New Year’s Eve was a few months ago, and your recollections of the night are probably foggy at best. You’d been thinking about it for a while, but the following day you made a promise to yourself that this was going to be the year you changed from your current unfulfilling career to something you’d love doing for the foreseeable future. Maybe it was trying to find a way to make money doing something you’re passionate about, or starting your own business, or moving from the corporate world to a not-for-profit organisation. Whatever it was it filled you with excitement at the possibilities that lay ahead, and managed to bring a smile to your face despite the hangover and incessant drumming in your head.
Skip forward six months and ask yourself – how far along are you to realising your dream career change? Have you done it? Did you leave the city rat race to lead tourists on treks through the rainforest? Did you leave that soulless 50 hours-a-week job to work for a charity helping down-on-their-luck families get back on their feet? Or are you still staring at your computer doing something that no-one really cares about in office cubicle purgatory?
Making New Year’s resolutions is an inspiring act, and gives us a short jolt to make significant change in our lives for the better. But for one reason or another the initial burst of enthusiasm soon fades, and the routine of our regular lives takes over. We find ourselves heading into the next New Year’s Eve celebrations in exactly the same position as the previous year, and making the same resolutions the following day. But, there are steps you can take to maintain the momentum of your career change long after January 1 has passed.
Review your career goals
Stop everything you’re doing. Completely stop. Forget about the day-to-day tasks that are swimming around in your head, and just stop. Take some time and think about those resolutions you made on New Year’s Day. Were they really what you want to do with your life, or did emotion take over and make you decide on something totally unrealistic, or something that’s not what you actually want to do in the cold, hard light of day? Ask yourself where you want to be in five years’ time. Perhaps it’s at the same company but further up the corporate ladder? Maybe it’s at the company of your dreams in a different position? Maybe it’s in a completely different career? Whatever it might be, think hard about what position would make you happy in five years from now.
Think about the costs
The financial burden on you and your family, if you have one, is obviously the first cost that comes to mind. Is changing financially viable? Will it mean a hit to your monthly salary? Do you have a mortgage? Car repayments? School fees for the kids? While these are all obviously important, this may not be the most important cost to consider. Ask yourself – if you stay in your current role, will your health suffer? Is your mental wellbeing taking a hit through boredom and a lack of inspiration? Are you time-poor because of long hours, and it’s costing you your relationships with family and friends? While the financial costs of career change may feel prohibitive, the cost to the rest of your life may be far more expensive in the long run.
Make a plan
Chances are, when you had your New Year’s Day epiphany, you got all excited, Googled what you’d need to do to make the leap, and told friends and family about your new plan. Am I right? Then a few days later you went back to work, slipped into your day-to-day groove, and those hopes and dreams retreated to the deep recesses of your mind. If you want to fail in your pursuit of a goal, don’t have a plan. So whether you like it or not, get your laptop out and map out how you can get from where you are to where you want to go. Here are a few things you can ask yourself to get started:
- Do I need to get training to pursue my preferred career? If yes, where can I do it? How much will it cost? When does it start? When will I finish?
- Can I talk to someone in the target industry? Give someone a call, offer them lunch for some advice. Find out what steps you need to take to make the transition.
- Start to build a network of contacts in the industry you wish to join. The previous point here is a good start, but are there LinkedIn groups you can join? How about like-minded people on Meetup? Never has a truer word been spoken than ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’.
- Seek advice from family and friends. Ask for their thoughts.
When you make a plan, be sure to include realistic dates when you want to have tasks completed, and divide everything up into manageable chunks. This will give you a list of achievable goals and keep you on track. Without set dates and goals, plans can often drift along without resolution, much like not having a plan at all. However, plans change, and just because a goal wasn’t met on a particular date doesn’t mean the plan falls apart. Just refocus and set a new date. The ultimate goal of course is the final date when you leave your current career behind, and embark on the career you’ve always dreamed of.
Maintain the rage
Creating a clear picture in your mind of what the future will look like for you is the key to maintaining momentum throughout the process. The two major reasons for making change are: the goal being so desirable that you simply must go for it, or that the consequences of not changing would be incredibly difficult to accept. You need to ensure you are working towards positive change in your life, and not simply running from the negative. Not many people will instantly realise what that future looks like from the moment you have your New Year’s Day light bulb moment, but as you work your way through your plan, the future will become much clearer. If that future is still desirable, then continue the pursuit: if it isn’t, then you may have to reassess your goals.
Seek professional help
Professional athletes have coaches working with them every day to achieve their goals. CEOs and leaders of the world’s biggest companies often have someone in the background working with them to become better at what they do. If it’s good enough for these high achievers, then it’s good enough for you. There are three factors a professional can help you overcome that you need to acknowledge before you even start:
- You don’t know everything, so don’t pretend you do.
- You’re going to have moments of doubt and you will fear failure.
- Friends and family are often not the best people to get advice from.
Career coaches and advisors are trained to help people work out exactly what they want to do with their professional lives, and formulate a plan to help them achieve those goals. Having a professional guide you along your chosen path can help to keep you on track, keep you motivated, and get you to where you want to go faster than you otherwise would have. There is obviously a cost involved, but you need to ask yourself whether paying for professional services that will get you to where you want to go faster and more efficiently is worth the financial outlay.
Don’t give up
If you really want to make a career change, the message is simple – don’t give up. You’re bound to hit some hurdles along the way, and making substantial changes to your career for long-term benefit can take a long time. You need to be prepared mentally for times when you lose a little ground toward achieving your goals. The time it takes for you to make a career change will pass anyway, whether you’re still in pursuit or if you’ve given up. Don’t be afraid to make changes to your plan – if your tactics haven’t worked so far, try something new.
Have you finished your course? Celebrate. Have you joined a professional group of like-minded people? Celebrate. Did you find a great career coach? Celebrate. We often get bogged down in the day-to-day grind of life that we don’t stop to celebrate our successes. By taking the time to recognise achieving the manageable goals as set out in your plan, you can truly appreciate the effort it is taking to make the changes you’re endeavouring to make. Deal with the few things that haven’t worked out along the way, and enjoy the successes. It will keep you motivated, on track, and more importantly, sane!
New Year’s Day seems to be the main time of year when people make big decisions about their future. It’s often the end of a long year, you’re possibly on holidays, you’ve been spending time with family and friends, and your emotions are all over the place. But a specific time of the year shouldn’t be the only time you consider making changes to your life. Reviewing where you are and where you want to go throughout the year will ensure you are always on the right track, and time isn’t wasted. Just remember that every step you take is a step closer to your ultimate goal. Most journeys in which significant change is being made are long, so keep your eyes on the prize and eventually you’ll be rewarded with the professional life you’ve always dreamed of.