How To Change Careers When You Don’t Know What To Do
What do you want to be when you grow up?
When I was a kid, I had lofty career goals. First I wanted to be a ballerina, then an airline stewardess, a CIA or FBI agent, an actress and a slew of other romanticized jobs. I never considered the economic consequences of these jobs let alone if they would make me happy.
When it was time to attend University, I took a less romanticized approach to my career planning. I chose to major in Economics-not because I had any particular love for Economics but because I thought it was the prudent thing to do in order to land a good paying corporate job after graduation. It seemed like a good idea at the time based on the information I had about the workforce- which was close to nothing.
8 years into my career, I was making a good living working mainly in corporate finance and accounting but…..I felt unfulfilled. I knew in my gut that if I didn’t change career paths soon, I would eventually begin to loath my job and my life. I didn’t want this regret looming over my head.
My career change mistakes and successes
For one of my career changes, I decided to open up my own eCommerce shop selling adorable forest themed sleeping masks which I made by hand. In addition to my online shop, I also sold my sleeping masks on Etsy, small specialty retail stores and at local craft fairs.
It was a lot of hard work but for the most part I enjoyed every aspect of my business until it came time for a little vacation. I realized my handmade business, which requires a sewing machine, bolts of fabric and sleeping mask inventory at all times isn’t exactly the best business to run for someone like me who loves to travel and wants to travel more often.
Although it wasn’t obvious to me at the time, my e-commerce shop was a stepping stone and just part of my zig-zag career path journey that would eventually lead me to my idea career and job in digital marketing.
Digital marketing or web marketing as some like to call it, is perfect for me because it takes many of my skills, my interest and passions and combines them under one umbrella. Things like analytics, HTML coding, web graphics, writing and research. I don’t need a physical inventory and I can do my job from anywhere including remotely from France as long as I have a computer and an internet connection- perfect for wanderlust heart.
15 years and a couple of career changes later, I’ve figured a few things about career changes mainly from trial and error. I’ve made a bunch of career mistakes along the way so I’m no expert by any means but I learned from those mistakes. At the same time, some of the mistakes I made could have been avoided and I probably could have arrived at my idea career choice faster had I done a few things differently.
If I had to do it all over again and time was of the essence, here are some of the tools and resources I would use to find the best career path for me.
5 ways to find your idea career path or the perfect job when you have no idea what to do
A career change can take time but you can shorten that length of time considerably by doing a bit of self-reflection. Take it from me- you don’t want to skip this step, especially if you are unsure what new career path you want to take.
It can save you the headache of choosing a new career which you thought you would enjoy only to discover it doesn’t match your lifestyle goals, your interests or your abilities.
1) Take a test to see what jobs will make you the happiest
Depending on which career tests or personality test you take (also known as psychometric tests), certain factors are taken into consideration to determine the best jobs for you including your ambitions, your life goals, your motivations, your self-reported skills, your personality type etc. These all get mashed together and out comes a list of “best potential careers” for you to sift through and choose for further research. These psychometric assessment tests cannot however tell you which single job is THE BEST ONE. Remember, these are tests which are question and answer based, and you may be well suited for several different careers. It’s up to you to figure out from the list which if any are the best match for you.
There are so many tests you can take but here are a few to get you started.
Personality tests which you can take right now.
Career tests which you can take right now.
2) Work with a career coach / counsellor
In addition to or instead of taking a career assessment or personality test, you could work one-on-one with a career coach. Before you scoff at the idea, think about this.
Even the best golfers like Tiger Woods need an expert coach for continued improvement. Similarly, a career coach can help you improve your efficiency in searching for that perfect career change or job by providing you with expert advice on how to plan your career change.
A career counsellor can also guide you in making an action plan, deal with the emotional side of a career change, boost your confidence, re-define your career goals and recommend courses or training you might need. All things which a career test or personality test can’t do or can’t do as well.
When choosing the best career coach, make sure you choose one that is experienced and trained. Expect to pay anywhere from 100 to 500 dollars per session. Yes it is pricey however when you think of the long term ramifications- happiness in your future job vs staying in a job that you are not well suited for, it might be worth it for some individuals.
3) Research your potential jobs
Once you’ve discovered the best possible career matches, you’ll need to do some practical research about those jobs.
Either way, here are a few things you can do to learn more about the potential jobs which you might want to do.
- Interview other people who are in the job role which you want to do.
- Job Shadow someone who is in the role you want to do.
- Search career websites for more information about the job you are looking into. You can discover things which career tests and coaches might not be able to tell you like salary, job culture, training etc.
- Take some courses to see if you enjoy the subject matter. For example f you want to become a programmer, take an online programming class. www.lynda.com, now owned by Linkedin has great online training from business and marketing to coding and more. It costs about $19 USD per mont and the courses are all video based and professionally done.
- Find out what if any further training you will need to do. Discovering you need to get a masters degree might be off putting to you and help you rule out certain careers.
- Read career change websites. www.careershifters.com is a good place to start. They have an online community where you can talk with other career changers and get moral support. http://www.learnhowtobecome.org/ is another good site for career research. Enter in the desired career and it tells you a little about that career, salary range, education or training needed etc.
Through your research, you’ve discovered the best careers for you. You narrowed down that list to a a few possible choices. Now it’s time to figure out if you need any additional training or certification?
If your current skill set is transferable than perhaps you don’t even need any training. If you do need training , you have options for any schedule and any budget. From traditional university degrees, distance learning, online certification or self training. Whicever way works for you, just make sure that any training you take will actually help you get the job you are trying to land.
Other things you need to ask yourself, explore and research are “can you afford it the training program. Will you take time off from work to pursue additional training or will you keep your day job and go to class at night?
You may be able to bypass formal education and get on the job training by taking a lower level job or entry level job and use it as a stepping stone. I found this method to be practical for me when I couldn’t afford to take time off work to get official training. Especially since at the time I was a single mom. It was hard to take a pay cut but the way I approached it was, I was better off taking a pay cut than quitting my job and earning no salary whatsoever.
5) Take action
Hopefully after all the self reflection and research, you’ve narrowed down your list to one maybe two careers. Now is the time to take action- any action big or small.
Have you updated your resume? Did you update you social media profile on linkedin? Did you network with your peers and let them know you are looking for work?
Don’t struggle to find the perfect path or the ideal starting point and don’t let information overload give you analysis paralysis. It’s more important to simply get things moving because your path may not be linear but rather one big zig-zag like mine.
Other things to consider
No one should choose their next career change exclusively from online tests or the advice of others but they are useful tools for discovering if you’re well suited for that career change or not. Not to mention, it can be illuminating to get career suggestions that you might not have thought of yourself.
In the end, you have the final say in how to determine the best career path you want to take for your unique set of circumstances.
Good Luck and stay strong. You can do it!