4. Build a bridge. You may not be able to dump your job immediately—you need the money, the benefits, etc.—but you can start yourself moving in the right direction. Find things you can do that won't take up much time but will start to give you the knowledge and experience you'll need to move your life toward your strengths. Do what Ayesha, a participant in the Oprah workshop, did. She knew that her role as a senior-level validation engineer was depleting her and she was fascinated with writing for the Web. She didn't just quit her current responsibilities to pursue her dream. Instead, Ayesha started a blog and called up a family friend who hooked her up with some training that could help her build a bridge between her current role and the life she really wanted.
There's no reason that change has to be a sudden, wrenching upheaval. That said, if your current situation is causing psychological suffering: Get out now.
5. Get specific. Specificity is the antidote to anxiety—not just your own, but the anxiety of those who may have reservations about hiring someone who is switching careers. In job interviews, the interviewer is frightened she will make the wrong decision. That's why she pays such close attention to people's résumés: It gives her something to hold onto, something to calm her fear that she'll make a bad hire. If your résumé doesn't include the experiences that she is looking for, compensate by getting very specific on what your strengths are and why they are drawing you toward this new line of work.
Switching careers isn't simply about moving away from what you no longer love; it's about moving toward your passion. Convey that passion in vivid, specific detail by describing your strengths. Write a cover letter that uses phrases such as "I am at my best when…" and then goes on to describe a very specific activity that strengthens you, and then write down why you know—KNOW, not think, KNOW—that this strength will help you make a great contribution in this new role.
And, if you get the interview, be ready with two or three specific examples of this strength in action and how you think it will help. Practice saying the examples out loud to a friend or a spouse. Use your own certainty to address any uncertainty an interviewer may have.
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