Nora’s Situation: I am struggling to learn what I would enjoy and what I would want to do in terms of work, office, pay, lifestyle, etc. I feel as if I lack knowledge about other industries (I am a lawyer) and am struggling to go below the easily list-able skills I have from law. It is also hard to figure out what I like and enjoy when I’m in an environment that is so busy and stressful that there is no time to think. Right now my life is work, sleep, TV, alcohol, ice cream. I need to figure out what skills I have and what I enjoy doing – and I need the structure to think this through properly rather than just daydream.
Nora’s Question: How do I figure out what I want to do with my career when I have limited time and energy?
Alison’s Answer: I love this question Nora! For folks who are working in consuming jobs, it’s really important to have guidance on the most effective steps of making a career change. There’s only so much time you have to devote to this process, and we want to make sure you’re able to use that time wisely.
Let’s imagine for a moment that instead of trying to identify a new career direction, Nora had to pick one recipe that she’d eat for lunch for the next year. We’ll assume that she has identical time constraints and a similarly limited knowledge of recipes.
Here’s the fastest way to figure out a palatable meal choice.
1) Broadly identify what she wants in her meal.
Something hearty? Vegetarian? Light and tasty? Does she prefer Mediterranean, Asian, American, Hispanic, or other genres of food? She should be able to do this step from her basic knowledge of herself and her tastes.
2) Find cookbooks that match her broad tastes.
We want a fairly comprehensive listing of the possibilities out there. After all, Nora doesn’t have a huge internal knowledge of all the dishes that exist. Here we’re looking to increase her awareness of what’s out there.
3) Narrow down options.
Once she had a big pool of relevant options, Nora could pick a few promising-looking recipes from the cookbooks. After reading descriptions and looking at the pictures, Nora could select a few that looked to be to her taste. We’re now matching Nora’s internal sense of herself with new, external knowledge.
4) Test the recipes before deciding.
Before committing to her year of lunches, Nora could actually try her selected recipes. This test drive would clarify what she most favored in her lunch-time option. Here we’re moving Nora into real world interaction with her hypothesis before making a big commitment.
5) Finalize the decision.
Based on her efforts, Nora can now pick a favorite or try the steps again, until a satisfying dish is selected. This selection can now occur from an informed place.
In career terms the steps are the same, though they are likely to be much more fraught with emotions, meanings, and mindset blocks.
1) Broadly identify things you like or want in a job.
2) Find a jobs database.
3) Pick a few jobs that look interesting.
4) Engage with people or experiences relating to the jobs you picked, in the real world.
5) Pick a favorite or repeat the earlier steps until you latch onto one idea.
To circle back to Nora’s original point about getting lost in daydreams, the secret to this method is that it combines some reflection with new information and real world exploration. That combo is far more powerful than hanging out solely in one’s own brain and childhood memories.
I will note that while the process of identifying a new career path is easy to understand, it can be challenging to implement by ourselves. The Cardy Career Coaching team is always here and happy to help make the process smoother and faster. In a case like Nora’s, it is all too easy to coast on maintaining the status quo, only to wake up years later, wondering where the time went. Having someone to hold you accountable and expertly guide you through the process can be especially beneficial when your energy at day end makes it a challenge to stay on the ball alone.
Are you working a consuming job and thinking of making a career change? What do you find to be the hardest part: lack of time, uncertainty about steps, or feeling too tired at day’s end? Share your concerns below!
Each month I’m tackling a career question from someone in our community. If you’re at a crossroads with your career and would like to pose a question, just sign up for the Step-By-Step Career Change E-Course! There’s a link to a quick survey in the early emails of the course where you can leave me a question. I might just write a blog post for you!