It’s a question I hear from people all the time when they are searching for career change ideas.
It’s like you’re standing on a path with many options in front of you, but only one has the pot of gold at the end. The others have their own versions of lions and tigers and bears (Did someone just say “oh my?” Couldn’t resist, could you?)
Anyway, you can’t afford to end up on a path with a flesh-eating animal twice your size. One mistake and it’s bye-bye.
So you feel destined to stay trapped in a job that isn’t right for you and simply long for work that makes you feel deeply fulfilled, like you’re using your full potential and making a real difference.
The trouble is, getting there feels like a game of Russian roulette.
Wracking Your Brain For Career Change Ideas
OK! This time you’re really going to set your mind to it! You’re going to scour the internet for every possible job that’s out there!
Or maybe you’ll find a kickass career counselor/psychic who will tell you exactly what you’re supposed to be doing by reading your tea leaves.
Or maybe another career test or personality profile will reveal the secret to your life’s purpose.
See, no matter how many lists of possible careers you come up with, nothing is going to stand out to you as the thing until you know what you want.
The simple truth of the matter is that starting with career descriptions helps you shove yourself into a box and then asks:
“Will you be reasonably comfortable in that career box for the next few years?”
Instead, what you should be doing is asking:
“If I could build my perfect career, what would it look like?”
No career test will help you answer that question. Yes, career tests can help you understand yourself better so that you can get a sense of what boxes (or non-boxes) you’re likely to like, where your strengths lie, and what you might be best off focusing on, but after that, there’s still a lot of soul searching to be done.
There are questions around work/life balance, finances, career goals, life purpose and so much more that are never touched upon with any test.
Once you’ve built your perfect career on paper, then you can try to find it in the real world, but doing it the other way around forces you to make compromises without you even being aware you’re making them.
Does that mean that once you build your dream job you’ll never have to compromise and you’ll find it? If you build it, it will come? Maybe.
But chances are you’ll still have to compromise, at least a little.
The difference is – and it’s a huge difference – you’ll be aware of where you’re making compromises in your job and where you’re getting exactly what you want.
Why is this important?
When you know where you’re compromising, you can make a plan to change those areas in the future. If you aren’t even aware of what needs fixing, you don’t have control.
Knowing What You Want
If the secret to finding the right career change idea is knowing what you want, how, exactly, do you figure out what you want?
Sometimes it’s easier to start with what you don’t want.
It was once presented to me like this: Have you ever been with a group of friends when someone asks, “What do you guys want to order for dinner?”
And then everyone tells you what they don’t want, but no one tells you what to get?
One guy can’t do Indian, it gives him heartburn. Another had pizza last night, someone else is allergic to sushi. . . and on and on. . .
40 minutes later you’ve narrowed it down to Italian and Chinese, but you still don’t know what you’re getting for dinner. In the meantime, you could gnaw your own arm off.
Your career search is the same way.
You can get a lot accomplished by narrowing it down first. Then home in on where you might want to focus.
Can you eliminate some choices?
Ask yourself, is your dream job in:
- Financial services?
- Being an artist?
- Being an entrepreneur?
Keep going until you have said yes, no or maybe to all of the ideas that keep swirling in your mind. Write them on pieces of paper labeled Yes, No and Maybe.
Throw away the “no’s” and never think about them again. Only deal with the “yes’s” and “maybe’s” from now on.
Narrowing Down Your Career Change Ideas
How do you take a few career change ideas and narrow down your choices?
You could just flip a coin?
Or you could go out there and try different things and talk to people.
Remember, now these are dream jobs you’ve built, not a million new ideas floating around in your head. You’ve already done a fair job narrowing things down.
So narrowing things down a bit further shouldn’t be too hard.
This isn’t the time to sit and think some more, though. Now is the time to get out in the world and see what works for you and what doesn’t.
You could plunge right in, and do an adult internship.
Or you could use my not so secret weapon, the informational interview.
Talk to people and gather as much information as you can using my informational interview template. When you do these interviews right, they are so powerful in gathering the kind of information you need to know if you’re on the right track in your career transition.
Midlife Career Change Ideas
Career change ideas at 30, career change ideas at 40, and career change ideas at 50 might all be slightly different because of the different considerations impacting each age group.
Some of the things to consider are retirement, funding for college for children, how willing you are to start your career “fresh,” how much education you need to start your new career.
For example if you’re 50, you may decide that it’s not worth it to you to become a doctor because of the years of schooling that are required. On the other hand, you may decide you love that career choice so much that it’s worth it to you.
The age categories simply give you new pieces of information to consider, they absolutely do not mean that you can’t take on a specific type of career change. You can do anything you want!! In fact, one of my clients in her 40’s is taking on a Doctoral Program right now!
Figuring Out What You Want
Make the unknown known.
Figure out what you want and build your dream job:
- Figure out what you don’t want. Eliminate some choices.
- Research what you do want. Understand if what’s out there really fits the bill or if you just imagine it does. Make the unknown known.
- Think about your own specific considerations related to your own life.
This process should give you a much clearer sense of what you’d like to be doing next.
Need some help getting started?
Download my free guide, The Reverse Resume, to plan what your dream job is now!