I’ve had a few careers in my time and looking back I could have made each transition a bit (or a lot) easier for myself, both in terms of recognising when it was time for a change and in settling into my new path once I'd made the decision.
Questions I'd like to have asked myself
If I had my time again I would have asked myself a couple of questions. Firstly "How do I know now is the right time?" and secondly "Could there be something I'm not addressing that is holding me back?
Exploring both questions will help you take your first steps on your new path.
Let’s start with the first question.
How will you know it's the right time?
I’ve changed tack twice before in my working life. Each time it felt like I came to a sudden realization that I “Must act, NOW!” In reality the feeling had probably been growing for a while and I had been ignoring it, until an opportunity to leave presented itself in both cases and made it easier for me to decide.
Career coaches sometimes talk about how you will “just feel” when the time is right and that it’s important to listen out for that feeling. Some people might say it's about tuning into your intuition. In this article one coach talks about how the feeling may show up as “excitement about something” or equally as a “dissatisfaction”. What’s important is that you acknowledge and explore the signal rather than just plough on in the same furrow.
Once you’ve built this self-awareness then you may be ready to just get on and do it, or there may be a few self-doubts you’d like to deal with first. If so it's time to consider that second question "Could there be something that I'm not addressing that is holding me back?"
Here are some of the self-doubts I’ve helped my clients overcome.
Do you feel like you’ve invested too much in your current choice to change it?
If we’ve invested significant time, energy and maybe money in our current career then we can sometimes think it would be a waste to change direction.
We might have realized early on that our career wasn’t the right one for us, but we carried on being a bit of a square peg in a round hole regardless.
Or maybe we used to love what we do but have now outgrown it, but are not sure whether we should just carry on until retirement.
In these cases it can be useful to imagine your future self at the point you retire, having stayed on this same path. How do you feel about it? What do you notice? Maybe you can see yourself listening to someone doing your retirement speech? What are they highlighting about your career, what are you most proud of? What are they thanking you for? Do you like what you're hearing?
Would I be better off staying?
Whether you knew what you wanted to do from a young age or fell into your current career doesn’t matter.
What matters is are you satisfied now? If not it’s worth considering if a change of role within the same field is the answer, or if it might be time to cast your net wider.
But please do the sink test before you decide
Before jumping ship please do ask yourself if there are any stressors in your life that are preventing you enjoying your work, that are within your gift to resolve.
In other words, beware of the temptation to jump ship without realizing the ship you’ve just jumped from was perfectly seaworthy, and it was your own baggage you were carrying that was making you sink.
Once you’ve passed your weight test, what’s next? Before you plan it may be worth pondering a few further questions?
Do you really have the choice?
The harsh realities of life, paying the bills or having caring responsibilities for instance can sometimes get in the way of change. Here’s where it pays to be flexible. If there’s something you’d like to progress towards, can you start building a bridge now – through some voluntary work, part time study or in some other way?
Most of us can’t afford to jack in our job completely whilst training for another one, but could you change your work pattern? Reduce your hours a little? Find an hour a week to work on this. Or if you are fortunate enough to have a partner that can support you whilst you retrain, are you comfortable accepting their offer? If not, why not?
Realise you are not starting again at square one
It took me ages to notice just how many transferable skills I’d built up during my previous careers and other outside work pursuits.
For me personally it was seemingly chance remarks from former colleagues and friends that helped me gain perspective much later. To avoid going through the same, I'd recommend you put some focus into considering how your current life and work experience will be advantageous in your new career. Soft skills take time to acquire and develop and they stay with us. For instance if your job has meant carrying and managing risk then being comfortable with sitting with risk can be useful in so many ways. If you have learnt to communicate tough news to others sensitively then that's a wonderful ability.
It’s also worth remembering that when we’ve got really good at something, it can seem like second nature. That’s great but it means we can easily overlook our expertise and start to assume everyone has the same capability. Acknowledge and be proud of all the capabilities you’ve earnt during your lifetime.
Are you being unduly influenced by the values of others?
Of course it’s good to research a possible career change and to ask the advice of those we trust. However the answers we give others when asked are likely to be in line with our own values ,and it’s worth bearing in mind that everyone has different values.
We see this when parents guide their children into career choices that fit with their personal status values rather than their child’s. Parents often strive to give their children chances they were denied, and sometimes this can be done a little too enthusiastically.
It’s important we are both aware of and meet our own values (and don’t confuse our values with those imposed by our parents, partners, our local community or even society as a whole. There are lots of good tools on the internet to help you identify your core values. Our values guide or motivate our attitudes and actions. If we go against them we can be left with an inner conflict. Trying to please others whilst not pleasing ourselves is a recipe best not baked.
A chance to remould your whole life at the same time?
When I made my last career change I initially assumed I needed to earn the same as I was doing before and would also be working Monday to Friday fulltime.
Thankfully I engaged the services of a life coach who got me to imagine how I wanted my life to be, not just my work life but my life as a whole. These sorts of exercises can be really revealing and in my case I realized I wanted a different balance going forward and so I shifted my focus to building a business that gave me the flexibility to work when I wanted to and have time for voluntary work and family time.
As a consequence the plan I came up with looked very different from the what I had envisaged when I started.
Make a Plan
I know I feel a whole lot better once I have a plan, as it gives me a direction of travel and I know I’ve taken the first step. My plan might change, but I’m on my way. If the route to your end goal isn’t clear, what about figuring out how the first step looks?
The first step could be to talk to some people who work in the field you’d like to move into. After all it’s important as you make this journey that you know enough about what your new job will be like. And I bet you’ll be able to find someone who has entered the field through a career change and will be able to share their wisdom about what they learnt on their journey
How hypnosis can help
Hypnosis can help you identify and negotiate any obstacles, both conscious and subconscious, that are preventing you from moving forwards.
If your inner critic is busy helping you procrastinate and chiming in with opinions like “It’ll never happen” or “You’re wasting your time dreaming” or “You’re too old” or “You hate interviews” or “University isn’t for people like you” then hypnotherapy can help you stand up to your critic and think differently.
Most importantly hypnotherapy can show you how to use all those wonderful abilities and capabilities that a lifetime of living has given you, in your career change journey. And that even applies if you don’t yet quite realise what all of those are.
Please do get in touch when you’re ready to find out more.