Deirdre McEachern

Article Summary:

Advince to consider before changing careers or taking a new job.

Changing Careers - Find a Job You Love in 7 Steps

Today is a great day to begin the journey toward finding a job you will love. Since you are attempting to create a brand new future for yourself, I suggest you give this process some time. Work your way through the steps below over a few weeks. It's a good idea to approach this program like taking a class. Set aside a specific time each week, such as Monday evenings at 7 p.m. Each week, read one step and work on it. Over the course of the week, be sure to let each step percolate in your mind during your daily activities. The following Monday, note any new thoughts you have had and then begin the next step. If you get stuck or need help, you can contact Deirdre at 207-439-4280 for assistance.

Step #1: Identify Why You Are Changing Careers
The first step in any career change is to identify why you are looking for a change. It is important to know whether you are trying to move away from something or if you are trying to move toward something. Ultimately, it is much more empowering to move toward something as opposed to trying to escape from something.

It is much more difficult to identify your ideal job if your personal vision is limited to overcoming the negatives of your current situation.

This is your time to dare to dream. Why not dream big? If you are going to make a career change, keep all of your options open to give yourself the best chance of making a fresh start. This is your time to find a job you will love for years to come.

Step # 2: Create a Personal Vision & Specify Your Goals
The next step in finding work you love involves creating a very clear vision of your future work situation. You need to be able to definitively answer the following questions:

  • What is your ideal work day schedule?
  • What is your required salary to live comfortably? (For more information on salary and work you love, I highly recommend the book Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin)
  • What is your preferred commute time?
  • What are your ideal positions and tasks?
  • To what managerial level do you want to be reporting?
  • Are you an entrepreneur at heart?
  • Would you consider self-employment?
  • Are there any other logistical aspects you need to consider, such as travel required or on-site day care provisions?

Try to think through every aspect of a normal day. Don't be afraid to outline what might feel like unrealistic or pie-in-the-sky options. The purpose here is to get very clear on what it is you want. Not what you think you can get.

Creating this vision and specifying your goals is an integral step toward finding your ideal job. I recommend that my clients spend plenty of time on these questions and write out their answers in a notebook or journal.

Step #3: Re-Connect With Your Interests
So many of my clients have lost touch with their interests. It is not easy for them to identify the things that capture their attention. To help get your self-knowledge flowing, answer the following questions over the course of a typical week:

  • What is your favorite bookstore section?
  • Which sections of the newspaper do you turn to first?
  • What magazine subscriptions do you have?
  • What were your favorite classes in college?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • What categories of books do you keep on your bookshelf?
  • What great conversations do you remember from parties and social events? What was the topic? What made it a great conversation?

After keeping track of these things for a week you should be able to identify some trends. Did you notice some of your interests emerging on a consistent basis? Are you able to narrow it down to two or three top interests?

Do not worry at this point whether the interests you have identified have any possibilities as careers. You are just beginning the self-exploration process. In order to have any hope of finding work you love, you have to start by identifying what is truly interesting to you!

Step #4: Re-Connect With Your Values
Interests and values go together like a lock and a key. Once you have identified some of your favorite interests, the next step is to explore your values. Your values are your deeply held convictions that compel you into action. Many people become unsatisfied in their careers because one or more of their personal values are not being met. To uncover some of your strongest inner values try to answer some or all of the following questions:

  • Who is your favorite famous person? What is it that you admire about them?
  • If you never had to work again, what would you spend your time doing? Why?
  • If you could solve one world problem what would it be?
  • What personal accomplishment are you most proud of?
  • What are your top three movies of all time? What theme do they share?
  • What makes you mad?
  • What would you want said about you at your funeral?

These questions are likely to take you longer to answer than any of the others so far. That is because your values are at the core of what motivates you in life. When you find work that is in sync with one or more of your values, you will feel a great desire to do that work. It will feel more like your "calling" rather than merely a job.

You will gain a sense of importance about the work you are doing. You will feel that your time is being spent wisely and that your work makes a difference. When you can combine these values-based feelings with working in an area of your interest, you will be well on your way to finding work you love. Try to sum up your answers from the questions in this step and then identify your top three values.

Step #5: Know Your Abilities!
Now you know why you are looking to change careers (better pay? more fulfillment?), what you would like your future work day to look like (nine to five? three weeks vacation? On-site gym?), your areas of interest (history? biology? human development?) and your values (education? tenacity? helping others?). The next step in the process is to connect these emotional components with what you are actually hard-wired to do. You can find this out by taking a natural abilities test.

