“There are lots of things I’d like to do, but how do I know which one is right?”
“Is a change of career actually the answer or should I just try to make the most of my current job?”
“What if I put all my energy into trying something new and I don’t like it?”
In our quest for a more fulfilling career, uncertainty can be totally disabling, leaving you in a state of confusion and worry. Like wading through a swamp, it can be a frustrating and exhausting experience. So how can you manage your doubts and fears in a way which enables you to draw strength during uncertain times?
Sure, doing some planning around your career change is important, but it is equally important to recognize that there are some things that the best laid plans simply can’t pre-empt. Unlike the careers of our parents’ generation, which could be planned in a far more predictable and linear fashion, careers today are fast-changing and ever-evolving. It is predicted that today’s university students will have had ten to fourteen jobs by the age of 38. Many of these jobs will be jobs that don’t even exist today, let alone those that can be planned for. Given this reality, approaching your career change with a sense of adaptability and openness is a far better strategy than planning a linear sequence of events that could easily be disrupted. We live in a new world of ubiquity made possible by technology, and in this climate, the name of the game is adaptability.
It’s a common situation. You invest years in a career, and then wake up one day to realize that the joy you once felt for your work has completely left you. While you once thrived on the challenges of your role, you now feel bored, frustrated or fatigued. This feeling of a ‘false start’ can be frustrating and disheartening, but working through a process of finding the ‘right fit’ is an important part of successful career transition.
Sometimes you need to try different things on for size to know what you like and what turns you off.
Sometimes this might mean investing a number of years in a particular career before changing course, and sometimes it might mean trying a few different things in short bursts to try to hone your interests further. Regardless of your situation, there are valuable lessons to take from these experiences. Being able to identify what you don’t like is equally as valuable as learning what you do like, and can help you to narrow down your vision of where you’d really like to be with your career. In addition, chances are you will have gained a number of transferable skills that will be helpful to you in your next move.
As many of us know all too well, career change can often result from a situation that was thrust upon us. Not only do we live in a world of rising unemployment, redundancies, and whole industries collapsing (who would have thought five years ago that banking or the motor industries were anything but ‘safe’?), but we have to navigate the personal impacts these changing times have on us.
Losing your job or having your career options curtailed by industry changes can be a demoralising experience. But it can also offer us hope. Eighty-six per cent of career changers participating in a recent study said that adversity was a catalyst for them to find something meaningful and positive. Forced change and feelings of disillusionment, disappointment and anger provoked actions which ultimately enabled them to find much more meaningful vocations. Adversity brings with it valuable opportunities to discover who you really are and what is important to you. Make sure that you seize the opportunity to reposition yourself positively.
The power of coincidence should not be underestimated in the search for career success. Everyone has heard stories about people who managed to secure great jobs through the most unexpected opportunities. During his career change, a friend of mine was rejected from all 250 IT programming jobs he applied for. Yet shortly thereafter, a chance encounter with patrons in a restaurant where he was waiting tables led to their offer of a programming role with their company. He started his new career with them the next week, and has never been happier. One conversation gave him exactly what he was looking for. Staying positive, focused, and being careful to present yourself well in every interaction can yield unexpected benefits.
So remember, while uncertainty in how to approach your career change may leave you feeling overwhelmed, you are not alone. There are plenty of others slogging through the Uncertainty Swamp with you. But by using uncertainty to your advantage, you can create a more fulfilling career for yourself. Embracing unexpected changes will leave you far better positioned to adapt quickly and successfully to an ever-changing world of work. Your previous career experience (your ‘false starts’) is a powerful lever in learning about what makes you tick and redefining your career. Above all, stay positive, focused and be sure to put your best foot forward. You never know when your energy and focus will lead you out of the swamp and through an open door.