If You’re Thinking of Changing Careers

“It is this life-long search for, and journey toward, meaning, that lies beneath all the surface changes we make in our jobs, occupations, job-titles, and careers during our lifetime. We want our work—increasingly—to reflect who we most truly are.” ~ Richard Nelson Bolles, The 1993 What Color Is Your Parachute?

As some of you may know, I’m a career-changer (dunno if that’s a real term, but it gets the message across, haha). Five years ago, I shifted from nursing to psychology. I used to be a hospital nurse, but after a few months of working as one, I realized I wanted to do something else with my life. So I resigned from my nursing job and pursued my passion, psychology.

Now, I’m a licensed psychologist. Although I can not yet say that the transition is already complete, I’ve learned some things about changing careers (I’ve outlined 7 points) that I wanna share with those of you who are thinking of doing it as well.

“The basic question you always have to ask yourself, about your job, is: ‘Is this really what I want to do for the rest of my life?'” ~ Richard Nelson Bolles, The 1993 What Color Is Your Parachute?

1. You’ll need to do some serious introspection.

“If you want to know where your heart is, look where your mind goes when it wanders.” ~ Bernard Byer

Let’s get one thing out of the way first: I am speaking under the assumption that you want to change careers because you’re tired of being in a job so soul-sucking that you have to drag your feet to work every day, a job where you don’t get to exercise your natural gifts or ignite your interests and passions, a job which you only do for the money and don’t find any scrap of enjoyment doing.

If we’re on the same page about this, then hear! hear! The first thing you’ll need to do if you want to change careers is figure out what you really want to do for a living. This will need you to reflect deeply on your true passions, your innate gifts and aptitudes, and the skill sets you enjoy using.

If you want a more detailed way on how to go about this, read Richard Nelson Bolles’ What Color Is Your Parachute? I clung to the guidance of this book at a time I was lost, because I did go through a phase when I had no idea where to go next; all I knew was that I no longer wanted to be on the path I was in.

“Start instead by doing some hard homework on yourself, beginning with an inventory of the skills and knowledges you already have, and determine which of these are your favorites…It is so important for you to do your homework, identifying your favorite and strongest skills, before you choose a career, change a career, or go out to pound the pavement.” ~ Richard Nelson Bolles, The 1993 What Color Is Your Parachute?

2. Get ready to be broke.

Okay, that’s probably an overstatement, but take it as a friendly precaution.

If you’re thinking of changing careers, you’ll need to plan ahead and make arrangements about how you’re going to make the transition work, without starving yourself or your family in the process. Changing careers is not as easy or romantic as they make it look in the movies or the ads. You’ll need to be realistic about finances. See, changing careers does cost money, and there will probably be a time when you’ll just be spending and not earning, especially if (like me) you have to pursue further/other education first before you can transition to the career you want.

As you can probably imagine by now, the process will not be easy. But if you really want it, you’ll find a way.

“We always have choices. If you are not doing something, it’s because you are putting your energy elsewhere. The question is not: ‘Why is this impossible?’
The question is: ‘What am I unwilling to do?’
When you say: ‘I’ll do this thing. I don’t care how hard it is’, life then starts to support you.”
~ Andrew Matthews, Follow Your Heart

You have to be willing to tighten your belt a bit as you go through the transition. Sacrifice is the key word here. Changing careers calls for one major effort of delaying gratification—suffer now, but later take the gains of a life doing what you love while also earning what you need.

“Money is like gasoline during a road trip. You don’t want to run out of gas on your trip, but you’re not doing a tour of gas stations.” ~ Tim O’Reilly

3. You’re going to need to have it in you to START.

“Friend, there will probably never be a right time. Conditions will always be difficult. Obstacles will always be in your way, which you must overcome. It will always be a challenge, if you decide to launch out into the deep and mysterious destiny to which you feel called, by the dreams of your soul.” ~ Richard Nelson Bolles, The 1993 What Color Is Your Parachute?

All this talk about having a career that allows you to do what you love and live your purpose is inspiring and dreamy, but actually starting is a bitch. It’s easier said than done. Sometimes it takes a major, life-altering event before a person is jarred into deciding he doesn’t want to continue living like a zombie anymore, and wants to find something meaningful to do. Other times, all it takes is getting sick and tired of the daily run-of-the-mill, and wishing for a fire within to be reignited.

However it happens, the felt need to change careers would be useless if it’s not translated into action. You will need to start. As early as now, you have to realize what this really means. START.

“I decided not to wait a long time,
To wait for the mercies of God;
I simply took a broom in my hand,
and started sweeping.”
~ Russian Jew

4. You’re going to need to work very VERY hard.

“The universe rewards effort, not excuses.” ~ Andrew Matthews, Follow Your Heart

Unless you’re a very, very lucky (or a very well-connected) person, your new career will not be served to you on a silver platter. It’s likely you will have to start from the bottom rung of the ladder again (and sometimes it’s not even the career ladder, but the academic ladder). So here’s useful advice while you’re on this transition:

Be humble.

