Career change: what if I get it wrong?
If you don’t like your current work but have a nagging doubt that making a change could mean moving to something you dislike just as much, what should you do? I know from my own experience of going through career change that it can lead to “analysis paralysis.”
You might have spent years feeling like you want a change, so you obviously want to get it right, which boils down to three things:
• take the time to look at what you really want from your work;
• think about what interests and/or excites you; and then
• do your research.
Letting go of the idea of a cast iron guarantee about a positive outcome is also essential. It’s human nature to want one, but essentially you have to take a well thought through calculated risk, based on those three steps above and then get on with it! So what do those three steps involve?
Look at what you really want from your work: this means being totally honest with yourself. What’s most important to you about work? Will you do anything as long as it’s well paid (if the answer’s yes that’s fine!) or do you want to do something that feels like it has more meaning for you? There’s a whole host of things to ask yourself about, from what skills you enjoy using to the type of colleagues you want to mix with and the type of values you want an organisation or your own business to have.
Identify what interests and/or excites you: It seems like most of us at some point have worked on something that sends us to sleep with tedium. I used to explain the finer points of Government IT policy to journalists. As the person-least-interested-in-IT who I’ve ever met, it simply wasn’t a match. But I really enjoyed working with the team who led on it – a great bunch of lively, intelligent, driven people who wanted to improve things. The early signs that I was going to become a coach – a focus on people, what motivated them and how to improve things - were all there. What interests or excites you about your current job or about the world in general?
Do your research: to begin with, this might just be internet based. But the most helpful information comes from talking to people who do whatever it is you think you might want to do. If you work in a corporate you might be able to arrange some shadowing or a short secondment to a part of the business which interests you. And if you don’t, you could use a few days of your holiday time to offer your services free of charge or dip your toe in the water via volunteering. Ask friends and friends of friends about what could be possible in their workplace.
So, rather than feeling stuck and worrying about making a mistake, remind yourself that there’s plenty you can do to help yourself make the right move. And that there’s always going to be an element of uncertainty.
Here’s an alternative take on uncertainty that I find helpful from writer John Allen Paulos: “Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and knowing how to live with insecurity is the only security.”
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