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10 things I wish I'd known when changing career

I knew work wasn’t supposed to feel like this – living for the weekend, only to spend it dreading Monday morning - I enjoyed what I did (most of the time) but I knew I couldn't spend the next 5, 10, 15 years doing it....

I kept promising myself I’d do something new – after this project, after Christmas, by the end of the summer.

But I had no idea what – if I wasn’t a forensic accountant, then what was I?

What could I ‘be’ if it wasn’t that?

I definitely spent way too much of my time googling ‘how to change career” and ‘how to find a job you love”. I wasted a scary number of commutes scrolling job boards and reading career change blogs.

And yet if I’d have known then what I know now, I can only imagine how different things would have been. How I approached the idea of change would have been fundamentally different.

And so, in order to save someone else from that career change limbo, I’ve put together 10 bits of advice that I wish someone else would have given me.

Read them, consider them, and then apply them to whatever is keeping you trapped in a job, role or career that isn’t right for you.

They might just mean that you can (finally) stop faffing about and start moving towards finding work that’s a better fit.

1. There’s no bolt of lightening

I’d read enough ‘finding your passion’ careers change articles to have been well and truly suckered into the idea that we will just know when we have found our ‘thing’. A magical choir of angels would suddenly burst through the clouds and start singing, and suddenly my ‘thing’ would become clear.

Now, not to be a damp squib, but I’ve been doing this careers coaching thing for a while now, and I can’t think of a single person for whom the thing they want to spend their life doing has just appeared as a bolt from the blue - it is much more likely to have been a gradual parting of the clouds.

Which leads me onto my next point….

2. Patience is a virtue

I wanted to make big changes.

And I wanted them now.

But I had no idea what to do. So I did nothing.

Successful career change takes time – the learning, exploring, testing can’t be done overnight. That doesn’t mean that things aren’t happening. But it can take many months of taking small actions before you are ready to take any big leaps.

So be patient, and keep going. Keep talking to people, keep exploring.

Even if the steps you are taking feel tiny, don't stop. You'll get there.

3. Find your cheerleaders

It can be tricky when you are excited about something you are exploring, you want t share it with anyone who’ll listen.

But take my advice, find people who are likely to share your excitement, and share you thoughts and ideas with them. If not, you run the risk of having your excitement squashed by well meaning but unhelpful friends or family who don’t understand what you are doing or why you are doing it. And that can throw you off course at best, and completely squash your soul at worst.

So find the people who are following a similar path of discovery, and share your excitement with them.

Finding a group of people who will act as sounding boards, cheerleaders, and a friendly shoulder to lean on is a game-changer

4. Don’t discount that little niggle

We often think that we need to be doing something completely different, but in reality, the thing you are meant to be doing is probably in your life in some form, or to some extent already.

The hobbies, ideas, thoughts, interests that you’ve never considered as more than that could hold the clue to what lights you up.

Take time to look around your life already – what is your subconscious trying to tell you?

5. A career change doesn’t have to be a complete career 180

Career change isn’t about throwing everything up in the air and moving to Thailand to look after elephants (unless that is truly what you want to do) – it could simply be about taking the things you love about what you do now and doing it in a different way, or in a different environment, or as part of another role.

Take the time to look around you - think (and talk) about how you could do more of what you love where you are now?

6. It’s not just about the work

Career change is not just about finding a job you love – it’s just as much about getting clear on what work looks like in the context of your life as a whole.

Is it more important to you that you are able to do drop off and pick up most days, or that you gain that promotion this year?

Think about the ‘season’ of your life – we all have different stages or seasons that we go through when our priorities vary, and accepting that this season may mean that different things are important right now can help you see your career as something more fluid that you might have considered before.

7. Start from ‘you’ not your CV

There are 2 very distinct ways of thinking about your career change – thinking about what you are ‘allowed’ to do, given what you’ve done in the past, and thinking about what you might ‘want’ to do given what you’re excited by.

Look at what lights you up, what makes you want to jump out of bed. Once you have figured that out, (at least a bit) then you can start the process of working out how you can spend your time doing it.

Starting from what your skills might 'let' you do is a surefire way of ending up stuck in a similar role to that which you are trying to escape!

8. Google is not your friend

Lets face it – if you could have googled your way out of feeling stuck, or googled your way to your ideal career then you would have done it by now.

Unfortunately (or fortunately) successful career changes only happen by being out in the world – talking to people, being curious, testing out ideas.

It’s only when you get a ‘feeling’ for something that you know you’re on the right track – and you can’t get that sitting behind a screen.

9. Traditional job recruitment processes don’t work for career changes

When you are trying to move into a new area, it’s going to be hard to compete on paper with someone who has years of experience in exactly that field.

It’s unlikely your application will even get through the automatic application systems that many employers use.

So how to get in front of the right people?

Well, firstly, alter your CV to show that you’ve got the skills, rather than just showing what jobs you’ve had.

Secondly? Go out and talk to people. Keep exploring, think about how you can demonstrate the value you know you can provide. Become an actual person, and not just a name on a page and you’ll find it easier to move forward.

10. Don’t do it alone..

When you think about it, it makes perfect sense.

If you needed help with your teeth, you’d go to a dentist.

If you wanted to fix your car, you’d go to a mechanic.

So if you want to change career, why not find the people that can help you?

It can be scary to take that first step, to admit that things aren’t right and that you want to make a change. But what’s the alternative? Spending the next 5, 10, 15 years in a job you know isn’t right? Living for the weekend, and dreading Monday mornings?

When I was changing career I thought I had to figure it out on my own – I had vague ideas but no idea how to make them a reality. So I plodded on. And on. And on.

Don’t do what I did – take my advice and find someone to go on your journey with you. To hold your hand, or give you a kick up the bum, whichever is necessary.

I guarantee that if you find a coach that you click with, it will be the best investment in your career happiness that you’re ever likely to make.

Which piece of advice rang bells with you? Drop me a comment below and let me know.

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