Don’t expect to just be given things or positions; know that you need to prove your worth first.

Educate yourself, develop relevant skills, reach out to people in the field, make the most out of the opportunities you’re given.

And again—I can’t stress this enough—stay humble.

“Start anywhere you can. Give your best shot to whatever is in front of you, and opportunity will begin to find you. It’s called developing a reputation. It’s called ‘One thing leads to another.'” ~ Andrew Matthews, Follow Your Heart

5. You’ll need to make the same decision more than once.

The road to a new career is not a straight one. Especially if you were in your old career for quite a time, opportunities to revert back to it will pop up while you’re trying to get to a new career. Maybe some of those opportunities can help you weather through the transition, but most of those will only serve to detract you from your path. Because life will need you to answer the same question again and again:

What do you really want?

If your will is strong and your heart is really in it, your answer will be consistent.

“If you believe that you have something special inside of you, and you feel it’s about time you gave it a shot, honor that calling in some small way—today.

If you feel a knot in your stomach because you can see the enormous distance between your dreams and your daily reality, do one thing to tighten you grip on what you want—today.

If you’ve been peering down the road to Must but can’t quite make the choice, dig a little deeper and find out what’s stopping you—today.

Because there is a recurring choice in life and it occurs at the intersection of two roads. We arrive at this place again and again.”

~ Elle Luna, The Crossroads of Should and Must

6. Some days, it will feel so agonizingly slowww.

“There are many trails up the mountain, but in time they all reach the top.” ~ Anya Seton

I am actually feeling this slowness right now. Haha. And I’ve felt it countless times before in my transition, mainly because I refused to go for things which I knew would only detract from my path. Be careful of those opportunities which seem inviting, but are actually just “fillers”— things to do just to make it seem like you’re busy, but are actually diverting your focus and energy away from what you really need to do to make it in your new career.

Accept that there will be slow days, slow weeks, even months when it feels like you’re not moving forward. Just as it is important that you know how to start and work, it will also be as important that you know how to wait.

“Moving fast is not the same as going somewhere.” ~ Robert Anthony

7. It really is worth it.

“The more you resist or try to ignore a crisis of meaning and purpose, the more tenacious it gets…Instead of putting up your defenses, facing a crisis of meaning and purpose can dramatically improve your life. Though your world may seem in turmoil, a deeper sense of understanding and inspiration can emerge. A crisis of meaning is not a breakdown but an opportunity for breaking through.” ~ Harold Bloomfield, The Achilles Syndrome

My own journey of changing careers was triggered by a crisis of meaning and purpose. The more I fought it and tried to stay on the same path, the more I disintegrated as a person.

But when I decided to listen to the voices within that I’d been ignoring, and tried to seek my purpose and my own path, I found a sense of liberation and something akin to a rebreathing of new life into me. I don’t know if I could explain it all that well, but those who have been touched by even just a moment of honoring their passions and knowing why they’re here will understand what I’m talking about. And as Elle Luna wrote, once you brush up against something like that, your old life will no longer do. You will seek it, and your soul will not rest until the life you’re living is the one you’re meant to live.

“And finally, if our soul realizes its dreams, and we end up doing the work we really feel we were born to do, then we speak of our work as a vocation, or calling, which we often attribute to God—working out His purpose in us. Vocation refers to work which is the justification for our having been given life, and put on this earth. It is work as the deepest fulfillment of our being.” ~ Richard Nelson Bolles, The 1993 What Color Is Your Parachute?

So if you’re thinking of changing careers, know this: It will be hard. Damn hard, in fact.

But as the cliche goes—oh darling, how it will be worth it.

The Dreamers

“The Dreamers” Installation by Meilo Minotaur and CapCat Ragu in Second Life [Image by Wizardoz Chrome / CC BY-SA 2.0]

This entry is part of my undertaking a 30-day challenge Matt Cutts talked about at TED2011. The premise is to “think about something you’ve always wanted to add to your life and try it for the next 30 days.” I am challenging myself to post one blog entry a day for 30 consecutive days. 

Today is Day 20.

About the Author •

32 thoughts on “If You’re Thinking of Changing Careers

  1. Especially when you go to get your Diploma at 40 years old Carla…wow, didn’t that push some buttons to start with. Trying to get back into research and the memory crunching bits 😀
    But when I did, I finally started my Remedial Massage career, and I wasn’t going to ‘work’ anymore, I felt like it was a holiday each and every day, people would keep asking why I was so happy all the time 😀
    Great post 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    • Exactly, a career that involves work that doesn’t feel like work is the best! I’m happy to know you’ve found it in your own journey. It is rather rare. I guess the happiness you emanated came from the love you expressed through your work. As Kahlil Gibran put it, “Work is love made visible.”

