How much time does it take to change careers? Well … that all depends on the situation — and the type of change! I know that answer feels less than satisfying – especially if you hate your job – but it’s important to know there are good reasons to give career change the time and steps that you need to be successful.
As much as you might want to fix all your career problems and make something major happen right this minute, I know all too well from my own career story that you may not have all the “puzzle” pieces yet. On the other hand, if you simply stay and wait for the perfect answer to come to you, you could wait forever!
Adding to the career change confusion …
Making a major career move without having all the pieces could wind up ok in the end. You’re just gathering new pieces. Although the rush to find answers may also add to the transition time. If you aren’t aware that career change is a process, you can become frustrated because you thought that THIS move was finally going to make you happier.
You thought you were done. And it turns out that you’re not. Things aren’t much better than before – they’re just different. Something is still missing. It happens. And that’s simply a clue to keep looking. But the real question usually winds up being: where do you look for that new career now – and is there a better way to go about finding your next career?
So what does it take to make a successful career change?
Time. Patience. Willingness to explore. Willingness to open yourself up to possibilities you may not yet know exist. Willingness to open yourself up to things about yourself you don’t yet know.
And a lot of times, the process itself needs to be quite flexible, since you’re putting together pieces from the past, present and potential future – and forging them into a picture with yet unknown shapes.
But please don’t let any of that scare you. Think of career transition as a wondrous adventure with a potentially amazing outcome. And luckily, there are some basic steps that can help.
- Find out more about yourself – Your Personality. Your skills. Your values. Your wants. Your work environment preferences. Your talents (not always the same as skills).
- Find out more about careers that interest you – This is a chance to cast your net wide and look at all kinds of possibilities.
- Talk to people – As part of the exploration of yourself and career possibilities, it’s great to find people to talk to. People who know you. People in careers you might want. People whom you’ve worked with in the past, who can help you see things about yourself you never knew.
- Give yourself time to try things – Sometimes it helps to volunteer. Or join some groups. Or take a class. Or find someone in the field to apprentice with – even if you have to do it in your spare time.
- Don’t be afraid to accept a first job at a lower level – You may have to take a job at an entry level – or closer to entry level than you would prefer. Real career change can require some temporary steps “back”. But in truth, if you are exploring things you really care about and this truly matters to you, you are moving forward.
- What if you find out the new path is not what you want? – This is one of the lessons I had to learn by going through it. Sometimes, after all the hard work, you think you’ve found it – and you haven’t. This can be extremely depressing. “Oh no! I can’t start again!” But of course, you’re not starting again. And everything you learned about the job you didn’t like – and yourself in the process – is a valuable piece of the puzzle.
- Career coaching – Sometimes people reach a point where they feel they can’t do it alone any more. This is a where a good career coach can help point you in some useful directions. One word of caution: a career coach is supposed to be there supporting you – as a guide. Don’t expect them to have the answers. You have them … or you will. If they try to push you in a direction too quickly, they may not be doing you a service. And if money is an issue, then perhaps spread out your sessions.
Some final thoughts
Career transition takes time and patience – and pieces of information you may not have yet. If you have to work at something else to make money in the meantime, that’s ok – give yourself the flexibility. Once you’ve started the exploration and once you’ve set your mind on the goal of finding what you really want, you’re already taking the first steps to get you there.
All that you go through now will lay the foundation for your career 10 years from now. So if career transition feels slow or even painful, I’m sorry. I’ve been there myself. Just know that careful steps you take now can lay the necessary groundwork so that you won’t be feeling the same dissatisfaction 10 years in the future!
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