Stop Whining: 10 Steps to Changing Your Career


Yes, you’re stuck in a career that you hate. Your spouse, partner or friends have heard the stories. Lame boss, stupid job, funny (and ridiculous) co-worker stories. Yes, we all know about your dead-end career with no prospects!

Complaining is a great way to vent. But do you talk about that other career path that you could/should be on? Is there another job that you really lust after but never really do anything about?

Look. It’s possible. I’ve significantly changed careers three times. And you CAN make a major career change if you are willing to back up your words with action.

For those who are willing to act, read on. If not, you can stop now (but please share this with your more motivated friends).

The ten steps to a “no whining” career change:

1) Look in the mirror — what do you really care about?

In order to even consider a major career change, you need to take a step back and evaluate your motivations. Why is your current career unsatisfying and what makes the other career exciting?

When I stopped working in the entertainment industry and sold my car and bought a plane ticket for Japan in 1992, I was looking for 1) Adventure 2) To get out of LA, and 3) A job that paid consistently. I was working as a temp worker for movie and record companies at that time and the career prospects were limited. My next job at that time was going to be teaching English. It doesn’t sound like much of a career path, but the Japanese-language skills that I picked up while there led to a job at Sony Electronics and then to another high profile job with another Japanese company after that.

The most recent time I changed careers, I was looking for a role in a growing industry (online marketing) vs. a shrinking one (computer hardware).

So at this current point in your career, what’s attractive to you about your dream career? Is this other career going to deliver what you’re looking for?

· Money — does the new career offer higher paying opportunities down the road than your current track? Is this your primary motivation?

· Recognition/Prestige — is your dream career more prestigious and is that what’s important?

· Industry upside — being part of a growing industry. This was important to me in my last change.

· Perks, Adventure — certain careers may pay less but offer great perks. Is this what you want?

· Flexibility — I know people that aim for careers that give them flexibility (like real estate or consulting). Is this you?

· Stability — a steady paycheck and job security.

· Impact — the ability to make a large impact on some industry or issue.

· Amount of Work — lighter (or heavier) workload.

· Benefits — access to better benefits.

· Contact with new people — if you’re an extrovert you may seek out more contact (e.g. sales or business development). If you’re an introvert, you may look for roles with less contact and no cold calling!

· Leadership — the opportunity to lead.

2) Look at all of the Cons of your “dream career”

The grass is greener syndrome is surely something that we all can fall prey to. We glamorize the other career or job and we downplay the potential negatives. For example, we may glamorize a sales role because of the front line aspect and the demand for great salespeople. But can you handle making multiple cold calls every day? Can you handle rejection over and over again?

We may look at the medical field as a great one in terms of demand (nurses are in short supply) but consider also things like night or weekend hours, being around unhappy patients (and family members) with a variety of illnesses, and the stressful situations that you’ll be put in. Also, the education requirements may be too much of a hurdle.

Consider all the pros and cons of each career path and try to honestly evaluate the negatives in depth. If you still feel good about the career after this process, then great!

3) Educate yourself in every way possible about the new career

Assuming you’re serious after #’s 1 and 2, start to educate yourself about this new field in every possible way. First, cover all of the free resources like blogs, YouTube and industry sites.

Then, find some of the top books and training courses that will give you a great foundation related to this business. Don’t be afraid to spend a little money. I find that the paid resources (if chosen well) will typically accelerate your learning as they quickly go beyond the surface level that free resources usually offer.

Hint: I usually pick up a variety of training materials in different formats (books, videos, DVDs, podcasts, etc.). When I get bored of one format, I can switch to another and keep learning without losing a step.

Note that you will need to do a lot of this at night or on weekends. If you’re not prepared to do that, a career change may not be for you.

4) Find a mentor and tail them (either in real life or online)

Next, you should find a mentor — either in real life (if possible) or someone you can follow online. Ideally this is someone in your industry who can provide some real lessons about your chosen career path.

If it’s someone in real life, maybe it’s a friend or contact. You could offer to help them with some small tasks in exchange for help getting into the industry. Or maybe you can play to their ego to get a couple of short meetings where they give you some true insight into what it’s like to work in that field.

If it’s someone online, you need to find someone who communicates about the industry and what it’s like to work in it. They need to be a teacher, speaker, blogger or author who you can follow to learn from via their presentations, courses, blog posts, videos or by engaging with them in a forum or group.

In one career change, I learned from a book about the new field. In another case, I followed several bloggers, teachers and speakers and soaked up as much as I could about the industry.

5) Practice on someone. Anyone.

Now that you’re in training and hopefully have one or more mentors to learn from, the next step is to learn by doing.

Depending on the career, you can be a guinea pig yourself, work with a friend or family member, or find a free or paying client to work with. You should start small and make it clear that you’re in training so the expectations don’t get set too high (and get you in trouble with your “client”).

Some examples:

· If you plan to trade stocks as your next career, you could set up an account on one of the stock-trading sites where you can test your investment approaches with limited financial risk. Or you could do some investing on your own account where the potential losses may provide even more valuable lessons.

· If you plan to do career coaching, you could work with a friend or contact pro bono.

· If you plan to do construction, you could find some part-time work on days off or weekends to get a taste of the real thing.

6) Get some credibility in the field

Now that you’re really getting serious about your new field, you need to build up some credibility. One way is to produce some content for your new field that you could share publicly or with potential employers. For example a blog is one way that I gained credibility for my online marketing consultancy. A friend of mine broke into the wine industry by producing a high quality white paper on the wine business and using that to get his foot in the door at a top global winery.

Other ways to gain credibility include attaining certifications or completing training programs. There will be a cost, so be prepared to pay.

7) Network with people doing your job now

In addition to one or more people that you follow, you also need to begin networking in your industry. One way that I did this when I was making a career change from computer hardware maker HP, to become an online marketing consultant was to attend local conferences, meetups or other networking groups. In addition, I networked online in groups on LinkedIn and Facebook focused on this industry.

8) Honestly assess your ability / get feedback

At various points in this process you need to both assess your own abilities as well as to get honest feedback from your guinea pigs or mentors. Are you doing a good job? Do you have the potential to be great? What are you missing that would make you better suited for the next role in the industry?

9) Set a hard deadline for yourself and find your path into the industry

There are several ways to seriously enter this new industry. They include:

· Get a job in field (possibly at a lower level than your current job)

· Do an internship

· Work in your target industry part time while you’re in your current job

· Take the leap and start your own business

· Go to school (like an MBA or nursing school) which will naturally lead to new opportunities upon graduation

So plan your approach and set a hard deadline. Use this deadline to motivate you to get the information, confidence and credibility markers in place. Treat this change seriously and don’t blow it off!

10) Execute on your plan

Do steps 1–9 proactively and consistently to make your career change. Plan your transition carefully and consider the worst-case scenarios before you make the change. In other words, if your plan fails after the first 6–12 months what’s your plan B? Will you have gained anything (e.g. real life learning) that will pay off for you in the future even despite a bad start?

Ready to begin?

Resetting to a career path that is more in line with your goals and motivations is extremely fulfilling and can be kind of an adventure. Don’t allow laziness, the opinions or others or lack of confidence hold you back. You can achieve it, and the steps above are designed to give you the necessary skills and confidence for you to get started. Good luck!

About the Author:

Tom Treanor is the Director of Marketing for Wrike project management and collaboration solutions. He has lived to tell about his 3+ career changes. Follow him on Twitter.com/RtMixMktg to learn more.

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