      Liked by 2 people

      • I actually just ‘stopped’, and I mean the constant brain rush of I need money to pay for the house, pool, car etc and really looked inside and asked myself what do I really enjoy doing, and then imagined doing it day in, day out. And the healing of others was always on top. And the amazing part was once I started to come from my heart, so did the universe to me. Like attracts like ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Incredible post!!!! Le wow.

    I am at that cross roads myself, in a job that isn’t bad at all. But which is changing into something that doesn’t match the person I’ve become (which matched what the position was originally). Lol. Anyway, it wasn’t meant for any kind of forever so it’s just as well.

    I have an idea… what I’d like to do… but my grieving process was ravaging that as well. So I started individual grief counseling yesterday as that first step. Aiming to get my head back, so I can take those other steps, which are essential.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes, I think you’re on the right track, taking care of your own healing first before you jump into a major change in the career aspect. It’s good to hear you’ve taken concrete steps to help yourself through your grieving process. Thank you for dropping by. Sending you love! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • MistressoftheInk – Kind of hoping now, there is a way one can be pieced back together effectively enough to run the car. In between that time and now, my father passed away too (feb 1).

        And the grief therapy was for processing the death of my mother.

        So let’s hope the therapy spurs on an out of the box kind of healing, allowing me to re-invent this person.

        But you’re doing GREAT with the 30 day challenge!! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks so much for this. I am in this exact frame of mind now. I’m in my late 20’s and have been in my career for 6+ years now and it’s all I know. But I hate it. It’s full of the most stressed, mean and thankless people. I posted about a panic attack I had at work a few days ago and this is all because I’ve known for a while now that I want to change careers and yet, I’ve still taken these jobs when they come up. (I’m a freelancer, which makes it sound like quitting would be easy but it’s really hard to stop getting that paycheck). So thank you, reading this has filled me with so much hope.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m sorry to hear you’ve had to go through that. It must be so difficult to be in the kind of job you described. I mean, to hate it is one thing, but to have mean and thankless people there as well is another challenge to have to deal with. Thanks for sharing your experience. I’ve been a freelancer too, so I know what you mean about quitting not being that easy.

      Maybe you could start by building up your savings first, either by taking on more projects, or lessening your expenses (or both). That way, you could later buy yourself some time, when you don’t have to take on new projects and just focus on transitioning to a career you really want. I really hope you get to be in a career which doesn’t feel so toxic to you! Take care of your mental health.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s very helpful.
    I m on my heels of graduation and have lots of passions. But going to begin with something in commerce field.
    Does multi passionate and career changers fall into same category?
    Sending positive vibes 💫

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s a great question. Yes, some career-changers are multi-passionate people (or as a TED speaker calls it, multi-potentialites), but not all of them, I think. For example, I was a career-changer because I set out to find my “one true calling,” but if you have lots of passions in varying fields, then maybe you’ll be switching careers later to get to experience all of them.

      Begin with what you think is best for you to pursue at this time, then keep yourself open as you go along… You’ll feel it in your gut when it’s time to pursue a different passion. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. As someone who changed career last year, I completely agree it isn’t something which is a easy hop, skip or jump to success. Before I left my previous job, I wrote myself a letter one day detailing exactly why I hated that job and the stagnation it was causing me. When it got hard and I thought about reverting back to what I had done previously, I’d jump to that letter to remind myself what it was all for.

    I feel like I’m out the other side of the tunnel now and beginning to see the light! To those who are going through that struggle, stick with it – you’ll get there!

    Fantastic post – you have a new follower! 😛

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you so much for reading and sharing your own experience, James! The letter idea is great; I wish I’d thought of that, too! What I managed to do was read back a couple of my journal entries during the time I struggled so hard with deciding whether to change careers or not. It helped, but I think writing a letter specifically for the purpose you mentioned would’ve been a lot better.

      I’m still struggling even up to now (so maybe I’ll make that letter, after all — better late than never), but like you I’m beginning to see the light! All the best on your journey! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you so much for this post. I loved it! I have been in this state of mind for awhile now. But I am still going to be in my old career. It can be a rewarding job at times but it’s not where I want to be and what I want to do. I found this post inspiring.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi there, Selene! I’m so glad you found this inspiring. I think that’s a good plan you’ve got there. You can continue being in your current job, while figuring out your options and preparing for what you really want to do in the long run. Hope you find that path towards living your passion! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Guest Post: If You’re Thinking of Changing Careers – MiddleMe

  8. Oh my gosh! I am hearing myself talking. This is exactly what I am feeling right now:

    “My own journey of changing careers was triggered by a crisis of meaning and purpose. The more I fought it and tried to stay on the same path, the more I disintegrated as a person.”

    I have not yet taken that bold step to START, and I know that the only way I can get through this crisis is to walk in the direction of finding meaning and purpose.

    You have expressed this well and I will keep these insights in my mind. Thank you very much!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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