Feeling trapped in a career means you want to leave … but you just can’t. Maybe you’re facing age discrimination. Or you can’t leave your city for family reasons, and there are no suitable jobs in your city.
Often your perceptions are accurate. However, when I work with clients, we can almost always find a way to escape. It may take time and will certainly take commitment.
But I want to encourage you to ignore some advice you’ll see on many career websites. It goes like this:
“Your very first move is to figure out what you want, how you can reach your goal and how to deal with fear and resistance.”
And frankly, this stops many people stone cold. That’s not one move – it’s three! And there’s no straightforward, think-it-through path. Career tests rarely help and will usually be a waste of time and money for the mid-life career changer.
The truth is, many people find their careers by serendipity.
That doesn’t mean you sit back and wait for something to happen. The idea is to stir the pot and create conditions that will make it likely you’ll bump into your next career.
Some things you can do while you’re waiting:
(1) Start making a list of fantasy careers. For now, they don’t have to be realistic. Just think, “It would be fun to be …”
Often you won’t even want those careers, but you’ll get clues to what you really do want. For instance, “long distance truck driver” is on my fantasy list, even though I hate to drive (which is why I live in a big city), never felt comfortable driving in rain or snow, and resist making left turns across traffic.
But I like being on my own, seeing new places, not having someone looking over my shoulder while I work, and lots of variety.
(2) Are people saying things like, “You’d be really good as a psychologist,” or, “I think you’d be good in sales?”
Pay attention, but ask what they mean. Often they’ll be working with stereotypes, such as, “Sales people have to be outgoing, extroverted and loud talkers.” You’ll get a sense of how you come across to others.
(3) Begin working on something that’s not related to your work.
I call this cross-training your brain. While you’re glazing a pot, gliding through a dance class, passing a ball on the basketball court, studying the kingdoms of ancient Babylonia, or working on a novel, your brain moves in new pathways.
Often you’ll find solutions when you release your mind to move in new directions … and you’ll be surprised.
As you recognize what you’re looking for in your next career, your next step will be to do research and get first-hand information. Generally you can begin to do the research while you’re still playing with possibilities. It’s more of a fade-in than a jump cut.
(1) I encourage my clients to pick three careers and research them one at a time.
There’s something magical about this process. Clients who get in there and start moving, making calls, and digging deeply into possibilities — those become successful career changers. Those who make a call or skim an article and then dismiss a whole direction? They usually give up way too early.
Typically, you go through several iterations in the search process. And often your next job will be a bridge job – a stepping stone to get you into the next career. For instance, a computer expert who wants to work with animals might take a job as director of systems for a veterinary practice.
What kind of help can you expect?
Some ways I work with clients include developing specific steps for researching a new career. Often I can suggest specific directions to explore because I’m aware of many different careers. I can also suggest specific ideas for starting your own business, if that’s on your agenda.
It’s rarely a good idea to ask your spouse or close friend to be your career advisor. Why put a strain on your marriage and friendships? Your personal network will get tired of hearing, “I’m still in the search process.” They rarely have enough knowledge to provide useful guidance, especially if they work in a different field or haven’t changed careers in 20 years.
Often the simple act of hiring career consultant will be enough to make the process seem do-able. You might not need long-term support – just someone to validate your needs and support your process.
That’s why I created the one-shot Career Strategy Session – which is all most people need.