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How to plan for change in your career

Posted on from Executive Connexions Ltd

If you've ever considered a career change (or even if you're just looking to develop your current career), then I suggest that you stop, take a breath, and formulate a plan which includes as many factors about you as possible.

Do you have a career plan?

Of course skills, qualifications and abilities are vital, but when I am coaching people who want to change career, it often transpires that they have not stopped to consider what they really want.

It’s natural to some extent to want to just move on quickly, but this research and reflection time will be time very well spent. Have a pen and paper ready – by working through the following structure, you may reveal aspects of yourself that you weren’t aware of, or perhaps had forgotten about.

Reflect on your past career

To begin with take a deep breath. We need to get a complete ‘picture’ of yourself; likes, dislikes, strengths, values, goals. It can take time, because the natural urge is to just job hunt. How do you get this picture in place? I suggest you get started by writing a short biography (200-300 words), and to look at your highs and lows over the past, so that we can have as full a picture as possible of you.

What have you achieved in your career that you’re proud of? What did you really enjoy? What problems or challenges have you encountered over the years, and how did you overcome these? Following these suggestions will give you as full a picture as possible of you. Some tips: 

  • When writing your biography, look for clues to your values, and write them down. Values are a vital element to finding the right career.
  • Be positive. Always. Write down ten things that you like about yourself. This can be a challenge, but will help your mind-set.
  • Think about whether you’re naturally a risk taker career-wise. If so what happened when you took risks? What happened when you didn’t?
  • In tandem with the above, start to generate career ideas/factors that appeal to you. Keep them as a list, collage, whatever works for you. Keep updating this list with new ideas as you go about your day. Be in a ‘constant mode of enquiry’, as I call it.

Find your passions

Taking time to think about 'you' fully can also be a fun stage where light bulbs go on regularly, as realizations about past errors in career strategy are realised, and a plan to move forward is gradually laid down. This is a thorough process, and I again urge you to take the time to explore all of your values, strengths, likes, and desires before rushing into job search.

After the exploration stage, I suggest that you enter what I call the 'dream' phase. This is an exciting stage where you get to think outside of the box, be creative, really go for it! What careers have you ever dreamt of doing? What jobs did you dream about when you were 6 years old? 11 years old? 16 years old? This is brainstorming, so anything goes. 

How can this influence your career?

By using the exercises you’ve done previously, and your own intuition, try to get down to three job/career possibilities. All three possibilities should meet your values, skills and abilities, and be something you feel truly passionate about. All three ideas should also stack up against all of the aspects of life and work, which you will have been recording throughout.

After we have those three ideas we then get to one idea. It’s this idea which you will take forward and formulate a plan of action to get you there. How do you get from three options to one? Ask yourself some searching questions:

  • Referring back to the previous exercises, really drill deep down into each choice. Which makes you feel really enthusiastic?
  • Ask yourself the potential pros and cons for each choice
  • Paint a 'word picture' for each choice; visualize yourself doing the role in the future – write it down. How does it feel? What are you doing? Why do you love it so much? Could it be better?
  • What results would you like to create for each possibility?
  • Your final choice should be the one that’s most 'alive' for you. Of course, this process is something I would normally discuss with you during coaching. 

Time for action

Finally, create a practical, detailed action plan. Decide who you need to contact (or other action required), by when, and for what reason. This detailed list of action points is vital to carry the whole process forward.

I cannot emphasise enough that this is all for nought without execution and review. You’ve heard of smart action planning, and most probably heard of smarter action planning too, but how often is execution and review missing from the planning equation?

So, before you embark on a career path that might not suit you, take the time to step back and take that breath.

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