In today’s always-on, fast-changing world, we can sometimes find ourselves looking into the future, wondering, “what is it all about,” “am I doing what I really want to do,” “is there something more out there?” “am I working hard vs smart,” and “am I really doing what I love?”
With the workplace shifting and changing so rapidly, it is becoming more commonplace for people to be asking these questions, wondering if they have their career formula right. Or, if it’s time to reinvent ourselves into someone that is working smarter, more on our own terms and doing something we really love and make money vs doing something we think we have to in order to make money.
There was once a time when considering a career change only made sense if you were in the early stages of your working life. But today, with technology, remote working, access to online resources, distributed teams, information abundance, and plug-and-play business models, this is no longer the case. Making a career change at any stage of your life can make sense and be successful if you are doing it for the right reasons, are committed to the change and have the right game plan and mindset in place.
A career change can mean many different things to different people. Perhaps its a new role at your current company, new projects or more responsibilities? Alternatively, it could mean making a 180-degree shift from being an accountant to a baker, or even an online Esty retail sensation. It could even mean retiring at 30 from your current role as a corporate employee to become a virtual financial adviser to the world’s global elite, from the comfort of your beach house in California.
The exciting thing is that the possibilities are not only endless but reachable. To make a successful career change, however, you must make sure you are doing it for the right reasons, that you have considered your options carefully and that you are making smart choices that will point you down the right path for success. Start by asking yourself these three important questions:
1. Why do I want a career change?
First things first, start with the ‘why’. Why do I want to consider new job opportunities? Why do I think a new career path will improve my life? What is it that I want but don’t have right now? Think about what you’d like your future to look like. Now consider how will a career change help you reach that goal?
If you want to be a Data Scientist, but you’re currently a graphic designer—consider the skills you need to learn and what’s your next logical career change needs to be to make sure you get you one step closer to your goal. Careers these days do not have to follow the traditional linear patterns that our parents were faced with. We have more opportunities to branch out in different areas, opening up more web-like structures of diversification and opportunity.
Only you know what will bring the most joy in your career path. Since you’ll spend an estimated 92,120 hours working in your lifetime, you deserve to do what’s most gratifying and fulfilling. Take your time with this decision and explore all avenues. You don’t want to end up being a jack of all trades and a master of none. It’s ok to try and fail, then pivot again, all before reaching your career bliss. The main thing you want out of a career change is to continue evolving and growing as you move forward.
2. Should I change roles?
Do you love the company that you work for? Do you believe in the work they’re doing, but have the nagging feeling that your current role is just not fulfilling – not necessarily the company you are working for? Leaving the company may not be the solution in many cases.
Start by asking yourself; are you looking to climb the corporate ladder or make a more lateral move within the company? Once you know, be proactive, brainstorm career paths to pursue to get you one step closer to a more fulfilling position. Maybe you’d like to take on more of managerial type role, or if you’re already a leader, perhaps you want to branch out globally and lead an expansion team. Or perhaps you’re interested in creating a brand new role altogether for your company? Do you think the biotech start-up that you work at needs to focus more on personalized medicine to be relevant in five years time? Share that with the relevant decision-makers in the company and suggest leading an R&D team to explore this hypothesis.
This is exactly what happened with Apple’s Chief Design Officer, Jony Ive. If you’ve ever admired the elegance and beautiful design of an iPhone or MacBook, you have Ive to thank. He started out as a consultant for the company, joining as a full-time employee in 1992. Ive actually considered leaving Apple when the company hit a rough patch in the late 1990s. When all was said and done, he decided to stick it out at Apple and rather make that pivotal career change within the company, vs looking elsewhere. He rose up the ranks and went on to be the brainchild behind key design decisions and products that we’ve now come to rely on, admire and enjoy.
Sometimes having a mind-shift and exploring new roles and challenges within your organization is what you need to take the next step to evolve your career path.
