What is career change? We think of it as a sizeable shift in your career or job circumstances. It’s perhaps less of a tweak to your career path, and not just a case of more generalised personal development. When it feels complex and a little scary, that’s a good indicator of career change that’s significant.

Changing career can be fun and energising. Equally, it can be daunting and destabilizing. It all depends on your starting point, the sense of personal control you think you have, and your mental judgement about what constitutes successful change.

Over a series of four Notebook Mentor blogs, we’ll focus on career change advice that is both practical and planful. If you are thinking about making a career change, if you’ve set out on a path of transformation, or if you’re about to have career change thrust upon you, read our tips and insights, and complete our journaling challenges, to bring calm and preparedness to the journey ahead.


Career Change Scenarios

The first thing to note is that career change can come in many guises. We have no way of capturing the myriad of possibilities that your career change might take. Just consider these examples, as a starter for ten:

  • You are one year out of University. You took the first job offered on a graduate programme with a medium-sized engineering company in your local area. You started as a Business Analyst. Twelve months on, you’ve decided that business analytics isn’t for you and neither is engineering! You want to break free and move across into marketing, in a sector that is faster moving
  • You studied law at University and went on to take your bar exams. You like your job working in estates law, but you’d like to broaden into more generalist commercial law
  • You’ve been a manager for three years. You thought you’d like managing budgets and people, but you don’t. You want to stay with your employer if possible, but somehow you want to move into an individual contributor role. It might require you to retrain, but you are ok with that
  • You have been working for twenty years. You work in sales. It’s pretty much all you’ve known and you are pretty good at it. Despite success and good commission bonuses, the last few years have left you feeling quite hollow. You want out. You’re not sure what you want to do, but the idea of starting your own company has been gnawing away at you. Maybe now is the time?
  • You went on maternity leave with your second child three years ago and decided not to return to your job in finance. Things have changed for you now, and you could really do with a second income coming into the household. You’ve decided that it’s time to go back to work, but ideally in some kind of flexible working or part-time arrangement
  • You are heading into your late fifties. You are tired and bored of work – full-stop. You want to step back, but you have no idea how
  • You are twenty-eight, an IT graduate and on your fourth job. You want to get into a tech start-up where you can learn the ropes and in time, start your own tech business.

career change advice part 1

As the list above demonstrates there are so many possibilities when it comes to career change. For some, making a small modification to current circumstances might feel like a career change. For others, it might be about preparing for a completely new life. We make no judgement about your personal situation. If the change you are facing isn’t quite this dramatic or significant, and feels more like personal development, no problem. You can head over to our Blog, Career and FAQ pages on Notebook Mentor for more tips and advice. Read on if you think this article will be of help.


Your personal journey

Everyone is on a slightly different journey. Your experiences that have gotten you to this point will be slightly different from other people’s experiences. The support around you will be different. The financial resources or demands placed on you will be different. And your mental state going into any career change will be determined by the situation, whether you are the instigator of change, and whether you feel your circumstances are within or out of your control.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t think about career change in a structured way and be planful about the choices and decisions you make.

Over four blogs we will help you manage career change in four distinct stages.

Part 1: The Realisation Phase
Part 2: The Planning Phase
Part 3: The Transition Phase and
Part 4: The Reinvention Phase

You might like to start a blank notebook or use one of our career journaling books to help you get started.


Part 1: The Realisation Phase

Getting perspective

You’re thinking about, or are faced with, some kind of career change. Chances are there will be decisions to consider as things begin to hot up. Before you start your decision-making, it’s a good idea to reflect on how you find yourself in this situation. What thoughts have been going through your mind? What feelings have been lifting you up or getting you down? Are there things you’ve been consciously weighing up, or are things swirling around your unconscious, waking you up in a cold sweat?

career change advice part 1

Take your journal and answer the following questions:

  1. What has led to the current circumstances you find yourself in?
  2. Do you feel in control of what is going on? If you don’t, why is that?
  3. What are your thoughts about the situation ahead?
  4. What are you feeling? How is your mood?
  5. Are you happy and looking forward to any change that might happen?
  6. Are you feeling anxious for any reason (for example because of financial security, loss of status, or a change in personal identity?)
  7. Do you have a plan in your head about how you’d like this change to go? What happens in that plan?

Sometimes the build-up to any change can be the most daunting part of the whole process. You might think that you lack options – perhaps you have no idea what you want to do, or there are too many possibilities from which to make the right choice.

In these circumstances, it’s very normal for people to go through the ups and downs of a “change cycle”.

