Eileen’s Situation: I loved your book, Career Grease, How to Get Unstuck and Pivot Your Career! I identified with so much that was written and have already begun taking steps forward. Right now I’m in a job that provides me with financial security and a little bit of personal time. I want to move into a career that provides me fulfillment and financial security. I anticipate in a few years when I have kids that my main goal will be personal time. I am testing a career hypothesis that requires additional schooling, so my biggest fear is that I’ll go through it all and then be stuck again once my priorities shift again.
Eileen’s Question: How do you reconcile investing in a career now based on your current priorities while anticipating changing priorities?
Alison’s Answer: Eileen had been taking small steps to explore the possibility of becoming a physical therapist. She had talked to a handful of people working as physical therapists in different settings and had taken two courses at her local university to get a better understanding of the field.
So far things felt promising.
Eileen had a sense that she would really like working in a helping profession. She also loved learning about the body and had a passion for supporting people with recovering from injuries. She was also ok with the pay cut that would be associated with switching from her current career (as a product manager) to this new profession.
However, Eileen was feeling some trepidation about moving forward. Since she had completed several small, low risk exploratory steps, she wondered if the next step was to quit her job and go whole hog at this new career path. But she was also worried about the consequences of doing so.
Eileen and I discussed four ideas to help her continue to build her momentum without freaking herself out.
Move from small to medium steps.
While schooling was a definite next step for Eileen en route to becoming a physical therapist, quitting her job and becoming a full-time student wasn’t the only option. A more comfortable step for her was the “medium” sized step of continuing her current job and taking classes on a part-time basis. This would allow her to tend her financial health while moving towards her bigger career goal. It also allowed her to hedge her bets a bit more until she felt fully confident in the career path of becoming a physical therapist.
Improve your day-to-day experience by fitting it into a big picture plan.
Eileen noted that she had already perked up a bit in her current job already, because she knew she was working towards a bigger career goal. While she still didn’t love her job, when she knew it was serving a clear purpose of helping her achieve her goals, she had a better day-to-day experience. It stood to reason that as she entered school part-time, which continued her bigger plan, her day job would continue to be tolerable.
Make choices without a crystal ball.
Unfortunately, neither Eileen nor I had a crystal ball that would tell us with 100% certainty that becoming a physical therapist would be a great choice for her long-term. However, we did have some insight that it had the potential to be a good fit for her. She needed to accept some unknowns and make the best decision she could with the knowledge she had and trust that her future self would be able to maneuver appropriately as more knowledge and understanding entered the picture.
Know that scary things pass.
Eileen was doing a great job of working a plan, but she still felt some fear around her decision. In actuality, standing at the precipice of a choice without a decision is what generates the most fear. We worry that because a choice feels scary in the moment, it will feel scary for the entirety of the time we live with the choice. I reassured Eileen that once her decision was made, a lot of the feeling of fear would go away. You have to go through fear (by making a decision) to reduce it.
There’s no one-size-fits all solution for how to go about a career change. In Eileen’s case, going at a more moderate pace felt like a good fit for her. There are always many options forward. The trick is to find the best one for you.
What size “step” are you currently ready for in your career? Small, medium, or large? Share your thoughts below!
Client Feedback on Working with Alison in a Cardy Career Coaching program:
“Before working with the Cardy Career Coaching team I felt unhappy, aimless and deflated. Through my work with the coaching team, I explored ideas and areas I never considered before. I now feel more confident in potential opportunities, and more aware of what truly drives my career satisfaction.” –Cecilia, Career Direction Clarity + Action Plan Client