“How do I get started with a career change?” I often get that question. Our careers are mirror reflections of our lives. If you’re struggling with perfectionism, people-pleasing, owning your identity or a personal relationship, it may spill over into what you choose and how you make the transition. Doing some of that deep, internal work can be powerful. But like anything worthwhile, it requires focus. It’s easy for us to settle and get to a place where we feel stuck emotionally and professionally. I wrote about internal barriers that tend to get in the way of our career goals in this column.
Often, when I ask individuals to tell me more about what they want from a career change, there are usually a couple of key things they don’t want to lose and things they want to gain.
What do you want from a career change?
What are you afraid of losing or experiencing? It may not be something that seems tangible; it could be something like respect, security, failure or time.
And here’s a three-step reflective strategy to help move you further along so you can make a confident change.
Step 1: Figure out
You are not in the same position as someone whose been in the industry and role, and that’s okay. You still have a lot to offer. Start with identifying the aspect of your career you don’t feel so confident about. Here’s what I want you to ask yourself:
When you think about your professional life, what’s one thing you find hard to talk about or would like to cover-up? These are several things I usually hear.
- A gap in my résumé because (insert your reason).
- My lack of experience in (insert what you think you ought to have more experience in – this is a common one for individuals changing careers.
- The continuity of my career choices. Maybe you feel like you’ve done a lot in your career, and your struggling to bring it all together.
- A lack of certifications.
- A specific choice you’ve made.
Confidence typically comes from intrinsic motivation, influences (I spoke about career influences here) or an experience. You need to be confident as you set out on this journey or continue on it.
Step 2: Embrace
We can’t go back on the past, so decide to embrace it. When you embrace it, you can then begin to see the value in it, and that’s where the fun begins.
I don’t want to sound like I’m downplaying the challenges that can come with a career change. There’s time, money and clients or customers involved, so there’s a big risk. But unless you learn to embrace your weakness, you can’t find a way to do what comes next. You know what it’s like when you don’t feel confident about yourself. It shows up in some way or form.
Ask yourself: What’s one good thing about what you identified as unfavorable in step one? Once you’ve thought of one, add another and another until you can’t think of anything else.
Step 3: Leverage
Here are a few ways you can leverage some of those weaknesses mentioned in the first step.
1. The right company – this often takes care of all the points mentioned in step one.
Do due diligence with your research and choose a company that may not see your weakness as such. The company you work for can be just as important as the career you pick. Granted, you may not be with a specific company for as long as you’re in a career field, but knowing what is valued by a company and department can significantly increase your chances of landing the job.
2. Highlighting transferable skills and outcomes – this is typically done to counteract experience.
Find ways to validate the link between the experience you have and what you’re capable of doing in your next role. You can this on your career documentation, in speech and throughout your personal branding.
3. Thought-leadership – in some industries, this works well for a lack of certifications or education.
You can develop thought-leadership through writing, speaking or even committee participation. It’s a great way to increase your influence, gain respect and expand visibility.
4. Build empathy – this is particularly useful for career breaks or specific choices you made.
Finding commonalities and shared values will help you build empathy and likability. Often, the best way to do this is through networking.
Although it may not seem picturesque right now, your career is your very own beautiful journey. Take control and decide that you’re not going to settle for less, then figure out, embrace and leverage.