  • At the beginning, you feel fear or unexpected exhilaration
  • This could be followed by negative or unhappy thoughts. The idea of change begins to destabilise you
  • You then start to feel positive about exploring the different options open to you
  • You might then feel scared of making a commitment to move forward with the change
  • As you do your research, you build your resolve
  • In building your resolve, you start to get ready to embrace what’s new

These ups and downs can ebb and flow and not necessarily in any sequential or logical order. It’s perfectly normal – go with it, stay reflective and curious about your reactions, thoughts and feelings.

Knowing how you react to change

If you’re looking to change career it’s worth considering what might be in store, and how you typically cope with change. For example:

  1. Will you be financially impacted (in the short/mid/long-term?), and is this something of great concern to you given your current circumstances?
  2. Will your job title change? Will this change matter to you? For many, job title is tied up with identity and status. If this is the case, will your self-esteem be impacted for the better or worse?
  3. Will you be in a position where you can be more or less sociable (with colleagues, friends or family) and does this matter to you?
  4. Will your working arrangements change (for example, going from working on-site to working from home), and how do you feel about this?
  5. Will a change give you more spare time, or will it demand that you give up that freedom?

Think about change and how it may impact things that are important to you? What thoughts and feelings come to mind?

career change advice part 1

Being planful in the Realisation Phase will help you cope with change when it happens. It will also help you process the more difficult emotions that may arise – if you’ve already thought about the way you react, you’ll be able to manage those reactions with a greater degree of foresight.

Be especially thoughtful if you:

  • Tend to dwell on the negatives or focus on possible risks
  • Give yourself up easily to something new, sacrificing your health and wellbeing in the process
  • Procrastinate, avoiding taking that all-important step that helps solidify real change
  • Tend to play it safe because of your concerns for some of the scenarios we have already mentioned

As you decide how you typically react to change, think about the positives:

  • Will this be an opportunity for self-development and learning?
  • Will a new challenge refresh you, helping to ignite your motivation and energy?
  • Will this opportunity underpin working towards something that is important to you – like earning more money, building new skills or creating a broader network?
  • Will the change give you new freedoms you haven’t had before?


Factor analysis

For most people, if you’re making a career change, chances are you have some kind of career experience already behind you. Looking back on these experiences, what bearing does it have on the choices you are now facing? How do your achievements of the past measure up? One exercise that it’s good to undertake is a factor analysis of your past experience. Using the list below rank the factors in terms of:

(1) the importance you place on the factor and
(2) your view of your success with the factor, to date.

An example ranking is provided herein, where 0 is of no importance and with no success, to 5, which is of utmost importance and of great success.

Feel free to add your own factors to the list…

Where are the biggest gaps between “importance” and “success”? What does this tell you about how fulfilling something new will be?

If there is some degree of clarity to your career change, try having a go at this factor analysis based on your perception of what the change will mean to these key factors. Will the change gain you more qualifications for example? Will it provide further opportunities to gain material possessions or new friendships? What would these do to your feelings of future success?

Who are you?

Before you embark on, or embrace, career change (assuming you have the luxury) you might like to further explore the notion of your identity and get to know yourself better. For example, what roles do you perform today? You are certainly more than just a “worker” – you might also be a husband, father, sister, niece, daughter, yoga fan, journal writer, guitarist, blogger.

What do you value most within all of these roles? What might impinge those values or really bring them to life, making you feel good?

Know your values

Our identity is often bound to what we value – so getting clear about them is a good idea. Head over to Notebook Mentor’s downloadable read/write PDF Resource on understanding “Your Core Values”, and work out what matters to you. Knowing your authentic values will help you make the right decisions when the time comes. For example:

I value teamwork – so making a career change that sees you working alone and remotely will be really tough for you.

I value learning new things – so a job that is routine and monotonous will bore you quickly.

I value stability and repetition – so a job that is changeable or risky might feel uncomfortable

I value recognition and being appreciated – so working in a culture that is hard-nosed and lacking in empathy might be upsetting.

I value promotion opportunities – so an organisation that is flat, with little opportunity to progress into more senior roles, may not appeal.

What do you value most?

Next steps

Of course, we totally appreciate that you may feel that just “getting a job” is the most important consideration of all. If your situation is really less about managing a career change and more about just having a job, no problem. Head over to our blog and get started by reading our blog on using your network to find a job.

career change advice part 1

Start your career change journey with the Realisation Phase. Get perspective on your starting point. Know how you react to change. Complete a factor analysis of what is important to your success and how far you’ve come already. Understand who you are, your roles and your values.

In Part 2 of our Career Change Advice blog, we’ll be discussing The Planning Phase.

See you there.


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