Are you considering a big change in your career? Do you feel let down, bored, burned out? Maybe you think there is something bigger and more meaningful that you are meant to do. Perhaps your company downsized you into this predicament. Regardless of the reason, there are some common mistakes to avoid while you evaluate and select new career options. Avoid these pitfalls and you can stay motivated, keep your balance and move forward successfully.
Mistake #1 – Making Decisions in Haste
Tempted to just quit and wing it? Everyone is now and then, but unless you just can’t stand your current situation another day, resist! Instead, write down everything you hate about your current situation, then one by one, look at the most intolerable issues and see how you can turn each around to make it more tolerable for the present moment.
It is easy to get so excited about the future that you decide to forge ahead without a plan and hope everything naturally falls your way after that. It will require more energy to sustain your new career and make it work well for you than it will to identify and start it. It is better to come from a place of higher energy and stability than to start out already burned out or worried about how you will pay the bills. Consider seeking the help of a qualified career coach, life coach or career counsellor to help you identify your next career path. An objective, trained third party can help you strategize and phase it in for the best results and the least amount of heartache.
Mistake #2 – Ignoring the Finances “
I can’t stand this any longer! I would rather eat dog food than put up with this another day!” Whether you are pursuing a new career voluntarily or involuntarily, you must pay the bills. Do pursue your dream. Do look for the career that brings out the best in you. If you have plenty of savings, good for you! Resist the temptation to go through it and be left without. If you have a dream, by all means hang on to it! But if it won’t realistically get off the ground for three years, find another way to earn a living in the meantime. The need for income is a reality you cannot ignore.
Mistake #3 – Filling Your Head with Negative Stuff
What do you read? What do you view on television or the Internet? With whom do you spend free time? When you’re looking at making big life and career changes, you need lots of positive energy around you. If you spend time with negative people or fill your mind with anything that isn’t useful, guess what? It fills you with negative energy. Instead, surround yourself with people and things that give you positive energy and encouragement. Read books that motivate and encourage you. Go places that inspire you. Do everything you can to be what you want to be like after you land the next great career opportunity, and you will be more likely to attract it into your life!
Mistake #4 – Getting Bogged Down by Decisions
If you’re an intelligent person who has enjoyed any measure of success, chances are there are a lot of different choices you could make in your next big life or career change. Clients often tell me they are overwhelmed by all of the thoughts and ideas that keep running through their minds. And as the overwhelm sets in, it is very easy to just shut down. As we work together, I remind clients when making tough decisions to ask themselves, “Is this going to move me forward?” If the answer is yes, proceed. If the answer is no, either revise the decision or drop it entirely.
Mistake #5 – Not Having a Plan
There are two reasons this is important. First, life is unpredictable and it is dangerous to relinquish security before the next career arrangement is lined up. Second, changing careers is a lot like dating. You are always more desirable when you are unavailable. You are more attractive to a prospective employer if you are already working. And if you have already lost your job either voluntarily or involuntarily, it is even more important to have a plan so that you are then more likely to achieve it. If you see success, you will be successful. (Conversely, if you don’t have a plan, how will you know when you’ve succeeded?)
Mistake #6 – Ending your Preparation Too Soon
All I can say here is, prepare, prepare, prepare. If you’re looking at several possibilities, don’t immediately drop one when another looks good. Think about all of the big tests you have taken in life (college entrance exams, finals, certification exams) and how you prepared for those. Did you study way in advance and take a big, long break before taking the test? Or were you still reading the material as you walked in the door on test day, wondering if you could still be better prepared? When you’re embarking on a new career or life change, give it all of your available energy, skills and attention. If you have a goal in mind, resist relaxing when you think you almost have it. Prepare and stay sharp right up until the day you start. This will help keep you from losing confidence at the last minute.
Mistake #7 – Getting Discouraged Too Easily
Does this happen to you when you face hurdles in the midst of your goal? Instead of giving in to the pain, pay attention to what specifically is making you uncomfortable and make adjustments to get you through. For example, if you’re in career transition and you find that it is painful to go through the tedium of making phone calls, sending resumes, going on interviews where the competition is tough, etc., find the formula that gives you a break without stopping the process. Try devoting an hour or two each morning to these tasks and letting it go for the rest of the day, or only making a certain number of phone calls or interview appointments per week so that when you’re finished, you can feel good about giving yourself some time off. Don’t stop. Adjust.
Remember, a career change is a life change. You didn’t arrive at your current level of education and experience overnight, and don’t be disappointed if you don’t immediately uncover “the thing” you want to do next. Allow yourself time and space to explore and make an educated decision. Get the help you need along the way (i.e., career coach, career counsellor) to help you do it strategically, not emotionally. If you avoid these mistakes you are much more likely to end up in a new career that complements and fulfills your life.