When it comes to career change, I have a pet peeve.
With hundreds of 'how to fall in love with your work' self-help books and articles available, there is great emphasis on discovering the "clues", or attributes that describe your values, work preferences skills and passions. But there is almost no emphasis on how to constructively get these clues to work for you.
It's almost as if there is a presumption that knowing your attributes will automatically result in a host of exciting, viable work possibilities. But most anyone who has struggled landing on a new career direction can tell you, this is not the case.
There are five reasons why seekers get stuck in trying to land on their best-fit career:
1. If you are attempting to figure things out for yourself, you are only one person, with one perspective and one work history. Yet, by its very definition, career change means that you're navigating uncharted waters. It is virtually impossible to 'just know' options that fall outside your realm of experience.
2. You may be working with too few and/or very broad clues, when, in fact, you need a robust list of very specific clues.
For example, as a career counsellor, I often hear "I love working with people." In return, I ask "How do you like to work with people? Training them? Influencing them? Serving them? In a group, or one-on-one?"
These are all very different ways of manifesting one's desire to work with people, and lead to very different work possibilities.
3. Career change has many dynamic variables. What you like to do; what you're qualified to do; money issues; timing; fears – just to name a few. And it's problematical to try to juggle too many dynamic variables in your head.
Would you try to complete a jigsaw puzzle in your head? Of course not. You work with individual pieces, looking them over in minute detail, feeling the edges and trying them out in different places. And often, isn't this true, your mom or brother peers over your shoulder and immediately sees a fit that you've been in search of for hours!
Take this same approach with your career "pieces". Examine them closely. Look for the fluid vs. hard edges. Get input from knowledgeable friends and colleagues. Move out of your head into the streets, asking questions and opening yourself to feedback from people who have different, and broader, perspectives than you.
4. Your difficulty may be intrinsic to how you are wired. Some people have compelling interests and preferences that allow them to zero in on work options rather easily, while others have interests and preferences that are strong, but maybe not compelling. This latter group may well have a greater challenge deciding on their 'best fit' path. (Note this is not necessarily the same as the proverbial "Jack of all trades, master of none". Jack, may, in fact, have both broad and compelling preferences.)
5. Finally, when your ideal career remains elusive…confusion sets in, then frustration. Both of which prevent clear thinking and keep you stuck.
At this point, there are two options for moving forward, both of which involve reaching out for help.
Option #1 is to seek out professional career counselling where you can take meaningful vocational assessments, that map to vocational categories as well as REAL JOBS.
This might be from a college counselling office, a community resource or a professional counsellor or coach. The costs will vary, but this investment in your career, and ultimate happiness, will repay you quickly and in spades.
If professional help is not realistic for you, try Option #2. Be disciplined and pro-active with your own reading and research, and actively seek input from a small group (two or three) of business mentors, all providing objectivity, and each providing different perspectives.
This approach will likely take longer than Option #1, but it will put you in action – which is an absolute criteria for a successful career change.