Consultants and coaches constantly urge us to, “Focus! Stay with one project at a time. Don’t get distracted.”
Usually that’s good advice.
But during a career change, it makes sense to run on two tracks. And sometimes you have no choice.
(1) Exploring a new career or business?
During the exploration phase of career change, I recommend keeping several irons in the fire. You might be considering careers in marketing or consulting – and wondering if you should return to school to become a lawyer or librarian.
Following one trail to the end may take weeks, even months. If you arrive at a dead end, you’ll have nothing to show for your efforts.
So make career search your priority and focus your efforts in this direction. But you’ll probably have to juggle two or three specific searches.
(2) Natural multi-tasker?
Some people need to jump back and forth between activities to keep from getting bored and restless. Often gifted and creative clients report this pattern.
If you’re getting things done, you may have found your natural work style. But if you have half a dozen half-finished projects, you need to raise a red flag.
Once again, think priorities. Are you spending most of your time on your most important projects? Or do you get distracted by non-essentials?
For instance, if you’re just starting a new business, you may work on multiple projects, but all serve your main goal of getting yourself established in the market. And if you’re in the middle of a career change, choose a path that supports your preferred working style.
(3) Job requirements?
Some careers require multi-tasking. Within one week, a college professor might (a) teach an introductory overview course, (b) lead a graduate seminar on a narrow topic, (c) design a research experiment, (d) revise a paper for a journal, (e) give a talk to a community group and (f) participate in committees to recommend procedural changes. And they’re also advising students, planning next semester’s class and…well, you get the idea.
Similarly, a lawyer may supervise interns, teach a class, appear in court, take a deposition and conduct research.
If you thrive on variety and can keep a dozen balls in the air, you’ll love these careers. But if you need to focus on one project at a time, you may find yourself on the road to a new job. I know some professors who couldn’t teach an introductory course in the morning and then conduct serious research in the afternoon. They tended to leave the profession.
Bottom Line: Choose a way to use your skills to support your preferred style. Look up every so often to see if your style is working – based on what you’re accomplishing, not on what “everyone else” is doing.