Having second thoughts about your career path? Wondering if it’s time to jump ship?
A year ago, I was just like you.
I had spent five years building the foundations of a promising career in financial sales. I clawed my way up from an entry-level service job and was on the verge of landing a coveted position in external sales.
The problem? Just as I was polishing up my business plan to go for that promotion, I realized I didn’t want the job at all.
Not only that, but I started to think I was in the wrong industry altogether.
Panic set in.
How could I switch now? Hadn’t I gone too far down this path?
And if I didn’t want this career… then what did I want?
My world started to blur. My drive at work diminished. I grew confused.
And worse, I felt stuck.
For months, I lamented over my decision without telling a single person. I felt that no one would understand.
But this was a huge mistake. I became anxious.
My anxieties mounted until I couldn’t handle them alone anymore. I had to tell someone. I had to figure out what I wanted.
I first confided in my sales partner, then a teammate, and eventually even my manager. As I began to explain to them my desire for change and see the understanding on their face I felt waves of anxiety pour out of me. I had been freed of my burden.
I could now move forward and take action on my decision, rather than be crippled by it.
Six months later I was able to accomplish what had seemed impossible before: A new job in a new industry at a level that matched skill set.
It all worked out for me. And it will work out for you too. But I’d like to help you get there faster.
Here are three simple steps you can take that will help you to develop more confidence in your career path decision and find your new direction faster.
1. Realize that You’re not Actually Stuck
The biggest mistake I made as I began to doubt my career path was believing that it was too late to pivot. Since I had spent five years building up my skills and expertise in the financial services industry I started to believe this would be the only industry I could get another job. The last thing I wanted to do was make a lateral move to a different company within the same industry and find myself just as unhappy.
In this same vein, I thought that since my network largely consisted of people in finance I would not find a job that matched my skill level in a different industry. Surely, I would have to take a step back. I would have to start all over again.
However, both of these premonitions turned out to be wrong. The sales skills I had developed in finance could be transitioned to another vertical. And while my immediate network was in finance, there were second degree connections I had yet to uncover that would allow me to peak into other industries.
The key for you will be to get out of your own clouded head and see your situation from an outside perspective. You’re not the only person who’s been stuck in their career. You’re not the only person that feels like this right now.
So, you must start by being open with people. I suggest finding three trusted people to start with who you can explain your situation to. I’d recommend picking one colleague, one person who’s left your company, and a friend or family member.
Start with who you feel comfortable with and then branch out from there. The more times you tell your story, the more confidence you’ll develop in your decision. The cure to feeling unstuck will be underway.
2. Figure Out What You Want
After you’ve developed confidence in your decision to leave your current role, the next step will be trying to figure out what you want to do instead.
This was a question that stirred in my mind for many months. I realized that I had never truly thought about it before.
What did I really want to do? How did I want to spend the rest of my career?
My mind started to spin in circles again. Answering these questions seemed impossible.
Through one of my career discovery discussions I learned about a brainstorming exercise called “Uncover Your Calling” which would prove to be pivotal in finding my answers. In a nutshell, the exercise helps you to add up your passions, skills and values to find a career that’s right for you.
You can read more about the exercise and see an example of my brainstorm HERE. I encourage you to run through this at least three different times over the course of a few days. You’ll find that many of your ideas come to you when you’re not focused on the exercise at all.
3. Take Action on Your New Career Plan
Finally, once you’ve figured out a few potential career paths it’s time to start taking action on your ideas. Interested in startups? Curious about pharma? Time to tap into your network.
When I was in your shoes, and even after completing the “Uncover Your Calling” exercise, I still had many different ideas about what I wanted to do. I needed more information. I had to gain an understanding from people that were already in the trenches. So I started setting up as many informational career discussions as I could.
The first ones I reached out to were people who had left my company and pursued careers in different industries. I was curious as to why and how they did it. Did they regret their decision? What could I learn from them?
After tapping that group, I checked in with old college connections and then finally with trusted co-workers. Depending on the relationship you have this person, it’s appropriate to reach out to them via email or LinkedIn.
I found LinkedIn to be particularly helpful for people I hadn’t connected with in a while. You should direct message anyone who has a current or past role that interests you. Don’t be afraid to seek help from people on the fringes of your network. These can often be the people who provide the best leads.
As you begin this outreach process it is crucial to set goals for yourself. When I was in this phase of my career search, I was reaching out to 3 people a day. Out of these three I would usually land one call and receive another 1-3 leads from there. You’ll want to move at your own pace, but having a daily or weekly goal is the best way to hold yourself accountable as you move through this challenging process.
In the end, if you’re willing to put in the effort to have these conversations, your career vision will start to become less blurry and your right path will appear in front of you.