“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:
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.
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 •