Q: After 10 years in the same career, I’ve decided it’s no longer the kind of work I enjoy. But I’m feeling stuck as I try to figure out what might be a good fit for my next career. I’m also anxious about making the right decision. How can I make this process easier?
A: It’s pretty common to feel pressure or anxiety in this situation. Our career role is an important part of what makes us feel whole. Any decision concerning career choice is in the category of “life decision,” on par with moving to a new city, the loss of a loved one or breaking up with a partner. Losing a job or changing careers can trigger a batch of issues that demand attention.
The reality is pretty simple: Finding your career fit is not easy. But being smart about the steps you take can make the process seem a bit smoother.
First, be patient and give yourself permission to explore some budding ideas. It will take time, resources, focus and effort to define and research your options. Promise to yourself to allow some objectivity to flow by looking at the broader 30,000 foot view of viable options.
Next, do the work it will take to identify a match. I often ask clients to complete a few exercises to define some of the variables they believe would contribute to a best fit career. These include the skills they enjoy using and developing day to day, the surroundings they like to work in, the people they like to work with and how their values might sync with those of an employer. You’ve got to ask yourself this: “How do you know what you are looking for unless you’ve tried to define it in advance?”
Think about what we do in other areas of life. When looking to buy a new car or a new house, you’re more likely to be satisfied with the result after researching the options and arming yourself with real-world information.
And how many of us have made lists of the traits and qualities of our perfect partner? Whether it’s tall, dark and handsome, dazzling eyes and smile, or brainy and outgoing, we often have a strong idea of “our type” as we go searching for a soul mate.
Take advantage of resources available to help make your lists, including career development books, websites and assessment instruments. Network with people who are in careers you find interesting. Seek out a mentor, someone you trust and admire, to provide motivation and guidance for your career exploration.
Also, remember to combat anxiety by adding some stress busters to your weekly routine. If an added dose of objectivity and accountability is needed to help interpret an assessment and connect some of the dots, sign up for some coaching.