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Last Updated on May 14, 2019

How to Switch Careers and Get Closer to Your Dream Job

How to Switch Careers and Get Closer to Your Dream Job

You’ve been going to “that job” for many years now. You go to your office, do your projects, have lunch with your colleagues, and take your commute home.

How did you get there?

Was this the job you thought you were going to be doing at age 30, 40…50? Is this the work you had wanted to do back in college when the sky was the limit?

It’s not, huh? What happened?

Like many of us, we did the responsible thing by finishing college and getting a job. We’re the people who show up and work. We have the “lunch-pail-roll-up-the-sleeves” work ethic.[1]

But we shouldn’t hate it. We should be loving every minute of it, and knowing that our vocation serves our purpose.

“It’s too late for me. I’ll never have my dream job.” That’s nonsense. We NEED to pursue our dream job.

According to Business Insider:[2]

The average American spends 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime. But 87% of Americans have no passion for their jobs. And nearly 60% say their jobs are making them insomniacs.The average American spends more than 100 hours commuting every year. And a quarter of Americans say work is their No. 1 source of stress.

Of the country’s approximately 100 million full-time employees, 51 percent aren’t engaged at work — meaning they feel no real connection to their jobs, and thus they tend to do the bare minimum.[3]

Switching careers is hard – but it can be done. Here’s how to get started:

1. Visualize Your Dream Job

You can probably Google a plethora of “dream job meditation” or “dream job visualization” recordings that you can download for free. If that’s too much work, then just do this:

Sit in a chair with your eyes closed, and visualize yourself getting into your car (or on the train, or your carpool) and heading to work.

Where are you headed? Where do you park? What are you wearing? Where do you work? Who’s there waiting for you? What time is your first meeting and who is it with?

Do you get the picture? Think of all the pieces that would get incorporated into your Dream Job and really see them. Write down what you see. Keep this handwritten document with you at all times so you can revisit that visualization.

It’s corny, I know…but it will really help you on the way to finding that vocation you seek.

2. Determine Your Major Strengths and Skill Sets

This activity can help you clearly identify your strengths and skill sets so you know how to represent them on a functional resume.

If you are going to make a change, potential employers want to know what you can do more so than what you have already done.

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Pull out your resume and look at your various positions. You probably have a bullet-point list for each job of your various responsibilities. If that’s the case, start by identifying the skill set you needed to complete each task.

For example:

Let’s say you have been working for ten years as an accountant. You might spend your days working with different clients’ books, preparing reports, and conducting audits. What skills are required to perform those tasks? Self motivation? Business acumen and interest? Organizational skills? Managing deadlines? All of the above?

From the various jobs on your resume, pin point all your skills and then place them into themed groups.

My resume features skills groups such as Management, Supervision, Event Planning, and Budget Management. You can find a guide to ultimate work skills needed for career change here: The Ultimate Work Skills List to Help You Change Careers

Finally, come up with 3 to 5 “career highlights” that can go with these skills. These are the various Feathers in Your Cap that you have initiated or facilitated during your employment that would not have existed without you. Now you’re ready to update that resume!

3. Switch to a Functional (Skills-Based) Resume

If you are truly going to make the big leap and actually change careers, then you are going to need a resume that, once again, shows what you can do for them. If you are a teacher looking to get out of the classroom but stay in education, you may be looking for an instructional coordinator or librarian position. Your skills should reflect the position that you want rather than your resume reflecting what you had.

I recommend 3/4 to one full page of your Functional Skills. Each skill group is a heading, and you follow it with bullet points of the tasks that back that up. Here’s a look at one of mine:

Communications, Social Media and Technology

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  • Proficient in MS Word, Excel, Publisher, Power Point, Outlook; PC and Mac hardware
  • Create/update web content for marketing efforts in student affairs and advancement
  • Collaborate with graphic designer, writers, and Public Relations departments on marketing efforts
  • Utilization of social media for recruitment, programming, fundraising, and collaboration
  • Facebook, WACUHO Forum, Twitter, LinkedIn

Once you have your Skills and Competencies in place, then take 1/4 to 1/2 page on Career Highlights. These are those outstanding contributions that you made to one of your previous (or current) employers. Like this:

Redesigned Operations for PCC Foundation

  • Create process for scholarship awarding and implement new Academic Works software
  • Oversee Foundation committee structure and provide training documents for new chairpersons
  • Manage grant awarding process and realignment

Finally, you can list your previous experience in order from most recent or current position to the oldest one. List only the position title, employer, and dates employed. You can follow that with your education, and then list any references at the bottom.

