Strong Life Plan: Switching Careers
1. Don't assume that you're in the wrong job. Look before you leap. You might just have forgotten what drew you to the role in the first place. For one week, track your activities, noting the ones that make you feel strong and the ones that make you feel weak. At the end of the week, pick two that create in you strong positive emotions. Relive those two moments. Feel again what you loved about the job in the beginning.
2. The clearest sign that you're in the wrong career is if you cannot imagine a future in it. If you've looked hard at the activities that strengthen you and know deep in your heart that there's no way for those strengthening feelings to be recreated and no way to push your job gradually toward creating more and more of them each week, then it's time to act: Make the decision in your mind and plan your exit strategy. Don't dance around it. Don't second-guess it. Accept it. You know that your job does not and will never call upon the best of you. Nothing can compensate for this. No amount of money. No benefits. No amount of time invested. Nothing.
3. Start by focusing on your interests. What magazines do you read? What articles are you drawn to in those magazines? What kind of people do you find yourself hanging around with? Pick two interests or subject areas that always intrigue you and research them. Study the life that you want to live.
Use your strengths to build a bridge in a new direction
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.
Start the journey to a new career now
Often, the biggest challenge is simply in admitting that you need to make a change. Fear of the unknown is natural, but you may be surprised to see how just stating your intention and then taking action can begin to open things up before you. Remember, what you focus on expands; results follow focus. Focus on what "working" will look like—not on the what-ifs. Take things slowly, build momentum and see what happens. Keep your awareness high. Taking smaller intentional steps instead of big, drastic ones will help you overcome your fear—and as you see more results, you will build even more courage to move forward.
Continue Marcus Buckingham's 8-step Strong Life Plan