In our first blog on career change advice, we discussed getting to grips with the Realisation Phase – or the idea that a significant career change is on the horizon.
If you completed the exercises in the Realisation Phase you should have a better understanding of:
- The forces that have created the impetus for change
- Your thoughts and feelings about what’s going to be different
- How you react to change and the things that trigger both positive and negative emotions
- Through factor analysis, an assessment of what’s important and what success looks like
- Further understanding about who you are and who you want to be
- Your values and how they might relate to your future happiness
Here in part two, we discuss the Planning Phase – looking at the road ahead, helping you to plan your journey and if possible, clarify aspects of your destination. The planning phase is a great time to define dreams and goals, as well as anchor yourself to the things you are prepared to work hard for.
Get out your career journal and let’s continue!
Part 2: The Planning Phase
At some point in your career change, either because your hand has been forced, or because you’re ready to commit, you have to plan and get ready for action. If you’re lucky enough to simply land a career change with little effort, you’re definitely in the minority. Don’t squander your good luck!
For the rest of us, as we start to solidify career change, the big question hanging out there is what road are we on and where exactly is it leading?
The road to somewhere
Our career change advice starts with helping you determine your career destination (or at least the general direction of travel). For this, it’s helpful to map your dreams and goals. Don’t be put off by coaches, management guru’s or business leaders who tell you that describing dreams, and setting goals is a waste of valuable time! We’ll get on to the things you’re willing to commit to and perspire over, all in good time! Right now, there’s no reason to limit your belief in what’s possible. As the saying goes:
‘All our dreams can come true – if we have the courage to pursue them’ – Walt Disney
Dreaming big, or small, and setting aligned goals, is an important part of the formula to career change success. Of course, you need to stay agile and adaptable, but this can all be done within a framework of possibility.
See the next exercise as an ‘orientation map’ or a way to inform how you’ll need to spend your time going forward.
Your ‘dream’ statement
The type of dream we want you to think about is one defined as ‘a cherished aspiration, ambition or ideal.’
As you consider your career change, answer the following questions:
- What cherished aspirations do you hold in regard to your career?
- What ambitions would you like to succeed in?
- What does an ideal career change look like to you?
- If you consider what ‘good’ looks like in the future, how would you describe it?
If you’re comfortable, try writing a stream of consciousness about your career change dreams. Here are a couple of examples to help you start:
“I’ve always dreamed of being a racing driver. It’s clear to me that I don’t have the physical attributes, and I’m of an age where success would be challenging. However, I love motorsport and I do think I could have a rewarding career connected to it. I’m a mechanical engineer and car enthusiast. I work in the car industry, but I’d like to specialise in high-performance cars. I’m willing to work hard and step back a career level if necessary. I don’t want to give up on this dream.”
Here’s another dream statement:
“I love working with people and I’m nuts about sustainable and ecological fashion. I don’t know how to make the transition into this sector – I’m currently working for a large charity – however, I believe I have transferable skills as an expert in social media and marketing.”
Both of these dream statements are sufficiently grounded, yet ambitious. They certainly fit into the ‘possible’ box. And hey, we’re not saying you can’t dream bigger – that’s your choice. You just need to remember that the bigger the dream the more stages there will be to get there, and probably more work.
Dream – dream big if you like – then off the back of that set some realistic, time-bounded goals.
Our next piece of useful career change advice is focused on setting goals. When you start to define your goals you might find that ‘limitations’ start to become apparent. That’s okay – stay focused on the process, not just the outcomes.
Start by thinking broadly, and work through the following questions:
- What career change goals matter to you most?
- Do your goals make sense? Are they SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound?
- Do your goals conflict with anything important to you, like your values?
- How much time will be needed to achieve each goal and how will you find this time?
- What support or resource might you need to achieve each goal?
- Would you need to let go of or sacrifice something to be successful?
- How might you adapt your goal in light of barriers or hurdles?
- To what degree do the goals feel hard? Have you achieved similar goals in the past?
Answering these questions may feel like a laborious process, however, doing so is a good test of your metal for really having the gumption to see through difficult change.
Here’s a sample answer to help with your thinking:
My change goals that matter:
I want to leave my corporate job at the end of June and start my own business.
When I start my business, I want to spend more time working from home.
