At Let’s Talk Career, our experienced career coaches work with people whose goal it is to successfully transition into new careers. Often, people come to us with nothing more than a decision to make a change. They’re unhappy doing what they currently do and want to do something different. However, they aren’t yet clear on what that change looks like, or the path they need to travel to get there. That’s okay! As career coaches, we have the experience, skills, methodology and knowledge to help you sort everything out and assist you in your transition.
Based on our experience, here are the top five mistakes you can make when changing careers:
MISTAKE ONE – Not Reflecting…
There is famous dialogue between Alice in Wonderland and the Cheshire Cat, which goes like this:
Alice: “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
Cheshire Cat: “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
Alice: “I don’t much care where –”
Cheshire Cat: “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
Alice: “– so long as I get somewhere –”
Cheshire Cat: “Oh, you’re sure to do that if you only walk long enough.”
We see prospective career changers doing just this – all the time! They are so unhappy in their current careers that they just start ‘walking.’ They take action with no clear vision of where they actually want to end up. Their judgement that ‘anything is better than this’ is clouded. By walking somewhere – anywhere – they feel better because they are making a change. It’s a knee-jerk reaction. The truth is that this type of ‘walking’ or transitioning without a clear goal or plan is fraught with issues. The biggest one is that you remain unhappy and unsatisfied afterwards.
Having clarity around a prospective career change is critical. For successful career transition, you should reflect deeply on what you want.
You need to be clear on the following:
- the work you want to do;
- the environment you want to work in;
- the hours you want to work;
- the locations you are prepared to work in;
- the salary you want to earn;
- the role you want to play;
- the contribution you want to make; and
- the skills, aptitudes, talents and interests you want to use.
A quality career coach can work with you to create an ideal job checklist. This way, you can assess occupations, changes and opportunities as they present themselves against all these factors.
Not only should you have a clear idea of what you want, you should have researched what you need to do to get there. You need to have a clear map or plan. You need to identify where the opportunities are, what prospective employers exist, what skills or credentials are required and who to connect with to gain entry into your new career. Alice needed to know where she wanted to go, as well as have a map or directions to get there. A new career change is the same!
MISTAKE TWO– Not Researching…
We see it time and time again. Some people are influenced by the glossy educational institution advertisements, the publicity machines and the industry hype. They study hard to gain a new qualification, only to find that there are no entry-level positions in their new career. They haven’t taken the time to research their new occupation. They haven’t networked with those currently working in the industry. This means they don’t get a sense of the opportunities (or lack of) out there until after they have finished retraining.
Others find that their new career isn’t what they thought it would be. They didn’t take the time to understand ‘a day in the life of a …’ and now find that their new occupation is in fact as unfulfilling as the old one.
MISTAKE THREE– Not Being Realistic…
Many career changers bring transferable skills to their new profession. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that when you make a career change, you often need to take a step sideways or even backwards.
This may mean accepting roles with less responsibility, pay, seniority and prestige. People seem to forget that they sometimes spent decades establishing themselves in their careers. When they make a career change, they become frustrated that they have to ‘start again.’ As career coaches, we can appreciate their frustration. Unfortunately though, few employers recognise the transferable skills that mature workers can bring to their new professions. It is not uncommon for us to see people get frustrated at what they are being asked to do, or be, in the first stages of their new careers.
Career changers need to demonstrate a degree of patience. It is likely that you will fast track in your new career (based on your maturity, transferable skills and performance). That is if you don’t blow it by gaining a reputation for being difficult, unrealistic or immature in the early days. Understand that things take time and you have to prove your value, skill and competency in your new field.
MISTAKE FOUR – Not Playing To Talents …
Another common mistake we see with many career changers is their failure to reflect on and recognise their own unique strengths and talents. There is a lot of research in the positive psychology space nowadays that shows us that individuals who understand and utilise their talents and strengths tend to be more energised, motivated, happy and successful in their careers. It makes logical sense that if you have a natural talent for something, you ought to gravitate towards it, practice it and master it. Making a career change without understanding your natural talent is a total waste of what years of research has shown truly matters to career (and life) satisfaction. In their toolkit, a career coach will have values, identification tools, strength assessment tools and exercises to assist you to understand your unique talents.
MISTAKE FIVE – Not The Right Reasons …
You need to ensure that your intention to change careers is backed by solid reasons.
Firstly, don’t confuse hating the job you are currently in with hating your entire career. Could it be that you dislike your employer? Your boss? Or is it the actual work that you dislike? These factors don’t necessarily mean that you need to change careers. The same applies with feeling bored or lost in your current role. Take the time to analyse the situation before the flight response kicks in. If your analysis tells you that it’s definitely a career change you need, don’t leave your current job until you have a transition plan in place.
Secondly, certain careers hold an allure because of the salary and benefits that go with them. Don’t change careers because you are chasing dollars. You might make more money but if you are still unhappy, you’ll probably spend your dollars on fixing your deteriorating health due to stress.
Thirdly, do not let other people influence your career choice. Significant others will always have an opinion on what you should do. Remember that it is your life and your choice. You are the one that lives your job every day. If you make a career switch based on outside pressure and it goes wrong, you may end up resenting whoever pressured you in the first place.
Lastly, we naturally compare ourselves to others. Just because you know someone who is successful in a particular career doesn’t mean you will be. You can certainly consider it, but not doing the proper research first is fraught with danger. To think that the ‘grass is always greener’ could prove to be your downfall – this may not be the case in reality.
If you are considering a career change, you can avoid the top five mistakes by taking the time to:
- Reflect – understand yourself and the industry;
- Research – be clear about what you want;
- Realise – be realistic about the opportunities available;
- Recognise – know your unique strengths and talents; and
- Reason – make sure your reasons are valid.
By working with a career coach, you can ensure that you don’t jump straight from the frying pan into the fire with your next career change! Ensure that your new career is the right one for you and your circumstances.
If you are interested in discussing your career change situation, contact us today to book an appointment.
We would be delighted for you to reproduce our articles, as long as they remain intact and contain the author’s details as follows: ‘Kris Reynolds is Managing Partner at Let’s Talk Career (www.letstalkcareer.com) in Australia. Kris can be contacted on 1800 284 255 or firstname.lastname@example.org.