At any point in your career, the prospect of change can be a daunting one. Discovering what truly drives you is a conundrum of its own gravity (as discussed in our previous article on finding your career path), but once you’ve tackled that and are seeking to make it a reality, we’re here to help you forge your path.
This is the second article we’ve developed in collaboration with our good friend and career coach Alison O’Leary, adapted from her e-book, “New Year, New Career”. Together, we’re exploring key considerations for the right career move, and introducing a number of exercises you can do to move you closer to your destination.
Practice Makes The Perfect Career
The truth is, finding your path for a way of working that you’ll find fulfilling can involve a lot of trial and error. Experimentation and testing ideas is the only way you’re going to get really clear on whether any given idea is right for you, and what the best route to get there is.
Be prepared for that idea to change as you go – the more steps you take towards your career goal, the more feedback you’ll get. The more experience you accrue, mistakes you make, and lessons you learn, the more your original thinking will change. And with it, the idea you have in mind for your career and how to go about achieving it.
Nobody Said It Was Easy
The truth is, the path to fulfilling work can involve a lot of trial and error. Experimentation and testing ideas is the best way to get really clear on whether the idea is right for you, and what the best route to get there is.
Also be prepared for that idea to change as you go – the more steps you take towards your career goal, the more feedback you’ll get. The more experience you accrue, mistakes you make, and lessons you learn, the more your original thinking will morph. And with it, the idea you have in mind for your career and how to go about achieving it.
Often the thing that stands in the way of us realising our career dream is the belief that the route to our goal should be straightforward and easy. It is often neither.
Just because something feels much harder than we first imagined because it doesn’t match our idea of a linear path to success, we give up. We imagine that our goal isn’t meant to be, and we are better off going back to the well-worn work treadmill we know and don’t love.
So how do you use this understanding to work towards the right career path, building important momentum without letting knock-backs or failures stop you in your tracks?
The key? Pursue clarity. Adopt an experimental mind-set and break your goal down into the smallest possible pieces.
Try out the following exercises and see what impact they have on your mindset and progress.
Exercise 1: Baby Steps Plan
This can be a productive activity for those who feel overwhelmed by their career goal.
Consolidating the daunting prospect of a new career direction into smaller, consecutive tasks will help you reconcile the many dimensions of your ambition and let you address them one by one. It will also help you overcome the natural instinct to overcommit, which can make your goal feel onerous, miserable, overwhelming and unrealistic. To outsmart this pitfall, break your career goal down into small steps.
Use the template below as a model; write your career ‘end goal’ on the far left and consider the most basic steps through to the more complex. Building up to the career we envision for ourselves with smaller, incremental steps takes the “big deal” out of it. It stops the mind chatter we all have that argues why the goal is hard and why we should give up.
Small steps require less discipline, lowers the mental barrier to change and more importantly, makes you feel good as you start to build momentum at the right pace for you.
Exercise 2: The 100 Rejections Project
Take some time to identify a roadblock that is preventing you from moving towards the career you want. Then make that barrier the focus for the 100 rejections project.
For example, is your roadblock about skills; what friends and family will think; asking people for help?
Write down your chosen barrier.
My roadblock is: __________________________________________________
Now list a minimum of ten actions that you will take to tackle your roadblock, with the deliberate aim of getting 100 knock-backs or outright failures over time.
For instance, it might see you filling out numerous applications to different schools to learn new skills; testing out your career idea on friends and family to see what feedback you get; or asking industry gurus to give up 15 minutes of their time on the phone to share their own experience you – all with the expectation that you will be turned down, ignored or unsupported.
Trying to court knock-backs might sound ridiculous, but the psychology behind it is clever, and more importantly, it works.
Taking lots of shots at something will improve your likelihood of success. In trying to lose, you’ll improve your chances of achieving some important wins along the way that will help you build that all-important momentum towards the career change you really want. Give it a go and see what happens.
These are just a few of the fantastic exercises that Alison recommends in her e-book, so if these have enticed you to delve further and discover what matters to you in your career, check out her website and download the free PDF.
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Alison O’Leary is a certified Martha Beck life coach, specialised in career coaching through her Live True coaching practice.
She has a 17-year career holding senior management positions in the digital communications and marketing field, where she specialises in people development, retention and management.
Alison is highly experienced in coaching, training and mentoring. She combines insights from corporate and personal coaching work to help bright and spirited people find a way to a career that is meaningful, purposeful and fulfilling.