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3 Ways to Fail at Career Change (and what to do instead)

This is a three part series on the common errors that you could succumb to when changing career. Avoiding these will make your transition quicker and more fulfilling. Part 1.

Career change, career coaching, job search, careers, new job

1. Spend countless hours trying to figure out who you are

You do endless personality tests, soul searching, contemplation. You figure out if you’re introverted or extraverted; you know whether you are a pragmatist or an idealist, you know that you are a kinesthetic learner. But having fallen down the rabbit hole of self-knowledge, are you any closer to knowing what kind of career would suit you? Probably not.

Instead: think about when you feel excited, enthusiastic and stress free at work. Finding your personality type might be an interesting way to spend some time. But time spent examining what you get excited about, where you feel comfortable, what motivates you, what makes you smile, and the kind of work you find fully absorbing is going to be more fruitful for career change. By doing this the focus is on what you want, not on what you should want according to your personality traits.

To be satisfying and enjoyable a job has to fit as closely to your values as possible. Start with what you value and enjoy, not with who you are.

2. Focus solely on your skills

This probably sounds counter-intuitive. But hear me out. I, for example, am very good at systems and patterns. I could start looking for work where I create systems or analyse and improve systems. I have actually considered this in the past. I have strong saleable skills in this area. But this is a subsidiary value for me.

I need efficiency. I require order. I’m a planner.

But my core values are around helping others to achieve and succeed, autonomy and independence, and opportunities for deep thought and analysis.

So, I need to work in ways that satisfy these values, while ensuring that my subsidiary values are also accounted for, without them representing the core purpose of my work.

If you focus on your skills rather than your values you are thinking about what is saleable to others rather than what is valuable to you.

Instead: Aim to do less of what makes you uncomfortable, and more of what makes you get fully immersed in your work.

3. Decide what you want based on what you hate in your current job

Hating your job might motivate you to make changes, but by simply looking at the opposite of what you have now, you may miss important things about what you actually want.

I’ve had jobs, for example, where I worked evenings and weekends. It gets old very quickly.

“I don’t want to work evenings and weekends” doesn’t tell you much about how you want to work though. It tells you which jobs to completely avoid, but it won’t tell you about the content of the job you want. I don’t like working evenings or weekends if I have to work to somebody else’s timetable (a shop shift on Sunday, Thursday night drama workshops – ugh, no thank you), but I worked last night until ten because I was enjoying myself and because I wanted to, because it was fully my own choice. What is bad for you in one role, might not be in another.

Instead: Think about why you hate aspects of your job. Get really specific. Usually it will be because it clashes with one or more of your core values. Seek value rather than simply avoiding pain.


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