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  • Writer's picturebiancaemccann

The average person will invest 90,000 hours working in their lifetime.

Updated: Dec 29, 2018

How do I change career paths? This is a question people ask me all the time. After years grinding away at the same job it's not unusual for someone to pick their head up , look around and think there has to be something more out there. People generally ask this question for one or more of the following reasons.

  • their chosen career does not have enough economic opportunity.

  • their chosen career does not have enough opportunity for growth.

  • their chosen career is invoking a feeling of dread more often than not.

  • their chosen career path does not make them feel connected to something larger.

A career change requires a 'look yourself in the mirror' conversation . We can vision board out hearts out and ultimately have no active movement towards achieving goals. You have to make a game plan and be realistic about what you are about to embark on. If you are going to leave your chosen career path , THE thing you are most skilled and experienced in to date , then you are most likely moving to an:

Adjacent career path, which is similar enough to your chosen career path that there are overlapping skills OR a "YOLO" career path, which is a totally new career path with limited to no overlapping skills (but that's okay because, well, YOLO).

Reality Bytes:

  • Adjacent career changes are a lot easier to navigate than the "YOLO" path.

  • Passion (while super important) is not enough, look honestly at skills and abilities.

  • This will be an investment , requiring significant effort, time and commitment.

  • You may not get it right the first time: experiment , pivot and refine.

  • You may feel overwhelmed and untethered, just breathe through it.

Now, before you just bail on your current situation take some time to reflect on what's motivating your desire to change it up. This is important and requires a brief pause. If things are feeling stuck or broken, you may want to parallel path your career change effort with a current state clean up to mend anything that may be off the rails before you head out the door. Make sure you are running to something, not from it.

If you are feeling unsafe, insecure, or unsure in your current job it could be causing you to prematurely ignite your natural fight or flight response. Ask yourself whether the situation prompting the change is temporary or fixable, I mean maybe your manager sucks and you just need a new one. It is totally okay to move on from things but don't miss out on pausing to gather insight on your reasons for the change, deeper than the ones I listed above, it is very important input to properly planning your career move.

The average person will invest 90,000 hours working in their lifetime, thats a lot of time to spend on something that just isn't cutting it.

Game Plan

People in the YOLO bucket generally are pretty clear on the exact career they want to jump into. These folks mostly need to focus on how to get there and how to get comfortable with the sacrifices needed, like getting new credentials, giving up status and hierarchy, and not being the expert for a while. People in the adjacent bucket more commonly know what field they want to move into , but aren't sure what specific job to go after. Either way there are a few things to do here:

Skills Assessment:

Take a minute to sit down and write up a plus and minus list of your skillsets. If you have writers block try doing a strengths assessment like StandOut to get a view on your natural strengths.

If you are an Adjacent path person , once you have your list of skills identified you are ready to start tracking down adjacent career options. Jump onto Google to find at least 5-8 examples of actual jobs that incorporate (at least some of) the skills that you have. Try doing a boolean word search to help you if you don't know specific job titles. Try combining a skill word with a key word of interest, like communication AND media for example. Once you have a solid set of jobs identified it is time to do an inventory of what they require , note areas of overlap and areas of disconnect. Now you know what roles you are specifically going after and what the profile requires.

If you are a YOLO path person, do a compare and contrast against the job you aspire towards so that you can build out your execution plan, where there is a gap there is an action for you to take on. You will want to work your way backward , building out a roadmap of key milestones to get as close to that job profile as possible. These are usually pretty major changes and require big bold investments.

Field Assessment:

Find folks who are doing the role you aspire towards and ask to meet with them so you can learn as many specifics as possible.

  • Be curious and learn how they got there.

  • Ask them what they think is transferable about your background.

  • If there is not a ton of transferable experience then get some input from them on how to get the experience/education you will need.

  • Understand a day in the life ,ask for the good and the bad.

  • Get their thoughts on how you could become more marketable, what will it take?

  • Ask them to describe the last two hires on the team or that they themselves made, what experience and credentials did they have that set them apart?

  • Get their thoughts on how to win an interview in the field, if they were interviewing you what would they be interesting in knowing ? would they consider you?

  • Listen to the language they are using, write down new phrases, buzzwords and lingo for further research and learning.

If you don't have a personal connection , ask a friend to introduce you to someone in their network. Still at a loss? check out Linked In's FREE career advice offering and get going with some cold reach outs.

Real Life Assessment

Feel out the space firsthand, try getting some experience to make sure you have a more solid understanding of what to expect, and what's expected.

  • Try to secure a job shadow, even if it's just a day or two so you can really get a day in the life look and a little hands on experience. There are non glamorous aspects to every job and you need to get the whole view to make sure you are signing on for the right 90k hours , or what's left of them.

  • If you have already been working unofficially in the space you seek, try taking on a small project for a client. Maybe you love being the event planner for family parties and want to quit your day job to do this as a real thing, great! Try securing a contract or two and see how it goes.

  • Take a class to expose yourself a bit more deeply to the field of interest and see if it can hold your attention. A friend of mine recently told me her alma mater actually has a "observation" option for alumni to attend classes. Check in with your own alma mater to see if there is an option like this, many classes are available online now as well in case you are no longer living in the area.

There is no fully "safe" path in this move. Safe would be staying in your lane , if you wanted to do that you would not be asking this question.

Own Your YOU .

Does your resume, linked in profile, elevator pitch, and talk track sound/look/feel like the current you or the future you?

Resumes are one of the hardest things to get right when making a change, ask for feedback and take a look at the language associated with your future state roles. For example let's say you are a teacher looking to get into HR, your experience putting together lesson plans can quickly be framed and focused on learning design and delivery. Lots of overlap , and it is all about language here.

Think about your intended audience and inspire connection to where you are headed, try not to just generate questions about where you have been. Think about framing and making the intended impression . Be upfront about your career change journey but also make it a point to help them see the possibility in what's ahead.


Bianca E. McCann, MHRIR

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