Considering a Career Change? Your First Steps Begin Here

By Cathy Goodwin

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Does this sound familiar?

“I know I need a new career. In fact, I’m way overdue for a career change. But I’m earning good money, I’ve been here awhile and I’m identified with this career field. Where do I get started?”

This story from Forbes describes Simon, an unhappy lawyer in Britain, who became a successful sculptor. You can read it here.

Here are the takeaways.

(1) Focus on finding a process – a structure to explore – rather than a quick fix.

When you first realize something isn’t working, it’s easy to rush in and look for quick solution. The truth is, change takes time and space.

If you take nothing else away from this post, remember this: Career change rarely proceeds in a straight line.

(2) Begin doing something different, even if it’s part-time, even if it’s not what you ultimately want to do.

In this example, Simon the lawyer ran a gardening company and then a retail store. He unfroze his lawyerly persona, giving himself room to find something new.

(3) As you keep moving, you’ll find the solution serendipitously.

Simon bought some clay in an art store and forgot about it. He really wanted to paint. One day he turned back to the clay and his new career was born.

(4) Allow time to learn new skills.

This lawyer did house-sitting to gain time to learn without bringing in an income. You may decide to enter a degree program. Or you may research what leads to success in your field and create your own path.

(5) Choose mentors and advisors carefully.

Many people embark on a career change and achieve success without ever talking to a coach, consultant or counselor. You might need to hire a consultant for these reasons:

  • You haven’t the faintest idea where to begin and need to make a plan.
  • You know where to begin but you can’t seem to get the momentum going.
  • You feel stuck and can’t imagine yourself doing something else.
  • You’re getting lots of negative energy from friends and family (or conversely you’re getting chirpy “Easy button” messages) and you need a reality check.
  • You’re just the kind of person who likes to bounce around ideas with an outside, impartial expert.

Some career coaches and consultants encourage you to sign on for a 3-month program. However, think before you sign up. Often a single one-off “Power Hour” session will be all you need. Think of a rocket lift-off: that initial surge of power gets the spaceship outside the gravity zone! After that, the ship continues on its own momentum with a lot less power needed. (If I’ve got this wrong and you’re an engineer, let me know!) 


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