How Your Network Can Help You Change Career Paths
The only constant in life is change. From small changes like tweaking your work attire to big changes like making a major career pivot, change is inevitable and something you should try to embrace when it comes.
The decision to change career paths is often driven by a strong hope and belief that a more meaningful path certainly awaits you. However, when the daunting nature of changing industries or roles sets in, so do your nerves. You get cold feet. You start to doubt yourself. Your excitement starts to wane. The unknown can be both exhilarating and scary. With so many future decisions on the line, making a career pivot into the unknown is a huge step, often taking a toll on you physically, financially, and emotionally.
However, no matter how lost you may feel in your career journey, you’re never truly alone. Someone is surely going through the same struggles as you. Someone else may have uncovered the answers to your questions. You just have to find the courage to reach out and find these like-minded individuals.
Building your network isn’t merely for the sake of creating new relationships or uncovering professional opportunities. Networking can help build your career support community too. When you’re intentional about connecting with people, you may be surprised just how much further you can progress with a little help.
Overcoming My Own Hurdles to Connect With Others
Whenever I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs test, I’ve consistently typed as a strong introvert. It doesn’t mean I don’t like enjoy spending time with people. I simply find that I most naturally refuel and reenergize when doing things on my own. So when it comes to dealing with issues in my business or my personal life, my natural tendency is to bunker in and try to figure things out all by myself.
For example, when I left the corporate world to launch my own business, I did a lot of reflection, planning, and researching on my own. I tried to figure out how to form a company, create marketing collateral, and set up my own podcast. In hindsight, this approach probably wasn’t the most efficient way to get anything done.
Reaching out to others felt a little less natural to me and required a lot of effort. Getting people to respond is hard. Finding truly helpful people is even harder. Earlier on in my career, I also found myself not always wanting to admit that I needed help out of fear I may seem lost.
However, the times when I did reach out to people made all the difference. A conversation with an expert was way more useful than hours of my own research. Instead of trying to figure out all the tax nuances of running my own business, I reached out to a tax consultant who clarified things for me within an hour. Instead of trying to figure out which media host to use for my podcast, I had a quick chat with someone else who had been running a podcast for years to identify the top providers.
On an emotional level, I also found it helpful to connect with other people who have changed career directions. For example, when trying to build my own confidence as a self-employed business owner, connecting with other solopreneurs and entrepreneurs helped me understand my struggles were not unique. Also, just connecting with other people who stepped off the beaten career path made me feel less alone, which gave me some reassurance and inspiration necessarily to build some momentum when growing my own business.
Career Support Groups Matter
Creating a support network for yourself is important for your well-being. A lot of people who are in the midst of a career change-whether it be switching jobs or trying to start their own business-often tell me that following a non-traditional career path can be incredibly lonely and draining.
Self-reflection has its merits, but it can be clarifying to talk with someone too. You’d be amazed at how much value you can gain by surrounding yourself with the right people who share your ambitions, understand what you’re going through, and can help support you along the way.
Reaching out to ask for help can accelerate your progress. Connecting with someone outside of your immediate network can offer you the refreshing perspective you need. Getting in touch with a mentor, a professional group, fellow alumni, or a seasoned expert in a relevant field can provide you with expertise to help you sort through questions you struggle to answer on your own.
Reach Out To Someone New
Jim Rohn famously once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Life is short — surround yourself with the people you admire, the people doing the things you want to do, and the people living the life you want to live.
More importantly, push yourself to reach out to someone new this week. Get in touch with someone whose career is in a place where you want to take yours. Connect with someone who’s successfully tackled the challenges you’re wrestling with right now. If you don’t know where to find this person, start by identifying exactly what question you’re trying to answer, then simply ask those in your existing network for ideas of who may be well-positioned to assist.
Building a professional network is not easy. But with enough time, patience, and effort, you may uncover the right connections who can provide the helpful perspectives you need to get your career moving in a new direction.
Originally published at Forbes