There’s no getting around it, taking the decision to change career direction – after years of working in a particular role, company and industry – is going to be scary. It means acknowledging that you’re not where you want to be. It means questioning everything you’ve believed in and worked towards all these years. And it means moving away from something that’s incredibly familiar and comfortable and diving head first into the unknown.
So even the decision to start that journey, even to entertain the idea, to start working with a coach or sign up to a programme – even that first step can be paralysing.
Now, there are lots of things that you can do to make it less scary, and I’m a big believer in taking small steps rather than that massive leap. But the decision itself is still going to be scary!
Discover some of the common signs it's time to re-think your career
Do you fantasise about a world in which you love your job to the point that you jump out of bed in the morning with excitement at the thought of what you’re going to do today? Do you long for more freedom and flexibility in your daily schedule? Do you wish that you were creating something really meaningful, that could make a difference to something that matters?
Here’s how you can prepare yourself to make that “blue pill / red pill” decision in the first place.
1. Explore why it is you want to change
The first thing to understand is what’s not working right now. You want to establish that there are real reasons for wanting to change – rather than it just being the case of a little dip that you’re going through, a bad experience or temporary low.
How long have you been feeling that you want a change? What’s driving this? What are you missing, or what do you have too much of? What are the specific aspects of your work that you would want to change? How would your life be different if you could change these things?
2. Establish where you are today
Once you’ve explored your reasons for wanting to change, take some time to examine the current state of affairs. That means not just where you are in your work and career but also how you’re doing in other areas of your life.
Although you may focus in on career change as being the answer to all your woes, it may well be that there are other things going on behind the scenes. How is your health and general wellbeing? Maybe this is suffering because of your work? What about your relationships? Again, maybe your work is impacting your relationships at home, or maybe the causality is in the other direction and problems at home are affecting your work life?
3. Identify the biggest gaps and focus areas
Now that you know where you are today, you want to start looking at the specific things that you want to change. If there are a lot of areas where you’re feeling dissatisfied – for example, divorce and weight gain and stress at work might come in one unpleasant package – you’ll want to prioritise and decide on where you most urgently need to focus your attention.
What do you see as the biggest gap between where you are today and where you want to be? What do you think will make the biggest difference to you right now? Where do you want to start?
For example, you might want to focus your attention on your health and get your energy levels up before you embark on a big career change. That may mean putting aside any idea of building a business or changing jobs until you’ve got into a better sleep routine, exercising regularly and getting the nutrition that you need. It may be frustrating to put things on the backburner but it’ll be more effective in the long run.
4. Come up with criteria for your move
When you’re ready to focus on your career, a great place to start is to establish criteria for your move. Rather than putting pressure on yourself to already work out the type of business, the role, the exact details of your next step, this can be a more effective way of establishing the parameters.
In terms of criteria, you want to consider your reasons for wanting to change (from point 1) and the gaps you’ve identified (from points 2 and 3). What absolutely needs to be true about any next step for you careerwise? What’s non-negotiable and what’s more ‘nice to have’? Consider the big questions – fulfilling work, making an impact, feeling more free – as well as the more practical side – hours you want to work, location, and minimum income level.
5. Recognise that there is no right decision
Finally, and this has the potential to be incredibly liberating for you:
THERE IS NO RIGHT ANSWER!
This realisation can really take the pressure off. Instead of looking to other people to validate your decisions and to give you permission to act in a certain way, and instead of spending months or years umm-ing and ahh-ing as you try to weigh up the pros and cons to find that magical solution, you can go with your gut feeling and relax in the knowledge that you simply can’t go wrong.
So those are 5 things you can do to lay the groundwork even before you take the decision to make any kind of change, before you start taking any actions at all! Once you’re ready – once you’ve decided that, yes, you definitely want to change and you understand the reasons why – then you can start the exploration with a lot less fear and doubts.