I highly recommend abilities testing to all of my clients. There are several sources of abilities testing available. I use The Highlands Ability Battery. I have heard of other people using the Johnson-O'Connor test. You can find these tests via personal coaches, college career centers, state-run career centers, etc. Be sure to ask for an abilities test and not a personality or communication-style assessment (such as the Myers-Briggs or Strong Interest Inventory).

Abilities tests define your natural abilities based on timed work samples. This allows for an objective way of discovering (or affirming) the kind of work to which you are best suited. These tests also tell you about your preference for introversion or extroversion, your time frame orientation, your preference for abstract or tangible work, and other work style information. It is important to know and confirm the type of abilities that come quickly and easily to you. When you find work that calls upon these abilities, it will not only be easier for you to succeed, but you will also gain a greater sense of satisfaction from your work.

Step #6: Inventory Your Skills
The sixth step in the process of discovering work you will love is to take stock of your skills. Your skills augment your natural abilities. They are things you have picked up along the way in your career journey (public speaking, computer programming, project management, etc.). These are the areas that you have experience in, courses you have taken, on-the-job training you may have received or any other areas where you feel you have gained competence.

You may find it helpful to look at past resumes, project notes and performance reviews to create a thorough list of skills you have acquired and would like to continue to use in the future. From this comprehensive list, narrow it down to three to five skill areas that you feel are your strongest.

Step #7: Create A Road Map to Actual Positions
Finally, you have made it to the last step! By now you should know a lot more about yourself than you did at the beginning of this process. Now is the time to put all of the pieces together and start to define positions. So often when clients first come to me, their natural inclination is to start the career change process by immediately trying to identify new job titles.

They come to me saying things like, "maybe I should be a nurse" or, "I heard that photography is a good career." I always tell them the same thing: it is best not to look at job titles until you have explored your inner desires, passions, abilities, interests and values. It is best to keep all your options open during the first six steps. You have a better chance of finding work you will truly love when you fully unleash the creativity of this process. You may be surprised about what you uncover!

To complete Step #7, use the information you have collected from Steps 1 through 6 and put them on a note card in this format:

  • Top three personal interests
  • Top three core values
  • Top three natural ability areas
  • Top three to five acquired skills

Once you have created this card, you can start to show it to friends, relatives and anyone else you might consult. Ask them what kind of job this list describes to them. Do they know anyone who has a job like this? If so, perhaps they can help you line up informational interviews to confirm that this type of work would indeed be of interest to you.

I had a client who took this card to a trade show and discovered two new job titles that neither of us had ever heard of before. After two informational interviews with people in those positions, it was clear that she had found a whole new career opportunity for herself that neither of us would have ever known existed!

A few final notes about undertaking a career change:

1. Be thorough, be persistent and be true to yourself and you will find the job of your dreams. It's important to be patient with yourself during the career change exploration process. It is like filling a large funnel at the top. You are putting in new information day-by-day... your reasons for changing, your logistical requirements, your interests, your values, your abilities, your skills, etc. What will happen eventually is that one or two job titles will fall through the narrow opening at the bottom of the funnel.

The payoff you will receive for investing in getting to know yourself through this seven-step process is that the jobs you uncover will be the most exciting opportunities of your life. You will have finally found work you can truly love.

2. Be sure your financial situation is stable while you go through the career change process. It is much easier to explore freely when you don't have to worry about how your bills are going to be paid. Remember, this seven-step process is about finding your passion and figuring out how you can make your unique contribution to the world. It will need your attention for a little while.

3. If you are currently unemployed and looking for immediate work, watch out for this trap: just being good at something doesn't mean you should be doing it! This is a valid and possibly the quickest road to a renewed paycheck, but don't confuse this with engaging in a real career change process to find work you love.

4. It is normal to be frightened and to worry about being unrealistic about career choices. After all, we all need to make a living. Regardless of whether you are currently working, these thoughts will naturally arise if you are considering making a major change from the status quo. Let these feelings rise and fall. It's okay. Talk it out with your friends, your career coach or write about them in your journal. Making a career change can be stressful but don't let that stop you from finding work you love!

Deirdre Dufour McEachern is a full time, career coach, writer and frequent speaker on work-life issues. Deirdre offers specialized career coaching for professionals considering a career change. Deirdre received her Masters degree in Mediation and Conflict Resolution from Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland and is also a graduate of Coach University. She believes strongly that you can find a career you enjoy, express your natural talents and have a life. Contact Deirdre for a free career-coaching consultation or sign up for her free e-newsletter Vip Coaching.

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