There are people who are born knowing what they want to do with their lives. People who know, from day one, that they’d like to a banker, doctor, or firefighter. Those people are very, very lucky.
The rest of us are on a “great adventure” – a quest to find the work that makes us feel truly alive. A journey to create a professional life that is meaningful, enjoyable, and, hopefully, profitable.
And finding that career should be exciting, shouldn’t it? It should be an intriguing voyage of self-discovery – one that uncovers our deepest desires and the talents we can offer the world.
If that’s the case, why is it so… stressful? Why is choosing a new career so difficult?
3 Traps That Snag Career Changers
Here are the three traps that snag career changers – and ways to overcome them.
1. We Try To Imagine Total Professional Fulfillment
Daniel Gilbert, a psychologist at Harvard University, sums up his many years of research into one startling observation: people “dramatically and regularly mispredict the emotional consequences of future events, both large and small.”
Translation: “You won’t discover your dream job until you’re doing it.”
So, what does that mean for the career changer? It means you need to get out there and try everything you can! Not knowing what will motivate you can be a terrifying thought – that your next career move will be, at best, a guess – or it can be an exciting call to adventure: you will keep taking new opportunities until you find the professional work that makes you feel truly alive.
2. We Assume We Need More Education
As you’ve probably noticed, the cost of education has increased dramatically in recent years. Perhaps “increased dramatically” isn’t a strong enough phrasing – the cost of education has skyrocketed.
Most of us automatically assume that a new line of work will involve an MBA, a graduate degree, or some kind of additional instruction. After all, any career that will be financially rewarding should require extensive training, right?
If the thought of incurring more debt is causing your blood pressure to rise, here’s a simple solution: take schooling out the equation.
Explore areas of interest where on-the-job training is available. Take the “high level” skills you’ve accrued (ie, sales, management, customer service, etc.) and transfer them to an industry that intrigues you. Or, double-down on your interests and test the waters as an entrepreneur. The idea that you are locked into your current profession because a fulfilling change would require education is untrue. Schooling may be a requirement – especially for industries where licensing is involved – but it does not have to be a prerequisite to a satisfying career change.
Plus, when you explore careers that can be entered without further training, you begin to consider possibilities that would have otherwise remained hidden.
3. We Let Social Factors Influence Our Career Decisions
There’s an old saying that’s applicable to many of our life decisions, “Tell me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you what your future looks like.”
It is in our nature to be influenced by our social group, and to look to our peers to determine our next course of action. Many of us measure our success relative to our friends’ success, and while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it can foster ambition, creativity, and competition – it can be detrimental when it keeps us from finding our true calling.
Clare, 32, is a perfect example. “I was a PR exec and I loved every minute of it,” she says. “I worked 80-hour weeks and directed some global brands. But I kept having this weird daydream about being a high school teacher, and the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to give it a go.”
So, what kept her from making the switch from executive to teacher?
“Honestly, I didn’t want everyone to think I was a quitter,” she says. “My friends all make great livings, and the ‘shallower’ part of me wanted to keep up.”
The urge to “Keep up with the Joneses” isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if left unchecked, it can get in the way of finding your true passion.
If you’re considering a new career and you find that you’re stressed, RELAX. Misconceptions about a career change can take an invigorating quest and turn it into a nerve-wracking tribulation. Remember that every new job you take gets you closer to your dream job, that a new career adventure needn’t cost a dime, and that you are free to follow your passion wherever it leads.
Are you ready to get started?
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