What’s Next? 3 Tips For Designing Your Next Career Change

Mary Wallace Jaensch, founder and Chief Design Officer of Last Big Gig LLC, shares her tips on navigating your next career change.

Many of us look back on our career paths as a sequence of serendipity and unexpected opportunities of which we took full advantage. We had plans and then life interjected people, situations, changes and possibilities we couldn’t have imagined. The good news is that for most of us, it all turned out well — providing the chance to grow, learn, thrive, achieve and contribute in meaningful ways.

Our challenge and opportunity looking forward as we consider our next career change, or as I say, our “What’s Next”, is to more mindfully design a path that simultaneously heads in inspiring, fulfilling directions while leaving space for the serendipity and unexpectedness that so often adds the juice to our experiences and lives. For most of us, the greatest hurdle is pushing past our innate fears of the unknown and unfamiliar. Here are a few tips to help you move past your fears and uncertainties to begin creating your new What’s Next possibilities more easily.

1.Believe it is possible to design a more inspiring, fulfilling What’s Next.

Many successful people are skeptical, even fearful, about their ability to create a new, inspiring, fulfilling What’s Next, particularly if they are interested in heading in a completely new direction. They wonder how they will succeed in new industries, communities or endeavors that don’t appear on the surface to build from their career experience. Often, people choose to play it safe because it feels more comfortable and familiar.

This was certainly true for me in 2013. I debated with myself — do I keep doing what I know, but find unstimulating or satisfying? Or do I try something new? I began to look for examples of people who made big changes, which was very inspiring. I conducted a survey with women of all ages and learned how many of us have the same desire to continue to grow and create new opportunities. I began to feel more confident and have spent the last 5 years building a new business — Last Big Gig.

Fortunately, research shows that one of the best predictors of success is past success, even in unrelated aspects of a person’s life or career. It is very possible for most people, and they do it every day. A recent Washington Post article provided several excellent examples of how possible it is.

2. Start with how you want to feel — not what you want to do

Too often career coaches and advisors start from the perspective of helping you figure out what you want to do. This can limit your set of options to what you already know and has the potential to create new opportunities that are comfortable but not inspiring or energizing.

Starting with how you want to feel in your new direction prompts new points of view, generates ideas you haven’t considered before, and initiates a process that has a higher probability of ending with an opportunity that will inspire and energize you. This approach is based on proven Design Thinking innovation tools and processes, created at Stanford University and the University of Virginia and vetted by many Fortune 500 companies. Refocusing on how I wanted to feel created a huge burst of energy to make a change. It helped me escape my own mind’s limitations and have the energy and passion to build something new.

Ruth Chang, Rutger’s professor of philosophy, has a well-watched Ted Talk on how to make big, hard decisions more effectively. She argues that more effective than rational pro/con lists, starting with imagining how you will feel after deciding one way or the other is a much better predictor of what will be best for you. Expand your possibilities by starting from the perspective of how you want to feel in your What’s Next.

3. Let go of old stories and everyone else’s beliefs about who you are

A key step to creating your What’s Next is moving past your old stories — how you have seen and thought about yourself and importantly, how other people see and think about you. Old stories keep us stuck in what we know, in what is familiar. As Einstein so aptly noted: you can’t create new solutions with the same thinking that created the situation you are in!

When was the last time that you experimented with a new story about yourself? Do you remember starting at a new school or a new job and recognizing the opportunity you had to “start over” and be someone new? Remember the energy and excitement you felt realizing how a new story created a panoply of new possibilities to try new things and have new experiences.

Letting go of your familiar stories — I am an expert in this area, I am too old to try something new, I don’t have a new passion, it’s time to retire, etc. — is an important step to creating the space for new opportunities. Think of it as doing a Marie Kondo (only keep what brings you joy) and throw all the other parts of your story away with gratitude for getting you to this point in your life career.

Whenever the time is right for you, confidently take your first steps to your most amazing What’s Next.

Mary is founder and Chief Design Officer of Last Big Gig LLC, passionately supporting seasoned professionals to design inspiring, fulfilling What’s Next at every career stage. Mary combines 30+ years of creating successful What’s Next for herself — from corporate marketer to serial entrepreneur — with proven Design Thinking tools developed at Stanford University and University of Virginia to design new possibilities and opportunities with her clients. Connect with Mary at www.MaryWallaceJaensch.com and join her community at What’s Next Your Way Facebook group.

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