When you’re checking out career change books, programs or coaches, a lot of times you’ll come across this promise:
“The FIRST thing you need to do is figure out EXACTLY what you want to do.
A lot of good people get stuck here. Because it’s not just the way things happen.
It’s like saying, “I can’t go to college till I choose my major.”
Or, “I can’t choose a restaurant till I figure out exactly what I want for appetizer, main course and dessert.”
Career Choice: Not A Dating Site
A lot of career guidance is based on the premise that choosing a career is like going on a dating site and looking over your prospective mates. You decide you want John, Jerry or Steven. And you don’t look further.
Careers, alas, aren’t laid out like eligible prospects. They don’t come with names you can recognize or descriptions like “blond” or “loves dogs.”
It’s More Like A Dance: No Stepping On Toes, Please!
Finding your career is more like going to a dance and experimenting with all sorts of partners. After the first dance, you say, “I want someone who won’t step on my feet…at least not hard.”
After you’re whirled a few partners, you decide you don’t mind the ones who step on your feet. It’s the ones who talk all through the number … and then talk some more. Or you find you really, really like a partner who keeps you laughing. You don’t care if he can’t slow dance; you’d rather go fast anyway. You don’t care if she’s not up on the steps; you’re struck by her surprising sense of humor.
Finally you narrow your choices. You look for certain types of partners and avoid others. And you often meet someone who didn’t seem promising at first but who fit all the non-negotiables on your checklist.
The Shopping Spree: Who Says You Can’t Wear Orange?
Let’s take another analogy. Imagine you haven’t been shopping in awhile. You have a sense of what looks good on you but the styles have changed so much you can’t just reach into the rack and grab something. You have to try on a whole bunch of clothes to see what works.
If you’re lucky, you might consider a style you’ve never seen before, or a sales person suggests an outfit you’d never have picked for yourself. You try it on and it’s a wow.
That’s how career search really happens. You’ll rarely make decisions in a vacuum.
You Gotta Step Out On The Floor Before You Settle On One Partner
That’s why I recommend taking some action steps before embarking on career change exercises. Talking to someone about a career is like holding up a new sweater or dancing with a new partner. You won’t know if you’ve got a fit till you’ve tried half a dozen different things.
Often you can’t predict what you’ll like because you never realized this opportunity existed. Or you didn’t realize that a career you’d crossed off because it didn’t meet your criteria actually came in a version that was perfect. It’s like saying, “I can’t wear orange,” but in the right combination and shade, you can.
Research supports the dance model – not the datebook.
Finally, we’ve come along way since the first tentative career books were written. Researchers have studied the way people choose careers. Very few begin the traditional way, with a clear definition of “here’s what I want.” Insisting on this degree of clarity will actually hold back your search and often keep you from finding your next, best career. Sometimes you recognize what you want only when you meet it face to face.
To learn more about choosing your next career, visit https://midlifecareerstrategy.com/choosecareerebook.html