I Need to Change Careers . . . So, What Do I Do Now?

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Does your job suck the joy out of your life like a Dyson vacuum? If you hold a typical Monday-Friday job, does Sunday evening fill you with dread? If you can’t even stand the thought of getting out of bed to go to work, then you might be ready to transition into another career.

If you’re fully convinced that you need to trade in your current ho-hum life for a new adventure, the options are endless:

·       Be a digital nomad and travel the world.Start a bed-and-breakfast.

·       Tutor people who are learning English as a second language.

·       Make and sell your jewelry.

·       Become a voice-over artist.

·       ????

You might have that career goal that excites you, but you could still be asking, “So, if I quit my job, what do I do next?” Figuring out your first steps can feel daunting. You can also get discouraged if you don’t take action soon enough and eventually waft back to your familiar but painful complacency.

Your first steps out of the gate will not be easy. But despite what you’ll have to go through to leave your current job, you will come out on the other side less stressed, more confident, and much happier. That’s why I’ve listed a few actions and reflections to help you get started.

You might even kick yourself for not doing it sooner! I know this firsthand.

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Get Out of Your Own Way

Most of us have internal dialogues. We might not say it out loud, but we talk to ourselves all the time. Unfortunately, some of the things we tell ourselves aren’t very nice:

  • “I’m not good enough.”
  • “I’ll run out of money.”
  • “I don’t have the right education.”
  • “If I get a client, I’ll just mess up and lose them.”
  • “Everyone will think I’m crazy for doing this.”

These and other such thoughts are limiting beliefs. They can thwart your progress, rob you of confidence, and restrain your potential. A limiting belief reflects at least one fear you have about making your change.

Dr. Andrea Brandt, a marriage and family therapist in Santa Monica, CA, recommends tracking your emotions to identify the negative thoughts and feelings that no longer serve you. Instead of ignoring a limiting belief, say it aloud, write it down, or do whatever you need to call it out and face it head-on. When facing a negative thought or belief about yourself, ask these questions:

  • Where does this thought come from?
  • Does it support me or hold me back?
  • Does this thought motivate me to respond out of fear?
  • Can I replace it with a more accurate, productive belief?
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Stop Thinking and Start Taking Action

Don’t get stuck in thought once you’ve learned to arrest your limiting beliefs. While you need time to weigh your options, anticipate outcomes, and compare all the pros and cons, it’s possible to overthink things. You can end up in analysis paralysis, which refers to spending so much time examining your choices that you end up with no decision at all.

The best cure for analysis paralysis is action, but it can sound easier said than done. If a colossal decision like finding a new job seems daunting to you, break this huge task down into smaller chunks. You don’t even have to wait until you leave your employment to start taking action steps:

  • Revamp your resume.
  • Talk to some people who are already doing what you want to do.
  • Do some Google-searching for your new career.
  • Decide on your departure date.
  • Build your savings.
  • Develop your financial plan for the next 6-12 months.
  • Create a list of your professional contacts.
  • Clean up your social media accounts.

Each small action step brings you closer to your overall goal. Consider each milestone a small win. Accumulating these wins will empower you to keep going and strengthen your resolve.

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Tell Someone

Start with one person you trust. Nothing builds accountability like telling another person about your plans. They can lend you moral support and can an objective opinion when necessary. An accountability partner can remind you why you made the commitment, especially during times of self-doubt.

Remember that you don’t need to tell everyone about your plans. Some people might not understand what you’re doing and why, or worse, they might not be supportive. That’s okay; no one is entitled to your decisions, much less your justifications. You know best what to do with your career and any other aspect of your life.

Talk to Someone Who’s Already Doing It

If you’ve told a few people of your plans, you might be getting lots of advice—helpful or otherwise. Try not to be swayed too much by those who talk the most or the loudest. Instead, pay more attention to the people who already have the success you want.

That said, find three accomplished people pursuing the path or field that interests you. They could be folks you know or see on LinkedIn. Look at what they’re doing, saying, and sharing on social media. Who do they follow? Who are their mentors and collaborators? See if you can connect with them and get some personal advice.

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If you can find someone willing to sit down with you for a conversation, try an informational interview. They’ll likely give you a realistic view of their path and what they did to prepare for and move into their current role. Try your version of these questions:

  • What resources can you recommend?
  • Who are the thought leaders in your field?
  • What are the latest trends or innovations?
  • What are people in the area talking about right now?
  • What’s one thing you did you wouldn’t do again?

Look for People, Not Jobs

Opportunities do not float like clouds in the sky. They’re attached to people. If you’re looking for an opportunity, you’re really looking for a person.Ben Casnocha

Finding a mentor or expert to give you some advice can also open up opportunities. A well-meaning professional who’s already doing what you want might recommend potential employers, collaborators, or leads.

It took me over a year to piece together enough gigs to make a decent living as a freelance web writer. All but one of my current contracts came about because of a referral from someone I knew—not a faceless job application. That’s because I learned to utilize my network of colleagues and friends.

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While you might catch a break using sites like Indeed or LinkedIn, don’t just rely on sending out your cover letter and resume to faceless hiring managers. Let other people know you’re starting a business, looking for work, or offering freelance services. One of those folks might know someone who would pay for your services. 

Get the Needed Training

Have you dreamed of being a voice-over artist? What about a logo designer? Having the raw talent will take you far. But you also need the knowledge and skills to put that talent to use effectively. If you haven’t yet left your job, consider studying or taking classes on the side. Sites like Udemy and Coursera offer many courses at reasonable prices. Some of them provide certifications to boost your credentials.

Start Small Before You Take the Plunge

You don’t have to wait until you’re out of your job to start dabbling. Start with a side hustle. For example, if you’ve always wanted to teach English as a second language, find an online format that allows you to tutor students on the weekends or evenings. If you want to be a freelance writer, go to sites like Content Writers and UpWork to write part-time. I had a side hustle as a content writer for years, and now I do it full time.

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Don’t Wait Until You’re “Ready”

There’s no perfectly convenient time to get out of your joy-crushing situation. If you keep waiting for that time when you’ll be really ready, you’ll be stuck at your job forever. Perhaps you’re worried that you don’t have every potential contingency figured out. While it’s essential to plan and anticipate everything that can go wrong, excessive overthinking can lull you into procrastination.

So, What’s Next?

If you know you need to get out of your job but don’t know what to do next, identify one small step you can take and act on it NOW. Soon, each small move (i.e., small win) will build on the previous one, and you’ll feel like you’re making progress. Just remember to get out of your head . . . and out of your own way.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Doug McNamee says:

    Well written article with lots of good advice. You’ve really advanced as a writer over the year or so you’ve been doing this, I’m glad you are doing so well. And if you’re actually making a living doing this, that’s great. I truly hope you have even more success as time goes by.

    Liked by 1 person

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