How to Know When a Career Shift is Right for Your Future

In a 2005 Stanford University commencement speech, the late Steve Jobs advised the young graduates to "find what you love." He explained to the audience that our lives are limited, that death would come for each of us. Death is a certain fact. What isn’t certain fact, continued Mr. Jobs, is how we each proceed with the time we’re given. In the speech, Mr. Jobs told the students to "stay hungry, stay foolish" and to pursue a career that each loved. And Steve Jobs practiced what he preached - he did work he loved. Do you do work you love? Do you love the career you’re in now? Have you been thinking about a career shift but lack the confidence, the knowledge, the passion to take the first steps? Let Steve Jobs and my advice help you take those first steps. A successful career shift begins with The Now. The first step in the career shift process is to take an honest assessment of why you’re considering a change from your current career. Ask yourself a series of questions to help determine whether a shift is right for you. Example questions:

  • Are you unhappy in the job?
  • Are you bored? Feel unchallenged?
  • Do you want to make more money?
  • Do you like the work, but dislike the company culture or the people?
  • Do you like the culture and people but dislike the work?
Step two is to begin to introspectively look at your professional self. Ask yourself:
  • Who are you professionally?
  • What professional identity have you established?
    • Do you have a brand? Can you write it in one sentence?
  • What do others say about your professional identity/brand?
  • What areas bring you the greatest professional fulfillment?
    • More than just focusing on strengths, what work brings you joy, makes you feel strong?
    • What motivates you to succeed?
  • Who are your professional heroes?
    • Who do you admire and list why
Step three is to discover what you want your new professional identity to be.
  • Fill in the blanks: I want a career that has _______, _______ and _______.
    • Then focus your energy on learning about careers with these attributes.
  • List your talents, strengths and skills.
    • These are the cold, hard facts of what you have to offer in a new career.
  • Research careers that interest you. Do you need further training to be competitive? If so, seek out ways to gain the needed skills.
  • From the three items above, create a professional identity (branding) statement.
    • Start with “I am a ___________________________."
If during step one you determined that a career shift is right for you, and you’ve not only discovered who you are professionally, but are now able to articulate who you want to be, then it’s now time for The Future. Step four is to take action. You have some work to do to get the work you desire.
  • To do so you need to spread the word and let people know what you’re looking for in a career.
  • Put yourself in the middle of the crowd. Get out there and get some experience in the field. Volunteer, complete an externship or internship, perhaps freelance if available.
  • Network, network, network. And do so in a variety of ways. Attend community meetings where people in your desired profession will be, find out where the "movers and shakers" will be and be there, use social media – LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, etc… -- to connect with people in the new industry and to build your professional brand further.
  • Act on your career search every day. Create a strategy, break it down into "doable" steps and then carry out a step or two each day.
While the steps seem easy enough to handle, the decision to shift careers is one of the biggest you’ll make professionally. Don’t go it alone. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and discouraged by the process. Get a career consultant, find a friend who will support you and hold you accountable, or join a career support group in your area. Surround yourself with positive people, those people who will help keep you focused and will celebrate every step of the way. Above all, follow your dream and find a career that you love. Remember, to stay hungry for your dream, and to dream foolishly. You will find a life you love, not that you simply live. Lisa Lambert Snodgrass helps professionals and businesses achieve the next dimension of success. Founder of 4D Perspectives, Lisa is a professional identity coach, career shift specialist, keynote speaker, corporate trainer, and writer.Read more » articles by this approved career expert | Click here » if you’re a career expertImage from Gary Paul Lewis/Shutterstock
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