I want to utilise my skills as a cake maker in my new start-up.
Are my goals SMART?
My goals are specific, but success has not yet been defined. I’m looking to leave my current job in June, but I’ve yet to make a plan to invest in and start my cake-making business. I’ve been selling cakes privately for a number of years now, so I know I have the skills. I need to invest in equipment and digital marketing.
Do my goals conflict with anything else?
No – this is my dream and my passion. I have a little bit of investment money set aside and my partner will cover the domestic costs for the first year.
How much time will be needed to achieve my goals? How will you find the time?
I’m not sure how long it will take to be successful at scale. I need to work on my business plan. I will have the time as I will be committing to it full-time.
What support or resource might I need?
I will need my family’s support and I’ll need some investment in equipment and marketing.
Would I need to sacrifice anything to be successful?
At first, I will be giving up the regular salary from my corporate job, but I’m willing to do this. I’ll always have that to fall back on.
How might I adapt my goals in the light of barriers or hurdles?
I could look to partner with a café or another baker. I might need to consider selling online first rather than opening a shop.
To what degree do the goals feel hard and have I achieved similar goals?
The goals do feel hard. I’m giving up a lot. That said, I already started an ‘at home’ cake-making service from my kitchen table – while I was in full-time employment.
Clearly, in the example above, there is still quite a bit of work to do, before Sally-Ann will be ready to start her cake-making business – not least preparing a business plan! Our career change advice for Sally-Ann would be to lay down more groundwork before she departs her corporate role!
It is key that when you do this preparatory work you think about:
- Setting goals that are authentic to who you are
- How you will tackle any issues/hurdles that may present themselves
- How you commit to putting in the hard work in a planful way (rather than just hoping for the best)
Inspiration to perspiration
One of the best ways to test your gumption for taking on a career change is to think about what’s been hardest for you in the past – and yet you’ve still gravitated toward it. When you’ve perspired over something difficult but meaningful – it’s generally a good indicator that you’ll be willing to put in the hard yards to get it done.
So, in addition to the questions above, answer the following:
- What work or challenges have felt the hardest so far in your career?
- Which of these challenges have you still gravitated towards, despite them being hard?
- How did you tackle the hard stuff? What did you do? How did you show up?
- How did you feel after failure or success? Would you try it again?
By now you should have a good picture of your dreams and goals. You should have quantified the scale of the challenge – checking and testing your resolve to plan for and implement things that inspire and ignite your passion. If you’ve managed to layout SMART goals you should now have a clear roadmap, with at least some milestones to head toward on your journey.
Much of the work completed to date has been about looking into yourself, putting down on paper, your internal thoughts, feelings and desires for change. It’s also worth considering looking outside of yourself, seeking the wisdom of others to help you plan the new you.
Learning from role models
As you think about the landscape of your career change, and what you’d like to achieve, it’s worth looking at how others have managed their own change. You could do this in discussion with family, friends and other work colleagues. Additionally, if you aspire to be like someone else, or if you have any role models you’d like to emulate, then looking to them more broadly might be worthy of your time.
Imagine if a friend or role model has just achieved an incredible goal. If they can achieve change – perhaps you can too? By looking to people you admire, setting a high bar just as they have done, there is real possibility that you can lift your own intent and energy.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Is there someone whose career you admire? Who are they and why do you admire them?
- What has this person done to achieve success in their career?
- How are you similar or different to this person i.e. do you share the same values, experiences, learning or knowledge?
- What learning can you take and apply to your own situation?
If your role model is someone you know, then perhaps you can take the opportunity to speak to them about your career change plans? If you admire someone from afar, then researching what they’ve done or listening to the things they have to say, could be of equal benefit.
In addition to considering how a role model might help you, we’d also recommend you think about your network. Having a strong network during times of personal change gives you another form of support. Find out more about using your network to find a job.
The best career change advice we can give you in the Planning Phase is to be thoughtful, goals orientated and active – it will pay dividends down the line. You should now have expressed your dreams. If you’ve gone into detail in regard to goal setting, you should have a clear roadmap or project plan to take you forward. You may have learned useful wisdom from your role models and built out your network to help you manage the change process.
In Part 3 of our Career Change Advice blog, we’ll be discussing The Transition Phase.
See you there.