There may come a time in your life when you decide to change careers — perhaps even more than once. Career changes happen for several reasons, but when they do, it’s advantageous to be strategic. A researched, thoughtful career change will likely lead to greater job satisfaction.
We talked to Kathy Caprino, an international career and leadership coach, author, host of the Finding Brave podcast, and speaker dedicated to the advancement of women in business globally, on how to make a shift from one career path to another.
As a career coach, writer, and researcher, she’s had the opportunity to observe key trends among thousands of professionals around the world, particularly about how they get stuck and stay stuck in careers they dislike, and how to effectively change directions to a new path that’s more rewarding and successful.
After 16 years of career coaching now, and a new book on the 7 most damaging power gaps that keep 98% of professional women (and 90% of the men she studied) from reaching their highest potential at work, she has seen that there are four critical steps that help people overcome their internal and external career challenges, and transform their lives. The four key steps to transforming your career to something you’ll love are:
1. Dig deep to figure out what you want to keep or leave behind – get to the root of the problem
Recently in a call with members of my Amazing Career Project course, a participant asked for help determining if it’s her career that’s making her miserable or the environment (employer). She just couldn’t identify what needed to change, and she’s not alone.
Here’s what to do: Conduct a thorough assessment of what you would like to preserve and maintain in your current career and job function, and what needs to be shed.
To help you review your entire trajectory of work and see more clearly all the dots you’ll want to connect, take Kathy’s free Career Path Self-Assessment. And think about this:
If you were to interview 100 people in your line of work, what elements would be consistent – what tasks, functions and outcomes do the majority of people in your career engage in, regardless of the employer or environment? What challenges and rewards are consistent among these professionals, regardless of where they work?
If you have no clue, go out and start connecting with and talking to people in your line of work and then ask yourself:
“Are these tasks and functions in my job (that are consistent across many employers) enjoyable and rewarding to me?”
If not, it’s a sign that your career has to change.
As an example, I spent my first professional years as a copywriter in publishing. Truthfully, I always liked to write but I realized several years into my first publishing jobs that while I was very good at copywriting and selling books and journals, I didn’t align with it or find it rewarding.
It’s key to remember that just because you’re great at a particular task or function, doesn’t mean you should build a career around that function. Pursue something that you’re great at AND you love to focus on.
I know now that I don’t enjoy writing strictly for marketing purposes, especially pushing other people’s products that I don’t believe in or care much about.
Instead, I love writing about ideas, trends, psychological and therapeutic issues, society, women at work, career and leadership growth solutions, rather than copy for promotional purposes. Writing, then, is a rewarding, fulfilling endeavor for me only when it’s for a purpose or outcome I’m excited about.
On the other hand, if it’s the job environment that’s killing you, tease out exactly what you dislike about it. Is it the leadership, the people, the focus, the crushing schedule, the values of the organization, the unfair treatment, the lack of diversity, the outcomes they care about, the way they manage, etc.?
Brainstorm a list of other organizations you might want to work for that have traits you admire, and start your networking and interviewing process this month. (By the way, whether you’re happy or not in your job, you should be networking continually and interviewing regularly — every six months or so — to keep your finger on the pulse of where your field is going and also to get a sense of what’s available in the marketplace and what you have to offer other organizations.)
Tailor your resume and LinkedIn profile to highlight specifically what you love to do and want to do more of, and communicate about your contributions and talents powerfully. Trust me, your eyes will be opened throughout this process.
2. Uncover the hidden beliefs, mindsets and assumptions that keep your feet planted in stone.
Everyone on the planet carries with them thousands of embedded beliefs, mindsets and assumptions – about themselves, the world, work, and the people around them. And people who are stuck have often made some costly or rigid assumptions about what they’re capable of creating (or not), their worthiness, and what they need to be happy.
The most damaging belief is this: I can’t get what I want and I don’t deserve to.
Clients by the hundreds have shared with me that they don’t feel capable of making the changes they dream of, but from my perspective as a researcher and career coach, I know they are far more capable and competent than they believe.
The assumptions (most often unconscious) that keep people trapped are these:
– I’ve been at this so long, I can’t change
– I need to earn $XXX to live the life I want
– My marriage or family won’t survive my making this change
– I’ll be too old by the time I make this change
– I don’t have what he/she has, to succeed
– I’m unskilled, uneducated or out of touch with current trends
– I have nothing important to offer
– I can’t compete in today’s changing workforce
– There’s nothing geographically near me that I’d want
– I’m too exhausted and burnt out to try anything different
– I’m really down and sad that what I have isn’t working out (and don’t really believe the next thing will be better)
If you have beliefs and mindsets that hold you back, you have to take one key step: revise what you think and believe to something that will serve you better.
You might want to pursue some outside help (from a mentor, coaching buddy, therapist, etc.) for support to shift your mindsets and beliefs so they support your highest goals and visions, but it starts with understanding that your beliefs are not set in stone. They often came from someone else, and you can indeed change them. And when you shift what you believe to something more positive and life- and self-affirming, everything is transformed.
Go out and talk to some career changers, for instance, and ask yourself: “Are these folks who’ve reinvented their careers really so different from me, or can I do this?”
3. Gain clarity about the best path for you
Ask yourself these questions and conduct some research to answer:
- What are my deepest passions and the natural talents I love to use, and which of these make sense to leverage as a livelihood versus a hobby?
- Based on my authentic passions, talents, skills and values, what are the best careers for me?
- What are all the factors I also need to address in planning my next direction (money, timing, well-being, geography, family needs, support, enjoyment, health, etc.)?
- Am I making any erroneous assumptions about myself and my life that I need to rethink?
- Do I know what it takes to be successful in this new direction, and am I 100% committed to creating success?
- Do I really want to start my own business, or am I just running away from something?
- How will I fund my career change or transition?
- Where will I obtain the ongoing guidance and support I need?
4. Now…tie it all together
After you’ve done the work of identifying exactly what you want to change, and revising your mindset that what you long for is possible, it’s time to connect the dots. For a big boost of inspiration, listen to Steve Job’s amazing Stanford University Commencement Speech and TED talk “How to Live Before You Die” about how to make sense of the key themes of your life, and honor them.
Explore a new path that will bring forward what matters to you, and leverage what you’re great at, within a work culture that brings out the best in you and others. View this as a life “project” rather than a be-all-and-end-all experience. Make this a 6-month endeavor where you explore, research and try on new directions to learn what’s best for you going forward.
As one who has interviewed and coached hundreds of successful career changers, and after reinventing my own career twice, I’ve seen that building a happier, braver and more thrilling career, requires these 6 C’s:
Clarity…to understand what needs to change, specifically and why
Confidence… to believe in yourself that you can do it
Courage… to start engaging in the often intimidating work of change and growth
Commitment…to keep going, throughout the bumps, challenges and fear, and do what’s required, with an accountability structure in place to help
Connection…to build a powerful support network and community who can help you rise
A powerful Change plan…to engage in the right steps that will bring you to a more satisfying outcome. (
Don’t make the same huge blunders that so many career changers make. Do the inner and outer work required to
1) discover who you are and what really matters to you,
2) overcome the obstacles in the way of your success, and
3) identify and “try on” several new paths to identify the ones that will bring you the happiness and success you long for.
Finally, understand and believe that you’re indeed capable of reaching your highest potential and achieving your most thrilling goals and visions in this lifetime. Why not you?
To learn more about building a successful, rewarding career, visit KathyCaprino.com. And to access the bravery and power you need to make the changes you long for, take Kathy’s new digital course The Most Powerful You, based on her latest book The Most Powerful You: 7 Bravery-Boosting Paths To Career Bliss.