When you’re thinking of changing careers, you often envision a few things:
- much greener grass than what you’re used to grazing on
- being well-rested and glow-y
- smiling 24/7
- blissful happiness that never ends
- fame and fortune
- becoming the “After” in all those makeover shows
- unicorns and pots of gold and magic
Yeah. It can get out of control when you’re escaping your job in your mind, especially if you’re in a situation that’s unfulfilling at best and utterly abusive at worst. Instead of latching on to those dreams at face value, though – or doing something totally drastic like making the leap to a career you reeeeeeeally don’t know anything about – do these 5 Things First:
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1. Talk to at least one person who’s doing the thing you think you wanna do.
It floors me every time, but I’ve never had a client not know someone they can personally talk to about a field they’re thinking of going into. Never! Never ever in the 6 years I’ve been The When I Grow Up Coach! I know, right?! So if you think you wanna be an interior designer, for example, go to the person you know or the person your peeps know who’s already making it happen. Ask for an hour of their time to get the scoop on how they got to where they are, what they love about their career, what they wish they knew, etc. Then try to relate what they said back to your own needs/priorities/goals/dreams and see if there’s a fit.
Resources: my Career Connections Pinterest board; your own network of amazeballs peeps (LinkedIn and Facebook searches are more advanced than you think!); How to Land and Ace An Informational Interview; Grown Up Gigs: An Inside Look at Dream Jobs Held By Real People.
2. Come up with your personal and/or professional skills, strengths, attributes and stories that show you’d be a smart choice for someone to hire you in this new role.
I’ll never forget one of the very first exercises I had to do in my coaching school. Only a student for a few weeks, I had to write my bio that’d go on my future coaching site. “But I don’t know how to coach! I’m not any good! I’ve only had 1 15-minute session in class and that’s it!” Something happened, though, when I put myself in the shoes of those hypothetical clients, wanting to know why I was the right coach for them. I brought up my acting background and passion, why I chose to become a coach, and why it was “the role I was born to play.” That’s not only when I started building my confidence as a coach, but it was when I realized that what I would bring to my clients was oh-so-much more than my certification or prior professional experiences.
3. Rewrite your resume and cover letter (if you’re looking for a job) or bio (if you wanna work for yourself) as if you’re already asking to do that work.
If you’re looking for a more traditional role, don’t wait for the job of your dreams to come your way and then have to scramble to get a new resume and cover letter in shape. If you’re looking to be a freelancer or entrepreneur, your About page will be your most read page after your homepage – so make it resonate right away. Don’t put the pressure on for it to be “perfect” – you can (and will!) always update it along the way.
4. Finesse your “elevator pitch” so that when someone asks, “So, what do you do?” or “What are you up to?”, you can answer it clearly without getting flustered.
Seriously, I know how anxiety-producing it can be when you have to articulate what you do when you have one foot in your current work and the other foot in a new career. I had my share of answers that went, “Well, I’m an Executive Assistant for a financial consultancy firm, but I’m getting my life coaching certification, and I used to be an actor, so….”. Oy. If, instead, wrote a “script” about my transition and practiced it aloud a bit, I would’ve feel more confident answering, “I’m currently an Executive Assistant by day, but am getting my life coaching certification so I can work with creative types through their career transitions.” Soooooo much better.
5. Talk to your loved ones about the transition – and listen to their needs.
As much as you think you know how your spouse, parents, and/or kids are gonna react to your news, don’t assume any of it. Instead, have a real dialogue about this change and their concerns and create some compromises so that everyone is as comfortable and confident as they can be about what’s to come.
Michelle Ward (CPC, PCC) has 1 question for you: What do you want to be when you grow up? She’s answered that question for herself, and today she helps women transition out of soul-sucking jobs and into work that feels like play. You may have seen or heard her on The Huffington Post, Etsy, AOL Jobs, Newsweek, SXSW, Freelancers Union, Psychology Today, the Forbes Top 100 Websites for your Career list or 100+ other media outlets. She’s the co-author of The Declaration of You!, which was published by North Light Books, and the teacher of the 2nd highest-viewed course on CreativeLive’s Craft & Makers channel, Create Your Dream Career.