May 16, 2010
Career change for people unsure which path to pursue next
In the newly updated edition of her classic book I Don't Know What I Want, But I Know It's Not This, author and career coach Julie Jansen helps dissatisfied workers identify and plot their next career move, despite the lagging economy. I recently had an illuminating e-chat with Jansen on the barriers to career change -- both real and imagined. Here's what she had to say.
Q. When it comes to trying to find a career that makes them happy, what holds people back the most?
A. It's a number of things:
- Fear of change, of not having or making money, and that other people will think less of you.
- Paralysis: You're unsure what to do next, worried about not doing something that will work, and lack confidence.
- A lack of self-awareness: Without this it's almost impossible to figure out what career to pursue.
- Cluelessness about what jobs and careers exist -- and this isn't just in younger people.
- Indecision: It's easier for some people to waffle or not make a decision because then they may have to take action.
- A focus on the negative aspects of something: For example, I am working with a client whose only interest is criminal justice and he keeps dwelling on what wouldn't work -- he'd have to work nights and weekends, he'd be bored, he'd have to wear a uniform, etcetera.
Q. How has the recession affected these barriers?
A. It has given people an excuse to sit tight in a job they don't like because they think they should be grateful that they have a job. Feeling fortunate is always a good quality, but it's not a reason for not finding work that makes you happy.
Q. What are top three things a person who hates their work should do to begin changing their situation?
A. One, decide to change and put a specific timeline in place. Two, talk to two or three people who have changed careers and ask for their advice. Talk to both those who've moved into your desired field and those who've moved into fields outside your interest area. You can draw inspiration and tips on how they did it from both. And three, read some career books or hire a career coach for guidance.
Q. People often worry that they won't be able to afford a career change. What's the remedy for this?
A. Most people truly don't know how much it costs for them to live and pay their bills, and where they can cut costs without feeling pain (for example, renting three Netflix movies a month instead of four), and what a budget is. Educating yourself about basic budgeting is an important step for making a career shift.
Q. What are your preferred methods for testing the waters of a new field?
A. Temporary, part-time, subcontractor, or volunteer work, or even working as an unpaid intern.
Q. Why do you think so many of us freeze up when it comes to finding a career we actually like?
A. It isn't rocket science, but the majority of people are so befuddled by the process. This may be because there are so many aspects of changing careers that involve interacting successfully with other people, as well as needing to step outside yourself and market yourself without sounding awkward or fake.
Q. Is it crazy to start a business in this economic climate?
A. I think it's the best possible time. The biggest mistake people make though is looking for a job and starting a business and looking for temporary work all at once. Most people can't do this well. Have a real focus with a plan and put yourself on a short (but realistic) leash timewise to make it happen. And remember that crisis and chaos creates new opportunities and innovation.
finding your passion
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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