In addition to financial regrouping, the recession has also been a catalyst for individuals to rethink their career path. Downsizing, outsourcing, increased technological retooling are all phrases we’ve come to know as new directions for reducing budgets. At times we begin to question continuing down a career path that is changing so dramatically, and may not be able to guarantee us professional growth. Career change is a thrilling and, for many, a daunting prospect. It often feels easier to stay in a job you’re unhappy with than to embark on a completely different path, especially in a shaky economy, especially if you happen to be your family’s sole or primary breadwinner. Still, plenty of people are leaping into the unknown, recession and all, and finding success. How do they do it?
Working with a career coach/counselor is the ideal place to begin exploring how your dreams, strengths and abilities can all come together in a rewarding way. To begin with, however, here are some basic tips to think about before you make the appointment and investment in a career coach:
Figure out what your ideal profession would be and what you really want in a job, says Steve Bohler, founder and head coach of The Oxford Program, a consulting firm that advises clients attempting to launch new careers. Then decide what you absolutely can’t do without.
“You have to ask yourself, for instance, if I compromise on that, will I be unhappy again?” Bohler says. Do you need to live in a certain area, for example, or work in a creative industry or be self-employed? “It’s about listening to your head and listening to your gut in terms of what you want and what you need.”
Do as much research as possible on potential areas of interest and make a list of options for your new career. Then shorten that list to just a few choices that meet the requirements you identified in step one. Keeping the list long can provide you with too many options; too many ideas can lead to feeling overwhelmed and ultimately to inaction on anything.
Take action, even if it’s just baby steps initially. Bohler and other career counselors suggest signing up for relevant classes, joining professional organizations or clubs, volunteering with pertinent groups, reading up on the industry and talking to or shadowing people who are doing what you dream of doing for a living. This is also a good time in this process to meet with a career counselor; that person can help you with career search inventories, researching current trends in those careers, and helping you to fine tune even further what direction you want to continue exploring.
Schedule “exploratory conversations” in the early stages of your research, not only with people who work in the desired field but with those who know you and your talents well. Thinking about being a gourmet chef; talk to a chef, visit culinary schools, get the “real deal” on what this career entails from the people who are in it. As a result of those discussions, the right path for you will begin to emerge.
“What happens over time is that the fog will lift,” Trisha Scudde, co-founder of The Executive Coaching Group, says. “It has never failed. When you start this out, you’ve got this big rock of marble, this big lump that’s 12 feet high. After the first conversation with somebody, you may say, ‘I sure don’t want to go in the direction they went in.’ Very good: You just chipped away at the marble. The statue of David starts to reveal itself.”
WHAT’S STOPPING YOU?
Whether you’re considering switching fields or starting your own business, the number one obstacle in your way is often your own self-doubt.
“Adults in career change typically get paralyzed with fear” when it comes time to actually make the switch, Bohler says. “A lot of it is dealing with that inner critic, that part of us that wants to stay safe and keep the status quo. There are a lot of self-imposed obstacles that come up.”
One of those fears may be putting the financial stability of your family at risk. To minimize the impact of your career shift on your dependents, take time to save before you make the leap. “Make sure you have the financial reserve,” advises Berger. “Your business isn’t going to take off tomorrow.” If you’re starting a new job that pays less than your position in your current field, she says, “it takes a while to transition and you’re going to have to give yourself time to acclimate to it.” Your family will probably need some time to adjust, too.
To face this fear begin by asking yourself how strong your passion is for doing something you really love, and how much pain it causes you to keep doing something unsatisfying. Also ask yourself what the “collateral damage” is of staying in a job where you are unhappy; How does it affect your relationships? Your role as a parent or caregiver? Or your own health and well-being. If either is significant enough, you’ll be willing to leave what you know or forgo a steady paycheck to pursue it.
Change is not easy, whether planned or unplanned there are always unknown factors that can add more stress to the basic change element. To change a career or job means doing the research, identifying and utilizing valuable resources, identifying the basic needs to help you be successful, pulling together a support system to cheer you on, and bottomline – believing in yourself.