The two previous steps are going to take some time. Don’t expect to be finished in a day. Make sure to share your updated resume with colleagues who support your career change and get their feedback as well.

You can also find tips on Career Change Resumes here: How to Write a Career Change Resume (With Examples)

Now it’s time to get out there and look!

4. Work Your Personal Network

Through your visualization work, you hopefully came up with some places and experiences that feel right for you. So it’s time now to step up and find those opportunities.

Start with your personal network. This would include current Vital Work Friends, colleagues in other industries, and your buddies. Do any of them work in a desired industry of yours? What about their other friends? And those friends’ friends? Make a list of possible connections and invite them to coffee.

A colleague of mine just recently embarked on a “30 Coffees in 30 Days” game plan as a strategy for finding a new job. Working your personal network for contacts can open doors and get you moving in the right direction.

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These tips can help improve your networking skills: How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life

5. Let Your Family Know What You’re Doing and Inform Your References

You’ll get additional support from your family and your references, especially previous supervisors. You may even want to talk to previous supervisors while you are working your personal network.

Letting them know that you are wanting to make a change and getting their insight can also help you get some direction. These folks once aided in your professional development and may even have been mentors to you. They know your skills and abilities as well as anyone, so make sure to use them as resources, too.

And obviously, you are notifying your references (and providing an updated resume) about any job applications and pending interviews.

The Bottom Line

Career change is scary. But it can also be incredibly rewarding when you land the gig that has just been waiting for you. And it IS out there. Make the decision and the time…do the work…and reap the benefits.

You’ve got this.

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Featured photo credit: Tim van der Kuip via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] PETER KESERIC, 2016
[2] Busiess Insider: 17 seriously disturbing facts about your job
[3] CBS News, 2017

More by this author

Kris McPeak

Educator, Author, Career Change and Work/Life Balance Guru

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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

7 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Success

7 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Success

I often hear people say, “I want to be successful but don’t know where to start” or “I’ve achieved career success yet I’m not happy.” And then I ask, “what does career success mean to you?” And many have a hard time articulating their response with much conviction.

It’s common that people lack clarity, focus, and direction. And when you layer on thoughts and actions that are misaligned with your values, this only adds to your misdirected quest to achieve your career success.

A word of caution. It’s going to take some time for you to think about and work on your own path for career success. You need to set aside time and be intentional about the steps you take to achieve career success. In my opinion, this step-by-step guide is apart of your life philosophy.

1. Define Career Success for Yourself

Pause. Give yourself time and space for self-reflection.

What does career success mean to you?

This is about defining your career success:

  • Not what you think you ‘should’ do
  • Not what people may think of you
  • Not adjusting to friends and family’s judgements
  • Not taking actions based on societal or community norms

“A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it. It just blooms” – Zen Shin

When you strip away all your external influences and manage your inner critic, what are you left with? You need to define career success that best suits your life situation.

There’s no fixed answer. Everyone is different. Your answer will evolve and be impacted by life events. Here are a few examples of career success:

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  • Work-life balance
  • Opportunities for growth and advancement
  • Feeling valued that my contributions had an impact

Now even as you reflect on the examples above, the descriptions are not specific enough. You’ve got to take it deeper:

  • What do you mean by work-life balance?
  • What do you consider to be opportunities for growth and advancement?
  • How do you like to be recognized for your work? How do you know if your contributions have had an impact?

Let’s take a look at some potential responses to the questions above:

  • I want more time with my family, and less stress at work
  • I want increased responsibilities, to manage a team, a higher income, and the prestige of working at a certain level in the company
  • I’d like my immediate leader to send me a thank-you note or take me out for coffee to genuinely express her or his gratitude. I’ll know I’ve made an impact if I get feedback from my coworkers, leaders and other stakeholders.

Further questions to reflect on to help narrow the focus for the above responses:

  • What are some opportunities that can help you get traction on getting more time with your family? And decrease your stress at work?
  • What’s most important for you in the next 12 months?
  • What’s the significance of receiving others’ feedback?

Now, I’m only scratching the surface with these examples. It takes time to do the inner work and build a solid foundation.

Start this exercise by first asking what career success means to you and then ask yourself meaningful questions to help you dig deeper.

What types of themes emerge from your responses? What keywords or phrases keep coming up for you?

2. Know Your Values

Values are the principles and beliefs that guide your decisions, behaviors and actions. When you’re not aligned with your values and act in a way that conflicts with your beliefs, it’ll feel like life is a struggle.

