How to find the right career if you don't know what to do? Changing careers is both a highly unique experience and a very common one. It requires learning new skills such as conducting informational interviews and networking more effectively, and also shifting the way we think of ourselves, the people around us, and the world in general. Working with many people who feel stuck, and supporting them as they find the right career, I have found that shifting negative beliefs and adopting more effective mindsets is key to successfully achieving career happiness.
Here are nine mindsets to help you find the right career and go through a professional transition.
1. Tell the Truth
Too often we lie to ourselves about what we truly want and need. We say we want to make lots of money when we want to spend more time with our families instead, we say we love tech, when all we love is the nods of approval we get when we say we work for some well known tech company, we say we want freedom, while being responsible for a product launch gives us anxiety. And we lie to other people as well: we tell the hiring manager what he wants to hear to get hired, we tell our boss we are OK with working late (again!), and we tell our friends that everything is fine. The inner peace you experience is always directly proportional to how truthful you are. The first step to find the right career is facing and speaking the truth of what you need to be happy.
2. Focus on what you can contribute
Almost every person who contacts me is very aware of all they don't have, but underestimate and often downplay all they already know and are able to do. Look, there is so much you could learn, so much you could do, so much you could know...the thing is, if you keep focusing on what you lack, you will never feel ready to change careers. No one has ever gotten a job, promotion or changed careers talking about what they cannot do 😉 Shift from a mentality of lack, to one of valuing yourself, your skills and your talents. Focus on what you can contribute to a job, organization, team, or your clients if you want to work for yourself: your contributions are what's going to get you hired.
But what if you still miss some crucial skills or experience to move into the career of your dreams? If you come from a place of all you already have and find there is a gap you have to close, put your energy in bridging that gap. It will be a lot easier when you work on it from a place of confidence than one of lack.
3. Let go of certainties
There is absolutely no way you can be sure of what will happen at the end of your career transition process. When people wait for certainty, all it happens is that they get stuck for years. You have to step into the unknown and trust that you will know what steps to take as things unfold, and you will be able to deal with failure as well as success. Sure, sometimes you can choose how much risk you want to take: for example, some people prefer to build a side business before jumping into entrepreneurship. But even if you choose that path, you will still have no assurance your side business will be successful. And if it does well, you will have to take the leap and quit your job. So don't wait to figure it all out, it's an impossible task. Changing careers is a process, not a destination. Make it your goal to live in a way that supports your truth and is in alignment with your values, and you will start feeling better from the moment you step into action, not just at the end of the journey, when you find the right career.
4. Put Money Second
If money is the number one concern you have when it comes to your career, I am afraid you are doomed to failure. Why? Because the cliche is true: money doesn't make us happy. This doesn't mean we want to completely forget about money and just take any job. What it means is that the first step is always to figure out what we like and then we can plan how to make it work financially. If we start with money in mind, we are much more likely to choose something for the money, regardless of whether it is a good fit for us. Face it, this is probably how you ended up in your current job if you are well paid and miserable.
5. Stop believing every thought you have
We have way too much faith in our own ability to be rational and fact based: study after study shows that human beings are not nearly as rational as they think they are - and that includes you and me! Eastern philosophy has long recognized that the mind is a terrible master, hence the practice of meditation. We rationalize all sorts of crap because we are afraid, we want to protect ourselves from failure, etc. If you really want to grow you have to stop believing that everything you say to yourself is real, and start the work of questioning your most ingrained habits, beliefs and assumptions. This is probably the most important part of the coaching relationship, and a muscle well worth your time exercising: the better you get at uncovering negative beliefs, the faster you will move into career happiness.
6. Be flexible, more flexible!
It goes without saying that if you want to change careers and have a different professional life that you currently do, you will have to take different action. It will feel uncomfortable, scary, not what you expected or imagined for yourself. Victory belongs to those who become very flexible. Most of what we do is automatic and a product of habit, and all transformation lies in breaking ineffective habits, choosing our actions more intentionally and being OK with feeling uncomfortable. One way to work on this from the outside in, is to start doing things differently even in our everyday life, to train our brains that we have access to a much larger set of actions and ways of being that we think we have. So take a different road back home, buy different food for breakfast, hang out in a new place you never though you'd enjoy, etc. It will soon become a habit to be more flexible 🙂
7. Let go of the past
Toxic workplace dynamics, child abuse, bad breakups: if you are suffering from traumatic events, whether big or small, the first step towards career transformation is to release the hold they still have on you. Consider getting help from a psychotherapist; a coach can help with some attachment to past events as a way to move you forward, but cannot take the place of a skilled therapist if you are dealing with deep seated trauma.
On the other hand, you might still be attached to the success you had in the past, or the ease with which you were able to accomplish things. Time to let that go as well. There is no moving forward if we cling to the past, whether it was good or bad. Take care of this first, and then you will be able to find the right career.
8. Put your troubles in perspective
When we are stressed and unhappy we tend to focus on ourselves in a very narrow way: whether it's an illness, debt, the added pressure of caring for another, or being the target of ageism, we let our problems take over our mind. Everyone I talk to has very valid reasons to worry and is dealing with real obstacles to changing careers; however, when we get so focused on ourselves, we forget that our situation is not unique, and we end up imagining everyone else's life is much easier. Thanks social media!
If you find yourself constantly focusing on your problems, take a moment to reflect on the suffering of others. You can reflect on those who have different problems than yours and appreciate all you are not dealing with. And you can also be present to the many people who have your same issues. As you put things in perspective, you will be able to find resources to help you, more support from your community, shift from feeling sorry for yourself to experiencing self compassion, and feel the weight of your problem get much lighter.
You might be stuck with a problem you cannot solve, but you can always choose to experience more peace around it.
9. Believe in something greater than yourself
If you only believe in yourself, chances are sooner or later you will be disappointed: your courage will fail you, you will find yourself not strong enough, and might even discover than taking care of yourself is not enough motivation to get up every day. True strength can only be found when we believe in something bigger than ourselves. If you believe in God, (re)connecting with your faith, or finding a new spiritual path will open you to infinite possibilities. But you don't need to believe in God to connect with something greater: you can focus on love, or a higher value central to who you are, and find strength in aligning your life and career with actualizing it for everyone, yourself included. This focus on something bigger than yourself will sustain you through doubts, failures, and the ups and downs of your journey as you find the right career