Making a career change is challenging in the best of times, so this economy certainly doesn’t help. Many people allow that to keep them frustrated and stuck—not just for now, but for the long haul. They think about making a change, decide they can’t do it, and stick their dissatisfied noses right back down to the same grindstone. But what feels impossible today could be an open door in the future.
Step 2. Prepare to Feel Fear.
You’re 99.9 percent guaranteed to bump up against fear. It just comes with the territory. But it can actually be an enormously valuable asset. Productive fear shines a light on potential dangers so you can assess how to minimize or eliminate them. Ask yourself: Is this fear valid? What warning does this fear have for me? What factors would make this outcome more likely? What could I do about each of those risk factors?
Step 3. Analyze Yourself.
Start with questions like: What do I love doing? Why? When do I feel most energized? Why? What activities do I lose myself in? Why? What work sparks my interest? Why? What feels meaningful? Why?
Step 4. Lay the Groundwork.
Ask yourself, “What is it going to take to make the change? What do I need to put in place?” Maybe you need to start putting aside money for a career change fund. Maybe you need to start developing an expertise or building relationships in your new area of focus.
Step 5. Take Action.
There comes a time when exploring and thinking and noodling cease being productive and become just another way to procrastinate. Action creates opportunity. There are countless doors that will never open to you unless you take the first steps. Action is also a great antidote to fear. Sitting passively and letting life happen to you breeds fear the way still, stagnant water breeds mosquitoes. Stir it up a little.
Once you have clarity about what makes you tick and where you want to go, you can start building a network. The idea is to create a framework that you can tap into when it comes time to make that change. Build your network before you need it.
There’s a well-known self-exploration question that goes, “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” It’s a way to help people shine a light on their dreams. Tell yourself: “Success is inevitable. Now prove it.” Assume that the only possible outcome is success, and then challenge yourself to prove how that can happen.
Make it a habit to pay attention to two things at work: what you love about your job and what you dislike. Your goal is to understand the details of your experience, because that gives you something specific to work with as you pursue positive change. Think of your work as a big research experiment aimed at helping you uncover what energizes you and what drains you.
When you surround yourself with people who are positive and motivated, who believe in their potential, a funny thing happens. Even if nothing else in your life changes, it starts to rub off on you. It starts to change your paradigm.
You don’t have all the answers, so don’t pretend you do. Take stock of what you need to learn, and find ways to learn it. Find mentors, interview experts, or take classes. The less you grapple with figuring out the answers, the more energy you’ll have to use them.
As you look at your goals, ask the question, “How can I serve?” How can you help someone? Where are your opportunities to give? When you focus on helping and giving, you are often the recipient of helping and giving from some other direction. I can’t tell you the equation that translates your giving actions into benefits for yourself. But almost everything I have been able to accomplish in my own career has been driven in some way by focusing on how I can help others.
Are there any failures in your past that are keeping you from your future? Are you playing it safe anywhere, not because it’s the wise thing to do but because you’re letting your fear close doors? What one step can you take to start opening those doors again? You can either learn and move on, or let that failure limit your life.
Perhaps you find yourself spending too much time watching TV and not enough time working towards what you really want. Or it could be that your diet is so packed with junk food that you have no energy to do anything but come home at the end of the day and collapse.
If you ever wind up off track as you pursue your passion, take heart. You’re in good company. It happens a lot. The important thing is not whether or not you get derailed, it’s what you do when you realize that it has happened.