed, eager and engaged, or did you ‘check out’ years ago? Maybe you’re somewhere in-between; you like some of what you do, but you know there’s more out there for you. What does it take to change careers and find true fulfillment in your work?

Talking from experience

I am passionate about living life fully, motivating others, trying new things, and finding success. I enjoy it so much I made it my career! It was risky leaving my secure job as a professional engineer, and at times it wasn’t easy. There weren’t really many people who supported me in the decision either, and yes…there were a few who thought I was crazy to even think about leaving a pensioned engineering position, but I decided I would direct my own life, so I kept on my path and forged ahead. People make career changes all the time. Harrison Ford was a professional carpenter before he discovered acting, and Vera Wang was a figure skater and journalist before starting her fashion design business. Life is full of opportunities and just because we start (or we’re good at) one type of occupation doesn’t mean we’re condemned to do it.

Why make a change?

It’s important to clarify the difference between changing jobs and changing careers. Lots of people stay in the same (or similar) line of work but move around between different employers. When you truly know you’ve got to ‘get out of this line of work’, you know! It goes beyond wanting ‘job satisfaction’ to craving enrichment, challenge and meaning. If your current job is in misalignment with your values or goals, it’s time to move on. Many people are stuck in unfulfilling and monotonous careers because of the fear of making a change, the fear of the unknown, and yes, the fear of failure, but is living out the rest of our lives unhappy a better option? We shouldn’t fear risks; we just need to be more strategic about them by mitigating the troublesome risks and maximizing the positive ones. Risks are part of life, and when our intentions are good, they usually lead us to better things.

When it’s out of our control

Sometimes we are forced to find a new career due to physical or health issues, or because our jobs have become redundant or downsized. In those instances, we may grieve the jobs we enjoyed doing, and reluctantly search for a new one; it’s not an easy time. If you do decide to change careers voluntarily, develop a plan before making the jump and be prepared to invest time into it. The action step is needed; with a bit of self-confidence and determination, your plan can move from ‘what if’ to ‘it’s on’!

Tips to set the gears in motion

If you’re looking to break away from your current career, these tips will help guide you:

  1. Do a ‘pro/con’ list for your current career. How do you rate the hours, commute, pay, autonomy and stress levels for example? Are you challenged enough? Is it physically or emotionally draining?
  2. Talk to people who like their line of work and ask them why – their answers may surprise you.
  3. Hop online! Go to LinkedIn or job search sites like Monster or Indeed and see what variety of jobs are out there – you’ll likely see something that sparks your interest.
  4. Do online aptitude, personality and skills inventory-type tests and from there you’ll get more insight into your strengths, transferrable skills and other skill sets.
  5. Research jobs you are interested in, such as the education requirements, average pay, and so on and narrow down your list from there. Information interviews are a great start – people are truly happy to help!
  6. What are you good at outside of work or in your volunteer world and how can you turn your sense of community into part-time or full-time work?

Two steps forward…

A career change doesn’t mean we go backwards or start from scratch. Our accumulated wisdom and job experience doesn’t all get tossed out the window when we begin a new career. There may be big learning curves and a few hiccups, but that’s to be expected. Throw your hat in the ring and roll up those sleeves. We may occasionally take two steps forward and one step back while we strive to make it work, but it’s a journey worth taking.

Career landscapes are changing as we know – our ‘life’s work’ is no longer a ‘life sentence’. Go ahead and explore this amazing world and all the ways we can make a living…while living out our dreams.

“Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson