“Often people attempt to live their lives backwards: They try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want so that they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then, do what you need to do, in order to have what you want.”
~ Margaret Young ~
Annie Asks: The job I have is not satisfying. I’ve been doing it for over twelve years. I don’t know what I like to do. How do I figure this out and find a career that is fulfilling for me?
Joel Answers: For most people, changing careers is a process, not an overnight, snap decision. You know you are unsatisfied in your current position, and you’re exploring your options. That’s the first—and often the hardest—step in the process. The good news is that you can change careers at any age or stage in your career. Whether you’re changing careers at 30 or 45, the process is still the same. Here are some tips to help you discover your dream job, regardless of how old you are or how long you’ve been in your current position.
- Think about what you really love to do.
For now, don’t try to make this work or career-related. Don’t think about what kind of work you love to do; think about what you love to do in your free time. Do you garden? Spend time with your grandkids? Putter around in your workshop? What really makes you happy? Any one of these things could be the foundation of a new career. What is it that you do in your own time that really makes your heart sing?
- Consider ways to make what you love into a career.
Once you have determined what makes you happy, think of ways that you might be able to turn that activity into a new career. If you love to garden, you could start a nursery, go to work for a greenhouse, become a landscaper, or even teach others about gardening. If you love spending time with your grandkids, you might enjoy working with other people’s children as well. A career as a teacher or daycare director might be right up your alley. For the workshop hobbyist, making and selling handcrafted furniture can be extremely fulfilling and profitable.
- Get help from a career coach.
If you’ve tried coming up with ways to turn one of the things you love into a career but you’re still stuck, consider turning to a career coach for help. A good coach will guide you through the career change process and help you find the right career for you.
If you’re unhappy in your career, the time to get started searching for a new career is now. Even if you’re just 30 or 35, changing careers is hard, but as you get older, it gets even harder. If you’re young now, don’t wait until you’re 45 or 50 to think about changing careers. Older workers often face more of a challenge starting over in a new career due to reluctance on the part of employers to hire an older worker to fill an entry-level position.
If you are changing careers in mid-life or later, first read my article, “5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Pursuing Your Dream Job,” then consider ways that you might be able to combine aspects of your old job with your new career. For example, if you are a sales manager now, you might have an easier time changing industries if you accept a position in sales in that industry first, then pursue the position you really want after you’ve gained some experience in the industry.
Do you need help finding your dream job? Fill out the career assessment on the Dream Job Coaching website to receive a personalized response from Joel.
Talkback: Are you in the process of making a career change or have you successfully completed one? Tell us about it below or leave a question for a future Q&A with Joel.