You have been there – thinking about your work, something inside is shouting ‘no more’ but the shelf life of the courage to change is about 3 seconds. Popular reasons to stay put include ‘age’, ‘money’, ‘the house’, and so on. Here is a fear-busting manifesto to really generate and pursue your best career ideas. And yes, this post is inspired by my all-time favourite training and career guide: Richard Bolles’ ‘What Color is Your Parachute?’
1. Trust what you enjoy
Are you thinking that your personal quirks and interests cannot make money? Think again. I worked with a gentleman in his 40s whose beloved Starwars collection led to a successful home-based import venture (and his wife no longer threatened to divorce him over a cluttered house). Also, I recall a young administrator whose longstanding interest in health and roller skating secured her a position in health promotion as a well-being officer – after only two interviews, and without going back to school. With this enjoyable stop-gap job under her belt, she is now looking further into unusual settings for roller skating coaches. Then there was the senior marketing manager who passionately loves historical cities and is now designing an innovative history app for tablets. I could go on. Please, please, always trust what you enjoy, and you will find an open door.
2. Dare to be unrealistic
Would you believe that a prison officer over 50 could land a job in the beauty & make-up industry without any re-training or work experience? No? Neither did I back then. However, the lady I knew did this within three months of making the decision. After some research, she walked into her favourite beauty outlet and introduced herself although they had not advertised any vacancies. She shared her decades of interest in beauty products with the manager and was granted an interview one month later. Her genuine desire ‘to make people feel beautiful’ got her the job. Or take the unemployed mother who attended my workshop suffering from chronic pain. She said she loved crime investigation and wanted to work for MI5. Even I wondered: ‘Is this realistic?’ Well, she dared to research it and found that MI5 had a recruitment drive for applicants with disabilities that very month. Richard and Gary Bolles recommend to pursue the whole dream, please, without cutting it down from the start, so that you can go chasing that dream with your whole heart.
3. Combine favourite interests and prepare to be surprised
In Richard Bolles’ Parachute career guide (get your 2016 edition now) you will find a chapter showing you how to identify your ‘special knowledges’, also known as ‘fields of fascination’ or ‘interests’. These often point to new career fields. Whatever your age, prepare to be surprised by combining your favourite fields. Let’s take ‘food’ and ‘travel’, for example, as selected by a recent client who felt thoroughly misplaced in events management. Even a basic 15-minute Google search of ‘food travel’, and ‘travel food’ yielded such an abundance of exciting ideas that she needed a break to digest the options (fancy being a raw food chef on the Maldives?). Add your favourite location to the equation, and new horizons will emerge. Some years ago, a workshop participant combined the following: ‘the elderly’ (favourite people), ‘golf’ (favourite field), and Spain (favourite location), No longer able to play golf or manage care work, he filled the then-market gap of ‘golf holidays for the elderly in Spain’. Needless to say, any field research also includes joining interest groups, attending related events, browsing trade magazines, volunteering etc. So, please combine any fields you love, enjoy your search results and go hunting for your options.
4. Talk to everyone you know (or want to know)
Have you avoided changing career due to lack of contacts or information with regards to a new career field? Here is an easy experiment to remedy this: at the next social event, training, or hair dressing appointment wait for the guaranteed question: “And what do you do?” This is your cue to deliberately change your answer: instead of mentioning your current job through gritted teeth, how about sharing what you’re researching, wondering about, or envisaging for the future? Give as much detail as you can without boring the listener, and await their response. Nine times out of ten they will ‘know someone who knows someone’ who does something similar, or they are dying to help in some other way. Perhaps you can discretely inquire far enough to receive contact details – bingo! You are one step further. Talk to everyone, please, even distant acquaintances because they often hold the new information you need to make a change.
5. Visit contacts in your desired field and give yourself time
Lastly, are you feeling a little hesitant about contacting ‘experts’ in your envisaged field? You are not alone. Richard Bolles suggests to practice having simple conversations about passionate interests first – without any job-related agendas. When you feel more confident, ask for 10 minutes of time from someone who is established in their field but lives outside your immediate catchment area (avoid competition). With a well-prepared set of questions around how they got to where they are (while sticking to the agreed time limit) you can go a long way. Apart from being stimulating, this important step will reveal advantages and disadvantages of your desired vocation, it can help you avoid mistakes, and it will automatically expand your network. Please take your time. Most people spend more hours researching what car to buy, or where to go on holiday rather than what their real vocation is. We are talking about your life here. As Simon Sinek from New York tweeted recently: “It’s better to go slowly in the right direction than go speeding off in the wrong direction.”
If this post rings a bell for yourself, or someone you know, do come to the autumn Career Parachute Weekend at the lovely Sparkford Hall in Somerset. Event details: “Find Your Calling – discover the work and life that expresses your true Self”. http://www.sparkescapes.com/#!escapes/c1g33