Using a seamless and minimalist communication tool like Brief can help you step back from the noise to focus your mind and thinking. Sometimes all we need is a few minutes every day to assess where we are in our careers, what it is we want to be doing and how we plan to get there. Setting up a few personal work areas/hubs and tasks can do wonders to order your thinking and thought process so you can manage your career path as it were a business on its own.
Brief also helps to open up and maintain communication channels at work. There is nothing more productive and efficient than having a direct line to your supervisor, team member, employee or even an independent career mentor. This open channel is where the magic happens! Easily send feedback to an employee, share a file with a team member, or video chat with your boss in the U.K while you’re on a business trip in China. Collaborating and sharing new ideas and thoughts is just a click away.
These clear lines of communication go beyond any hierarchy, pulling the team closer. If you’re a manager, use a tool like Brief to be proactive and have one-on-ones with your team on a regular basis to keep new ideas and thoughts flowing. Find out how the company can better challenge the employee, or how you can work together to find a better career fit for them within the company. No matter where you are Brief offers the opportunity for you to meet face-to-face over video and to collaborate virtually online to share files, ideas and business plans. Being in control of your own destiny has never been easier, with Brief at your fingertips.
3. Should I change industries altogether?
Have you’ve looked at your role, your skill set, your company and still haven’t found that “aha” moment? Is your passion for what you have been doing for the past few years just not there anymore? In that case, it might just be the time to zoom out and consider an industry change.
You may want to consider job opportunities that will take you on a completely different career path. Are you a budding politician but currently working as an actor? Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was. Or perhaps you’re itching to write your own book but you’re a police officer today and can’t find the time. Well, famous author George Orwell took that step.
Perhaps you’re in finance but your true passion lies in baking pastries. What’s stopping you from pursuing what you love? Many women returning to the workforce after taking maternity leave are reinventing their careers or learning new skills to turn their side online job into their full-time work. Martha Stewart started out as a securities broker before she became a homemaking icon. Harrison Ford went from being a professional self-taught carpenter to starring in legendary roles like Hans Solo and Indiana Jones. Bestselling author John Grisham was first a lawyer before he sat down to write his first hit novel.
Assess your talents when making a career change
To make a career change across industries, examine your skill set and see what some of your transferable skills are. Are you an excellent communicator? Do you have a fantastic new startup idea that has not yet hit the market and you know you can make it a success? What coding languages do you know? Do you know a specific software tool that very few people on the market understand? Which of your current skills could be a unique selling point for the new industry that you’re considering? Having skills that are not common in your desired new industry could help make you valuable and bridge the gap on your resume.
Equally important is to assess what you will need to learn to make a career change – what skills or knowledge do you lack that can make this pivot a reality? You can overcome this by reaching out to people in that space to chat and network with them. After discovering the gaps in your experience or skill set, research how you can learn or acquire them. With online learning platforms like Coursera, Udemy, Khan Academy or LinkedIn Learning, it’s never been easier to learn something relevant for another role or industry.
If you are planning on starting your own business, do you have the funds to cover you for at least the first year of operation, do you need investors to back you, what sort of business plan will you need to develop and do you have the people around you to help you get it into shape?
If you are considering applying for a job in a different industry, think about the milestone experiences that have made you who you are today. How can you leverage that to make a career change? How passionate are you about this new industry and why? What do you see yourself doing to advance the industry as a whole? What value will it bring to your life? Carve out some peace and quiet in this busy, distraction-filled world and answer these questions.
You should be noticing an overarching theme: career changes really require honest introspection. Objectively analyze your interests, values, and skills. Know what is in your control and what is not. We waste unimaginable amounts of time on the latter and miss so many opportunities by overlooking the former. Once you’ve identified something that you think is right for you both in terms of passion and skills, go for it and make it a success! It’s never too late to bring more value to where you are, evolving your role or even taking on a new adventure in a whole new career or industry. You are the author of your life — make it happen.
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