Whether it’s a necessity (your position is being eliminated) or a choice (you're bored as hell at the office), changing career paths is seriously stressful. Here are five smart strategies to set yourself up for success when switching things up.
1) Learn from your last experience— don’t dwell — and then move on. Definitely don’t obsess about what went wrong. According to Career-development expert and author Jenny Blake, “People tend to blame themselves if an employment situation doesn’t work out, but the reality is that the work world has evolved, and more frequent job change is the new normal.” Rather than stress out over the idea that this shift will be a blotch on your resume, instead focus the strengths and skills you’re walking away with. Also, examine what you did and did not like about the role. Write down some constructive notes for yourself — and then move on.
2) Interview Yourself about where and how you produce your best work. Even if you feel silly playing career coach on your own, it’s good to get comfortable interviewing yourself — it’s an effective way to prepare for actual interviews later on. Ask yourself not only big picture questions, but also more nuanced ones. Examples might include: How do you prefer to spend your free time? What type of office environment do you thrive in? What type of office environment stresses you out? What tasks make time fly? What childhood activities did you gravitate towards? What would you love your work life to look like a year from now? Although there’s no guarantee you’ll find a career that checks all your boxes, clarifying your personal preferences will help you make sense of different opportunities as they arise.
3) Divide the search phase into three elements: (1) people, (2) skills, and (3) opportunities. When you focus on these components separately, it gives definition to your action plan. First, conduct a brainstorming session where you amass ideas into all three categories. Then, every time you set aside time work on your career, tackle one item from each column. For example, under people you might arrange a coffee meeting with a peer you can learn from. Under skills, you could sign up for an online course or volunteer somewhere that allows you to build new professional muscles. Opportunities is where you’ll list all the standard job search stuff — looking at listings, sending out resumes, updating LinkedIN, and reaching out to HR personnel and recruiters.
4) Stretch your brain with new possibilities. Blake recommends the book StrengthsFinder2.0 by Tom Rath and Standout by Marcus Buckingham, to help assess how your background might have applications that never occurred to you. Then seek out low-risk opportunities for experimentation. Maybe there’s an exciting new team your company is creating — can you offer any of your services? If you’re hoping to launch your own startup, consider launching a smaller scale slice of it to test the waters. For example, if your idea is in retail, start off with an Etsy shop first.
5) Remember that your career is always on play. Meaning, once you pivot, don’t turn off this way of thinking. It’s a mistake to assume that to commit wholly to a new job, we must block out the job market and lie low for the long haul. Keeping an eye out for new opportunities isn’t treason —- it’s just smart. (Honestly? Your boss is probably doing it -- shouldn't you?) No matter what, it’s always a good idea to continue examining what’s working — and what’s not — in our careers, and to continue to push ourselves outside the comfort zone personally and professionally.