Daydreaming about a career change can blind you to the reality that transforming your professional identity is like going against the tide. Stability and familiarity are the enemies of change, and trying to reinvent yourself may stir up resistance in every aspect of your life. Achieve your goals by accepting that a career change is an experimental process, and diving in can help you avoid getting stuck in place.
Create Widespread Accountability
Starting over should feel liberating; but sadly, people you trust may be the biggest obstacles to your career change. Family obligations may consume all your time, while friends and mentors may impose their doubts upon you. People who know you as the supply chain manager or the fundraiser can also unintentionally steer you toward jobs similar to the one you're leaving behind. Overcome this problem with a two-tiered support system by sharing your goals with trusted contacts and connecting with other career changers outside your network.
Publicizing your goals makes you accountable to everyone around you, and it can help generate temporary income during your career change. Use your existing network to find opportunities for shadowing, informal interviewing, temp work and freelancing. At the same time, build relationships with people who understand your journey to fight internal and external resistance. Surrounding yourself with living success stories can make it easier to cope with lack of support from family or colleagues.
Balance Strategy With Self-Discovery
You don't have to reorder your life in a day, so avoid over planning so much that you never take action. Strategizing can keep you focused and position you to get tangible results, rather than struggling with passive, poorly defined goals. But unlike a typical job search, a career change takes significant time and soul-searching before a clear target materializes. You may see yourself as a people person and seek out customer-facing jobs, only to realize you enjoy helping people find product solutions but hate dealing with conflict-resolution every day.
Embrace Short-Term Thinking
Planning without doing can trap you in your old cycle of clinging to safe, stable situations. To make progress, set short-term goals that encourage exploration and require immediate action. For example, commit to attending a Chamber of Commerce event and asking three new connections about their experiences building a business, rather than simply reading about entrepreneurship. "Know thyself" is a lofty task that requires real-world experience and willingness to challenge your self-perception, so don't be fearful of uncertainty.
Rethink Your Brand
Successful professionals with a strong personal brand often have expansive or flexible job titles because they use diverse skills for many applications. Similarly, you can ease a career change by developing an adaptable professional identity focused on your interests and most valuable strengths. Instead of pigeonholing yourself as a corporate recruiter, explain how your past jobs and passion for storytelling inspired you to write career advice books or become a personal branding coach.
Starting over unleashes questions, fears and fantasies about who you really are. This sudden self-evaluation can leave you frozen in place, unable to prioritize your next steps and prone to falling back into familiar habits. A career change is often the product of years of misdirection and unsatisfying achievements, and it may take just as many missteps to find a meaningful, sustainable new profession.
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