Stop Treating Your Career Change Like a Job Search.

They're two very different processes, which require two different approaches.

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If you want a successful career change, stop treating it like a job search. A career change and a job search are two entirely different processes, which require two different approaches.

Of course, with a job search, you already know the type of role you’re looking for. You’re just trying to find someplace new to do it. You might be looking for a new job because you want more money, you want to work for a company with a different culture or better working conditions, or a shorter commute. However, you already know the type of work you want.

On the other hand, for most people a career change reflects a desire to be more fulfilled in their next career.  Before looking at job boards for a new career, you first need to understand why you’re unhappy (unfulfilled) in your current career. What’s missing from it? What do you wish there was more of, or less of?

Rarely does a new career come in a flash of inspiration.  More likely is that you’ll make incremental progress, starting with what you really want (and don’t want) in a career. It can be helpful to review a list of values (there are plenty online) and see what’s important to you that you’re not getting currently.

Other things to think about at this point include your views on work and life. What do you see as the purpose of work? What’s “good” work?  What’s money got to do with working? Is working an end, or is it a means to an end?

About your views on life, think about what defines a “good” life. What’s the meaning or purpose of life?  What do you want to have done or accomplished during your life to have no regrets and feel you lived the life you wanted?

After understanding your wants and needs, the next step is to figure out roles that might interest you. A good place to start is thinking of things you’ve done in the past (work or personal) that you enjoyed or have intrigued you. This doesn’t mean that what you’ll do in the future is limited to things (from your) past, just that it’s not unusual that you’ve expressed interest in things but for some reason you put them aside. And it’s these things that can provide clues to your next career.   

Next is using the areas of interest from the second step as the basis for creating some possible careers. Once you’ve uncovered interests, use mindmapping to create a few different career scenarios that you’ll then go into the world and investigate further. The key with mindmapping is to avoid self-editing. Let your thoughts flow, since from this will come the careers you’ll go into the world and test.

Notice I said test.

You’re not going to go out and immediately apply for a job doing something you’ve never done. It’s simply too risky. To reduce that risk and learn more about your options you’ll speak to a lot of people who are in those roles, not for a job interview, but to learn as much as you can about those roles. You want to know what people like and don’t like about being in that job, their own career journey and what they’d do differently.

You’ll also do some low-risk testing to find out what it’s like being in these roles day-to-day. Things like job shadowing, part-time work and side projects can give you a taste of the role without the risking of jumping in with both feet, perhaps after having quit another job first.

Even when you’re aware of what’s lacking in your current career and what might interest you, your career identity may keep you locked up in the present. Career identity is the view you (and others) have of you and your career. If you’ve been in the same career for a while, that career makes up much of your identity and how you, your friends, family and co-workers see you. A successful career change requires gradually moving away from that career identity. It can be difficult for both you and others to allow a change in your career identity. You get stuck in your ahead about who you are, while friends and family question why you’d want to change your career at all. 

So how do you get out of the vortex? By widening your world of contacts to include people in the career areas where you have interest. Taking part in meet-ups and online groups breaks down your preconceived notions of what’s possible and helps you learn that what you want is possible, facilitating a shift in your career identity and helping you view yourself in new ways.

One last note…you may be very frustrated with your current career and prefer to just find a new career instead of looking for a new job in your current career. A full career change typically takes at least a year due to the numerous steps and self-discovery involved. Unless you have enough money put aside it’s best to keep your job or find a new job you can tolerate while you do a career change. Conducting a career change on the side can be very gratifying and give you a feeling of control and sense of security about the future if you’re currently in a less-than-satisfying role.I help people get unstuck, get clarity and find new careers that rock. You can schedule an intro call at, or learn more at

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