Career Change: When You Think You Know What You Want

This post is the third installment in a series on career change. The first two installments can be found here and here.

7822721154_743871b42b_nLike we talked about last week, some people KNOW what they want in a new career. But not everyone. Sometimes you’re not exactly sure, and it can start to feel like you’re deciding what to order at a Thai restaurant.

Your current job is pad thai. You know what to expect from pad thai. You’re comfortable with pad thai. You like pad thai. But do you really want to be one of those people who goes to a Thai restaurant and only ever orders pad thai? No. You want something a bit more exciting, a bit more adventurous.

So you look down the menu, and you see something else that’s interesting. It’s got ginger and garlic. It’s a little sweet, a little spicy. It’s everything you want in a dish… on paper. But what if the flavors don’t work together the way you want them to? What if you order something else and don’t like it? You’ll spend the rest of the meal thinking, “Oof! I should have just stuck with good old reliable pad thai.” So, then you know what to order next time.

This is where the metaphor breaks down, because you can’t just switch careers for a day and switch right back if things don’t work out.

As I’ve said in the last two posts, changing careers takes time and energy. And not only that, but career fields develop at a rapid pace these days. If you take a few years away from a programming job, for example, to try something new, you might come back only to learn you’re no longer qualified to work in the programming field anymore.

So, just like I said last time (and SPOILER ALERT, I’m going to say this in just about every post I write about changing careers), you need to reach out to your network. Talk to people you know who work in the field you want to work in. Ask them about the day-to-day work, about the tedious stuff that people don’t put in the job descriptions. Ask them what they love about the job and what they hate, and ask them how that breaks down, time-wise.

Because here’s the thing: it’s not that you’re not sure about what you want out of your new career; it’s about whether or not the new career can deliver on what you want. It looks like it can on paper, but you need to know if all those flavors taste as good together as you think they will.

Photo by flicker user Luca Nebuloni, used under a Creative Commons License.

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