On The Balance Careers, Alison Doyle defines career path as the sequence of jobs that make up your career plan. A career plan is the short- and long-term goals that guide you to your ideal career. Changing career paths is an important decision in our lives.
In 2013, I began helping people who were changing career paths. Most people wanted to get a different job in their current organization. Some wanted to get a similar job in another organization. And some wanted to change their occupation entirely—change from being an engineer to a teacher or start a new business, for example.
Some were able to create the exact change they wanted. Some were satisfied with creating a smaller change, or a change they never expected. Others decided, for a variety of reasons, to abandon their career change goals. In the end, most of them seemed satisfied with their decision. But the people who were happiest and most optimistic about their new working life, usually had these three things in common: they started early, they got support from the most influential people in their lives, and they got help from experts.
3 Secrets to changing career paths
1. plan the change before you have to change
Moliere, the French playwright, said, “Unreasonable haste is the direct road to error.” Many of my clients contacted me right after they had such a horrible experience at work that they wanted to quit immediately. Then, when they accepted that it could take a few months or a few years to create the change they wanted, they got depressed and frustrated.
But my most successful clients started planning their change long before they felt like they had to change. Then, months or years after they started planning, an event would trigger the change. I’d often get a phone call or email like this, “They just laid-off half my team, and the rest of us are being transferred. I just resigned and I’m ready to start my new life today.”
2. build support
My most successful clients also realized that they had to get support from the most important and influential people in their lives. Number 1 on that list was usually their spouse or partner. Number 2 for most people was their parents.
For most of us, work will be the single largest project in our lives, and our working life impacts the lives of others. Everyone close to you is concerned about your working life and experiences your joy and despair. They want what is best for you. So, if you don’t educate them on what you think is best, they’ll likely only tell you what they already think is best—and their best might be your worst!
3. get help
If you were an expert at the new career you want to build, you would have that career. Luckily, you probably already know people—maybe not personally, but you know their names—who have that career or one very similar to it. Connecting with them or researching these people will show you what steps you’ll need to take along the way.
Next, find people who are experts at each one of those steps. You’ll likely be good at one or two of the steps, but if you learn from the best, you’ll become great. Many people will help you for free. If you have to pay, you’ll find that the best advice and service is seldom the cheapest, but it’s often not the most expensive, either.
I’ll be posting more articles about our career paths, including detailed checklists that will help you plan your change. You can subscribe to this blog and be notified as soon as it’s posted. You can also learn more about reclaiming your world of work and building thriving organizations on our World of Work page and by joining our Work Feels Good community.