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A How-to Guide for Career Changes: 10 Action Steps
Valerie Davis-Rucker MS, MBA

"Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor.... Explore. Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain

Are you feeling like it’s time to recreate or reinvent yourself, make a career transition due to:

A recent job loss?
Dissatisfaction with your current job?
A new interest, or desire to revisit something you wish you would have pursued?
Wanting a change, a new challenge, work that’s more meaningful or satisfying?

You’re not alone. Recent research in career development shows that people change jobs, and even careers, as much as 7 to 10 times in their working life. I’ve done it myself, with about 4-5 different jobs/careers since college.

If you’re someone who’s known what you wanted to do since a young age, that’s great! On the other hand, how many of you knew in middle school what you wanted to do? high school? college? after college? grad school? after grad school? 2nd grad school? after that? Well, that last one would be me. And this seems to be more the norm than not.

Experiencing career change and seeking career advice is a growing trend for individuals who thrive on change and personal growth. Whatever your reasons, it’s important to have a plan. Thoughts and ideas about it are great, though nothing’s going to happen until you take action.

10 Action Steps

1. Ask yourself if you feel it's time for a change. If so, what kind?
What’s going on for you that’s having you feel like it’s time for a career change? Could you make changes in your current job to make it more satisfying and meaningful? Are there HR people you can speak with about other opportunities within your company? Do you want to explore other career ideas and possibilities?

2. Make an inventory of your accomplishments and competencies.
List your valuable experiences and successes in all your life roles, not just professional jobs. Write down everything you do well and ask others to share their perceptions. Organizing big social events, coaching kids’ sports, being a class mom, can demonstrate leadership and organizational
 skills. Maybe you manage your family's finances, or you volunteer with, or serve on boards of things like the PTA, Toastmasters, community groups or non-profits.

3. List the things you absolutely love to do
What did you love doing as a child (in elementary/middle school) that you still love? If you weren’t limited by money or time, what would you be doing? What’s the quality of that experience? If you listened to and followed your heart, what is it saying? How would you spend your ideal day? Imagine the physical setting you’d be in –Indoors? Outdoors? Small room or large open space? Few people or many? What kind of people are around? How would you be relating to them? What activities would you engage in? Is it structured or flexible? What’s the pace? Are you more relaxed or excited?

4. List your values & satisfactions
What matters most to you and why? Consider values like autonomy, altruism, creativity, respect, family, community, power, financial gain or independence, intellectual stimulation, leadership, knowledge, travel, etc. What’s the #1 problem you’d solve in the world if you could? Why? Where do you derive the greatest satisfaction? Doing things that help others? Working in a team with other people? Working alone? Doing activities that produce tangible results? Traveling?

5. Gather Information
Once you have your lists of accomplishments, skills, competencies, values, and passions, you can start gathering information on careers that fit your personal description. Your goal is to create a list of options, not to find the one "right" career. Include every job that intrigues you, regardless of whether you have the required skills for it. Research people and companies you admire and respect in different career fields. Check your alumni association for names of people with whom you can connect. Check out professional associations. Ask your friends, either in person or on social media, if they know anyone. Search the Internet and college/university career libraries. One resource is Bureau of Labor Statistics and their Occupational Outlook Handbook at If interested, take some personality assessments that provide suggestions for careers you’d be well suited for. A great site for these types of tests is

6. Do informational interviews
Contact people in that field to ask if you could do an informational interview. Ask your potential interviewee if they’d be willing to spend 15-20 minutes with you to discuss their work, either on the phone or in person. Come up with a list of questions, such as: How did they get into the field? What did they wish they knew when they first started? What education, skills, credentials, qualities are needed to break into the field to be successful? What are some positive and negative aspects of the job? etc.

7. Narrow Your Focus
As you complete the previous steps, you’ll become more clear, focused, and you’ll narrow down your options. When you’ve narrowed it down to what you really want, volunteer or take a short-term, part-time position to see how this new career would feel. Or take some classes to see if you want to pursue further studies. If you like it and it’s something you can afford to do now, great. If not now, how can you prepare yourself financially so you can be in a position to make the change in the near future?

8. Write down your Vision and Mission Statements
I believe it’s just as important for individuals as it is for organizations to create these. I found this exercise a great way to help me figure out the future I want to create, and map out how I’m going to make it happen. And whether or not I end up being successful or not, it’s something important enough for me to commit myself to for its own sake, not because I’m attached to an outcome. It’s worth doing whether I succeed or fail. (For more information on criteria that goes into creating these statements, please see one of my previous blog posts).
Here are my examples:

My Personal Vision Statement
“I see the expansion of human consciousness and greater wellbeing through the increased understanding of neuroscience and the growth of effective mindfulness and empowerment techniques from the merging fields of psychology, Eastern spirituality, yoga, education and life coaching.”

My Mission Statement
“My mission is to empower people to better understand themselves by cultivating my own personal awareness and growth; by staying current on latest developments in neuroscience, psychology, education and coaching; by speaking and connecting with people on a deep and authentic level; by freely sharing ideas, theories and models of empowerment in the forms of workshops, public speaking, writing and coaching; and by staying committed to my yoga practice.”

9. Be patient.
How often do you hear this? Of course it’s easier said than done, especially in the early stages of a career change. Being patient is something I continue to feel frustrated about, which is why it’s one of my top priorities to work on in 2013. Find strategies that work for you to help you reduce the stress and anxiety that naturally come from this process. For me, it’s my yoga practice and hikes with my dog and friends, or just spending time at home with family. Don’t underestimate the importance of getting support from friends, family, a coach, career counselor, etc.

10. Trust the process.
Also, easier said than done. However, if you go through all the previous steps, and you align with your heart and deeper values and commit to staying on that path, it can only lead to something positive, meaningful and fulfilling. Also, think back to when you went through similar situations. How did you get through them and what worked to help you then that might work again now? Or what were the lessons you took away from those experiences that grew you in a way you didn’t expect? Is there a way of seeing how those experiences can help you trust the process you’re in now?

Taking a reflective stance is essential in developing yourself and transforming your thoughts and actions to successfully recreate or reinvent yourself.
Here are a few more challenging questions to be asking yourself in this process:
• Who are you? 
Who do you want to be? What needs to shift in order to bridge that gap?
• What do you want - really?
• What’s important to you? 

• What are your dreams, hopes and aspirations?

• Where do you want to be in 6 months, one year, 3 years?
• What options do you have? 

• Are you ready to recreate or reinvent your life?

• What would you regret not doing in your lifetime?
• What subject would you go back to study?
• What are your deepest conversations obsessing about?
• Who do you find yourself voluntarily spending time with? What might that be an indication of?

I hope this helps to stimulate your thought process if you are considering a career change in mid life, or anytime. I look forward to hearing from you if you’d like to provide feedback on this article, or if you’d like to contact me about a possible coaching relationship.

What are you going to commit to in next year that will be an investment in your future?

“It's never too late to be what you might have been.” - George Eliot

Copyrighted.  Valerie Davis-Rucker .  All rights reserved.

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