So far in this series I’ve described how to:
In Part 3, we get into the strategy of how to move from where you are now to your future ideal work.
3) Keep working and saving while you build your capability.
Let’s say you have a job, but you don’t like it very much. And you also have a dream job, a career you would love to have or a profession you want to begin. Wouldn’t it be great to give up your current job so that you can spend all your time and energy in your new career?
But your ability to make money in your new career is uncertain. You need to develop your capabilities first. You might need to start in the new career at a lower level of seniority and pay. You may need to get some qualifications before you can start working. Or if your new career means working for yourself, you need to start the business, perfect and promote your product or service and of course secure customers before any money will come your way.
This is the problem so many people face, including many of my clients. They want to move to a career that’s more fulfilling, but they still have to pay the bills to support themselves and their families. It’s frustrating staying in a bad job when you know it is not how you want to spend your life. However, it’s worthwhile to take a long term view on how you will move from this situation to a better one.
I’ve worked with a number of people who have made or attempted major career transitions. Several have been successful, some are still in progress and a few have retreated. Those who take a long term approach seem to have a greater chance of success. And when you are clear about where you’re heading, staying in an unfulfilling job is easier since it becomes part of your route to success.
Here are some keys to a successful long term career change strategy:
A clear, compelling career goal
If your goal is vague, based on what you don’t want instead of on what you DO want, or if it is constantly changing, it is not a good basis for a long term change. You don’t need to know all the details of what you want. But you need to have enough clarity that you know when you are getting closer or moving away. Your vision also needs to be compelling so that it motivates and energizes you.
A clear picture of the gap
The first step in moving towards your goal is understanding more completely and realistically what it will take to bridge the gap between your current job and your new career. You may need education and skills development, market research, connections, financial resources and/or experience. If you’re starting a business, the research about what you need in the business is the first crucial step in creating it. Again, you don’t need to know the gap exactly before you start filling it. You will keep learning about your needs as you go. It’s very important that you be realistic about what it will take, while maintaining the optimism you need to drive you ahead.
A plan for how to get there
Some people love to plan, and some don’t. The purpose of the plan for your long term career goal is to be clear and rational about what you need to do next. Without such a plan, it is too easy to get overwhelmed by the enormity of the challenge before you, or to take unrealistic short-cuts that will get you into trouble. With a well thought-out plan, you can just take one more step in the process and know you are heading in the right direction. Steady action over time is the key. Any plan will change and develop as you move closer to your goal based on everything you will learn along the way. So your plan doesn’t need to be perfect. It is simply a tool to keep you moving in the right direction.
Boundary setting skills
One thing that differentiates the successful career changers from the stuck career changers is the amount of regular time and effort that they put into their new careers, despite the demands of their current careers. They need boundary setting skills that allow them to identify and protect the time they will invest. Setting boundaries requires clarity of purpose, discipline and communication skills. When you have developed sufficient confidence in your plan, it’s easier to communicate your boundaries to your boss, colleagues, family and friends.
As a side benefit, setting boundaries skillfully will probably make your current job more enjoyable. Setting boundaries is a very valuable skill to learn for any working person.
Enjoying the process
If you are motivated by the work itself, rather than the expected results, you’ll be able to enjoy the process of developing your new career rather than having to force yourself. For example, if you love writing, it’s relatively easy to keep working on your craft even when no one is willing to pay you for it. If you love making deals, your natural inclination will guide you to form the situations and relationships that will make you a successful business deal-maker. But if you want to be independently wealthy, you want to see your name in lights or you want to make an impact in the world, it may take many years of work before you can reap those rewards.
Get clear about what you most love to do, regardless of any external rewards, so that you can build this set of skills into your ideal career. When you’re enjoying the process, your career change will take less energy and synchronicity will support you.
You can see from these steps, that implementing a long term career change strategy requires focus and persistence. That’s why support is very important. In Part 4 of this series, I’ll discuss ways to get the support that will keep you moving towards your ideal career.
Please post your follow-on questions to this article and I’ll be most happy to respond.
Photo credit: Gabriel Garcia Marengo