Avoid This Rookie Career Change Move
A few weeks ago, I wrote about these common costly career change mistakes that stop most people before they even get started.
But maybe getting started isn’t an issue. Whether motivated by the pain of your current situation or optimism for where you want to go, you boldly set off on your career change journey.
Then, without fail, a roadblock appears. You get passed over for a dream job (or several) in the final round. Your perfect cover letter and immaculate resume don’t even get a response, let alone an interview. You finally think you've found the right career, then you lose interest.
For the savvy seasoned career changer, these roadblocks are mere opportunities to figure out a different way to navigate. Unfortunately, the career change rookie views them as impassable mudslides. They throw their car into reverse and head back from whence they came, taking it as a sign that what they want for their career just isn’t possible.
This approach to career change is—to use the formal coaching term—ridiculous.
Yet so many people see these barriers and stall out, resigning to stay miserable, overworked, and underpaid (or worse, paid well to be miserable and overworked).
Career change takes work, and not everything will go as planned. Contrary to popular belief, the biggest career change mistake has nothing to do with failing big or failing small or having to course correct or any other imagined or real detour on your career journey.
The biggest career change mistake you can make is allowing yourself to get derailed.
Here are 3 simple techniques to avoid career change derailment (and how to get back on track if you're already there).
1. Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
Creating a Career Dream Team—a trusted network of champions, partners, role models, and advisors—will help you understand your strengths and apply them in ways that you might not otherwise see. They keep you moving forward and help you when you get stuck.
Take a look around.
Are you surrounded by people who are miserable in their jobs?
Are you surrounded by people who don’t understand why you’re miserable in your job?
How are these people going to help you get where you want to go? Don’t waste time or energy on those that don’t get it or who are themselves settling.
Seek out people who have already found a way out or who are actively working to do so.
Surround yourself with people you want to work with and for. Recruit trusted friends and former colleagues to stand by for that much-needed pep talk and reminder of how much you have to offer. Consider seasoned veterans with the willingness and ability to help…and rookies with stellar attitudes, can-do enthusiasm, and relentless drive.
Make it your job to know what each member of your Career Dream Team wants, make sure they know what you want, and make it an objective to actively search for the intersection between the two.
Your team doesn’t need to be huge. Start with one trusted partner, then build from there.
One of the biggest refrains I hear from people in the midst of career change is, “Thank you for telling me I’m not crazy for wanting _______.” No, you’re not crazy for wanting to be valued, respected, and get paid for work that makes an impact.
What’s insane is distrusting our own career and life aspirations because of others. Yet, so often, we second-guess our paths because the people around us either don’t get it or are too scared to try.
Who’s on your team is up to you. Strategically and methodically build your dream team with people who support your goals and are committed to helping you make them a reality.
2. One Small Step For Momentum, One Giant Leap For Your Career
In any career change, momentum is key.
The reason a lot of people struggle is that they want to do it in 3 easy steps. Or more accurately, one giant leap.
You're not sure what you want, but Advertising has always intrigued you, so you talk to some contacts. Their jobs sound fun and challenging. Buoyed by the idea that you’ve found your path, you read the job descriptions of several advertising positions, and almost pass out from boredom. You immediately conclude that Advertising must not be the right career for you.
You’re passionate about the environment. You find a couple of not-for-profits, but the few job postings you find are asking for advanced degrees you don’t have. So much for a career working to protect the environment.
You’d love to do something creative. But your parents insist that the ups and downs of the economy will wreak havoc with your income stream and suggest you look for something more stable. You fear they're right.
I hear examples like this all the time, and what’s worse, people get so demoralized that they want to quit trying altogether. They try to get the entire answer in one go and end up feeling like there’s no answer at all (other than everlasting career boredom and unhappiness).
Aside from the numerous avoidable career change pitfalls included in each of these, they’re all examples of trying to jump straight to the outcome rather than taking multiple smaller, strategic steps to the goal.
Try taking one focused action each week that moves you closer to your goal, starting with getting crystal clear on what you want and why. Small, consistent steps build the habit and produce a ton of small wins that keep you motivated.
Especially in the early stages, it's much more important to set small goals and meet them than to aim for large goals you can't.
That said, if you miss a goal, don't beat yourself up. Learn from it, reset and keep moving forward.
As you build confidence and momentum, bigger leaps once thought impossible suddenly feel doable.
3. The Best Laid Plans…Make Lemonade?
Our third career change derailer illustrates the importance of having a plan...then being prepared for the plan not to go as planned…and then recognizing that often the unplanned plan is better than the original plan.
Let me explain.
A client in the beginning stages of her career change journey began telling people what she wanted (see #1 above).
She soon received an offer from a colleague for a part-time contract gig, a convenient bridge to bring in some cash and keep her skills sharp while taking the time to figure out her next big career step. Despite several days of feverish back and forth to agree the terms, the deal fell through.
Now she was discouraged, feeling like she was “behind” (despite that a few days earlier she hadn’t expected any opportunities to materialize for several weeks). As we talked about the experience, she revealed that the client she and her colleague would be working for actually sounded pretty nightmarish, and the terms of the agreement would have made her longer-term career change more challenging.
She also revealed how much she learned about her colleague during the process: that she admired the way he managed the challenging client, and he had walked away from the situation vowing to find something else for them to work on together.
While the initial opportunity didn’t work out as planned, it certainly seems like a bullet dodged, and now she’s developed a stronger relationship with a potential Career Dream Team member actively seeking to find work that meets both of their needs. That sounds like some delicious career lemonade to me.
The unexpected happens all the time in career change. Rather than labelling these events as bad or wrong because they’re not what you anticipated, I challenge you to find the opportunity in them.
From Rookie To Seasoned Veteran
Don't allow your career dreams to get derailed. Surround yourself with people and plans that help you take steady action to your goals.
Let me know how you do.
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