There are simple value exercises that can help you quickly determine your core values. This one designed by Carnegie Mellon University can help you discover your top 5 values.[1]

Once you have your top 5 values keep them visible. Your brain needs reminders that these are your top values. Here are some ways to make them stick:

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  • Write them on cue cards or notes and post it in your office
  • Take a picture of your values and use it as a screensaver on your phone
  • Put the words on your fridge
  • Add the words on your vision board

Where will your value words be placed in your physical environment so that you have a constant reminder of them?

3. Define Your Short-Term and Long-Term Goals

When writing your short-term and long term life goals, use the SMART framework – Specific Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Treat this as a brainstorming exercise. Your potential and possibilities are limitless.

How you define short-term and long-term is entirely up to you. Short-term can be 30 days, 90 days, or 6 months. Maybe long-term goals are 4 months, 1 year, or 10 years.

Here are a few self-reflection questions to help you write your goals:[2]

  • What would you want to do today if you had the power to make it the way you want?
  • If no hurdles are in the way, what would you like to achieve?
  • If you have the freedom to do whatever you want, what would it be?
  • What type of impact do you want to have on people?
  • Who are the people you most admire? What is it about them or what they have that you’d want for your life or career?
  • What activities energize you? What’s one activity you most love?

Remember to revisit your core values as you refine yours goals:

  • Are your goals in or out of alignment with your core values?
  • What adjustments do you need to make to your goals? Maybe some of your goals can be deleted because they no longer align with your values.
  • How attainable are your goals? Breakdown your goals into digestible pieces.
  • Do your short-term goals move you towards attaining your long-term goals?

Get very clear and specific about your goals. Think about an archer – a person who shoots with a bow and arrows at a target. This person is laser focused on the target – the center of the bullseye. The target is your goal.

By focusing on one goal at a time and having that goal visible, you can behave and act in ways that will move you closer to your goal.

4. Determine Your Top Talents

What did you love doing as a kid? What made these moments fun? What did you have a knack for? What did you most cherish about these times? What are the common themes?

What work feels effortless? What work do you do that doesn’t seem like work? Think about work you can lose track of time doing and you don’t even feel tired of it.[3]

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What are your desires? Try it out. Experiment. Take action and start. How can you incorporate more of this type of work into your daily life?

What themes emerge from your responses? How do your responses compare to your responses from the values exercise and your goals?

What do you notice?

5. Identify ‘Feeling’ Words You Want to Experience

Do you have tendencies to use your head or heart to make decisions?

I have a very strong tendency to make rational, practical, and fact-based decisions using my head. It’s very rare for me to make decisions using my emotions. I was forced to learn how to make more intuitive decisions by listening to my gut when I was struggling with pivotal life decisions. I was forced to feel and listen to my inner voice to make decisions that feel most natural to me. This was very unfamiliar to me, however, it expanded my identity.

Review this list of Feeling Words. Use the same technique you use for the values exercise to narrow down how you want to feel.

Keep these words visible too!

Review your responses. What do you observe? What insights do you gain from these responses and those in the above steps?

6. Be Willing to Sit with Discomfort

Make career decisions aligned with your values, goals, talents and feelings. This is not for the faint hearted. It takes real work, courage and willingness to cut out the noise around you. You’ll need to sit with discomfort for a bit until you build up your muscle to hit the targets you want.

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Surround yourself with a supportive network to help you through these times.

“These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them” – Rumi

7. Manage Your Own Career

Not to be cynical, but no one can make you happy but yourself. If you don’t take control of your career and manage it like your own business – no one will.

Discern between things that you can control and what you can’t control. For example, you may not be able to control who gets a promotion. However, you can control how you react to it and what you’ve learned about yourself in that situation.

Summing Up

For many who have gone through a career change or been impacted by life events, these steps may seem very basic. However, it’s sometimes the basics that we forget to do. The simple things and moments can edge us closer to our larger vision for ourselves.

Staying present and appreciating what you have today can sometimes help you achieve your long-term goals. For example, if you’re always talking about not having enough time and wanting work-life balance, think about what was good in your work day? Maybe you took a walk outside with your co-workers. This could be a small step to help you reframe how you can attain work-life balance.

Remember to take time for yourself. Hit pause, notice, observe and reflect to achieve career success by getting deliberate and intentional:

  1. Define Career Success for Yourself
  2. Know Your Values
  3. Define Your Short-Term and Long-Term Life and Goals
  4. Determine Your Top Talents
  5. Identify ‘Feeling’ Words You Want to Experience
  6. Be Willing to sit with Discomfort
  7. Manage Your Own Career

“When you stop chasing the wrong things you give the right things a chance to catch you.” – Lolly Daskal

Good luck and best wishes always!

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

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