(This article is first published in Japan in the English Journal by my agent ALC Global Leadership and Talent Development Division.)
QUESTION: “After working for 20 years in the same kinds of jobs I realize that I don’t enjoy my work, but it’s all I know. How can I change to a new career that really inspires me? The work I’m doing now isn’t at all what I wanted to do. But I don’t have guts to change careers; I’m afraid of failure and losing everything.”
ANSWER: You’re right! A secure job, even one we don’t enjoy, can be preferable to the uncertainty of a new career. Human brains naturally prefer status and certainty to the risk and anxiety of making a change. Here are some small steps to begin your journey to the future with much less risk.
Figure Out What You Want. Knowing that your current job doesn’t inspire you won’t help you find a new one that does. Figure out what you want to do next. (You might benefit from career counseling and a career assessment.) Imagine 10 years have passed and you’re doing the work you love. Write a description of your ideal work, and make a collage of pictures that captures this ideal beyond words.
Learn From Others. Subscribe to email newsletters, read books, take classes, attend webinars, and join a professional association related to your new field. Listen to the stories of people already working in this profession. Many people are delighted to share their experiences with an attentive listener. Ask for their advice on your transition. You may find that many of your existing skills and experiences will be useful in your new career. And you’ll have built relationships to people in your intended career.
Start Small. Even if you can’t immediately change jobs, you may be able to change your current job to make it more inspiring. Or do volunteer work where you can get some relevant experience, even if unpaid. You’ll gain confidence, and hopefully a positive recommendation or two about your excellent performance.
Take Your Time. Although I’ve known people who’ve abruptly quit jobs to start a new career, few people can afford this luxury. A more gradual approach reduces risk and anxiety. In my case I took six years to transition, but once I started on the journey to my next career I wasn’t as frustrated in the job I was currently doing.
Start, and Keep Going! Don’t worry about how long it might take, just start. Naturally there will be times when you’ll feel discouraged and want to give up. Keep going! Record your progress and celebrate even small successes along the way. Spend time with people who encourage you. Keep your eyes open for opportunities and eventually you will be able to change to your new career.
Don’t settle for a paycheck! One day you’ll be at your retirement party looking back on your career. Do you want to be saying “I wish I would have.” or “I’m glad I did.”?by