Clearing Up Career Confusion
by Kevin Brennfleck and Kay Marie Brennfleck
Are you thinking about making a career change? Too often, thinking about it is as far as many people go. If you're in a career that you don't like, you probably daydream about doing something different that you would really enjoy. You imagine enjoying going to work, and feeling productive and fulfilled each day. In your dream job, your work fits your schedule, priorities, values and salary needs. At a deep level, you can feel the difference a new job would make in your life.
Why People Stay Stuck in the Wrong Jobs
You continue dreaming day after day (or even year after year) about making a career change, yet don't do anything about it. Why? Here are the two most typical reasons:
Confusion. While many people know what they don't want to do, they are unclear about what type of work they would like to do. Or, if they have a vision of work that would fit them well, they are foggy about how to get into that career. You can't make a successful career change until you know specifically what change you want to make and have a game plan for the transition.
Fear. When people say they "hate" their jobs, wouldn't you expect they would be anxious to get into a new job? Often, however, people choose to stay in their misery because it is familiar. They choose the known over the unknown. We humans are fearful creatures. When faced with making a change, we tend to think about all the "what-ifs," imagine the worst possible outcomes, treat those thoughts as though they are the "truth about how things are," and therefore convince ourselves to stay stuck where we are.
If you are in work that is a poor fit, take a minute to ask yourself why you aren't taking steps to get out of it. Making the right diagnosis is the first step in fixing something. Determine whether your inertia is due to a lack of career direction, not having a do-able game plan for making a change, and/or some type of fear. Once you tell yourself the truth about why you are stuck, you can more easily figure out what to do about it.
Three Tips for Clearing Up Career Confusion
1. Take a look at what's wrong with your job. Take our Career Check-up Inventory to help determine what factors in your current (or most recent) job contribute most to your dissatisfaction. The inventory can help you determine whether you need to make changes in your current job, find a similar job in a different company or make a significant career change.
2. Try out a "dream job." Many people talk themselves out of even looking into a possible dream job because making a change seems impossible. While it is true that making a change will require moving out of your comfort zone, the secret to making successful changes is taking bite-sized, do-able steps. Here are some ways you can begin moving from dream to reality:
- Read about your dream job. Search for books about it at Amazon.com or google the job title to see what you can find on the Internet.
- Watch TV shows, documentaries or You Tube videos of people doing this work. Picture yourself in this career to see if it "fits."
- Talk to people who do this job. Ask them what they like about their job; what they don't like; how they got into the field; typical salary ranges for the profession; recommendations for how to decide if the work would be a good fit for you; etc. You can also ask them for names of other people in the field you could interview. (As you conduct these "informational interviews," you will be building a contact network that will come in handy later if you decide to pursue this career.)
- Volunteer. You can actively try out a particular type of work by volunteering your time to your church or a non-profit agency. (If you are in school, you can also seek out appropriate internship experiences.) For example, if you are interested in becoming a special events planner, volunteer to help out with a 5K fundraiser for a local non-profit. If you are considering teaching, start in your church. Brainstorm with friends and family members about how you might get some hands-on experience in a particular field, and then take the initiative to ask about opportunities. You will never know what is possible until you ask!
Once you have "tried on" your dream job in a number of ways, you will be better able to assess if it really is a good fit for you. You will also know more about the specific steps for getting into this type of work, and have developed some connections to help in your transition. Your confusion will then be replaced by much more clarity!
3. Expose your fears to the light of day. Ever notice how overwhelming your fear can be at 2:00 a.m.? When you awake in the middle of the night, anxious thoughts can be paralyzing. Usually, however, in the morning you can more realistically deal with fears and figure out what to do about them. In the same way, it is important to name the fears you feel when you think about making a change so that you can examine them rationally. Unexamined fears will keep you stuck!
The good news is that often people find that their fears about making a career change decrease as they find out more about their dream job. Fears about the unknown diminish when you learn more about the field. You may discover that many of your fears were unfounded: You may find out, for example, that you can earn more in this field that you had previously imagined. You won't need to start "at the bottom." Your age is not a big factor. Etc. If you find that some of your concerns are accurate, such as the field really is competitive to get into, you can explore how others have succeeded in spite of this obstacle. Information is a key to combating fear.
A fear of failure (Can I really make it in this field?) can be addressed as you try out the new area of work through volunteering. You will be building your skills and experience as you assess how well the work fits your God-given design. You may find that you have the potential to excel in this career field because it interests you and you are therefore motivated to learn and grow.
Confusion is not a Terminal Condition
You don't have to live with career confusion. Although the prospect of making a career change can seem daunting, there are steps you can take to achieve your dream. God designed you for a purpose. His power and wisdom are available to you. He will be with you as you take the necessary steps to discover and live your vocational calling!
"For the Spirit that God has given us does not make us timid; instead, his Spirit fills us with power, love, and self-control." (2 Timothy 1:7 GNB)