I often get asked if there’s a way to feel a little more confident, more sure, about a decision to switch jobs or pursue a different career path.
I get where this question is coming from.
Uncertainty is uncomfortable, to say the least. We don’t want to take risks if we can avoid it. At the very least, we want to be educated about the potential risks.
It’s hard to let go of something that we perceive as stable for something where the outcome is not 100% clear — even if we’re not very happy with (or downright hate) that stable situation. This is where messages like “At least you have a job” really stem from.
Also, we’ve already invested time and energy in our current careers or jobs. We want a little guarantee if we’re to take a different direction. Even if we are open to making a bet, we want it to be a sure bet.
And the more risk-averse you are, generally speaking, the more you want to be sure before taking a leap.
I get it. Although I tend to be comfortable with risks, I still want and look for safe bets.
So, what’s the answer to the question: Is there a way to know for sure if this thing that you want to do — this career switch or pivot or career change — if it’s the right thing for you to do.
I’m going to share two answers: the hard answer and one that softens it a little.😉
It’s natural to want to make safe bets.
The truth is there’s NO WAY to know for sure. Certainly, not by thinking about it or analyzing it.
You have to get the idea out of your head and see how it fares in the real world.
It is only through experience that you’ll know the answer to your question. And by experience, I mean YOUR experience. Not somebody else’s. Just because it worked for me doesn’t mean it’ll work for you and vice versa.
The best way to know if your desired career path is the right thing for you is to start experiencing it.
I remember for years, I used to say that I wanted to open a coffee and wine bar. I like going to coffee and wine bars, so I thought, wouldn’t it be great it if I owned and ran one! I had this grand idea in my head about what it’s going to look like, where it’s going to be, the coffee and wines I’ll serve, the ambiance, etc.
Then my sister opened a restaurant, and I helped her get it off the ground. I was very excited during the launch phase. But after the restaurant opened, I saw and experienced first hand what it took to operate a food establishment. That’s when I realized this dream of owning a coffee and wine bar isn’t really for me. It’s not something I want to do after all, nor is it something I’d like to invest time, money, and energy to do. I would never have gotten there had I not experienced it myself. I’d probably still be thinking and planning for my own coffee and wine bar today.
What if my sister never opened a restaurant? I certainly could have looked for opportunities to help others launch their restaurants. Or I could have sought work in a coffee and wine bar to get real experience and be able to better evaluate my idea.
But what if I didn’t have those opportunities? Is there something else I could have done?
The answer to that is YES. That’s the second answer I want to share with you. What are things you can do to help you evaluate whether this career idea of yours is the right thing for you to do?
Here are three suggestions for you.
1. Identify the core activity of your desired new career and start doing it for practice.
Every job or career has a set of core activities that drive that job. And it’s essential you understand the core activity.
Sometimes, we romanticize one aspect of the job/career, and we think, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I get to do that.” But it may not be what’s core to the job. It may not be the most essential thing.
I had a client who said he wanted to start a blog and was asking for help to set it up. He was focused on getting a website up and all the things he needed to do to make his blog launched.
I said to him, “Before we go through all that, let’s do an experiment first.” I asked him to write 3 different articles (or blog posts) about his chosen blog topic, then share those articles within his network.
He wanted a month for this experiment. After a few days, he came back to me and said he didn’t enjoy writing his thoughts in an article format and that he’s better at talking spontaneously on video. So, we adjusted his assignment. Instead of 3 articles, he’d be doing and sharing 3 videos instead.
Skipping all the gory details 🙂 let’s just say that after the whole month, it became crystal clear to him that starting a blog — while it may have been exciting to launch one — wouldn’t be the best use of his time, money and energy.
For your idea: What’s the core activity or activities? What really drives or sustains that job or career? Then start practicing or playing around with those activities today.
You may be asking, “How do I know what the core activities are?!”
Good question. That leads me to Number 2.
2. Learn from people who are already doing the work you want to do.
Talk to people who are in the trenches. If you can shadow them for a couple of hours, even better. But if that’s not possible, talking or interviewing them is sufficient.
Ask them about their day-to-day experiences.
What’s a typical day like? A normal week? How would a busy, crazy day look? What would make for a crazy day?
Sure, ask them what they enjoy the most in their work. But also inquire about their biggest challenges. Ask them what makes their job difficult. What makes them want to pull their hair out.
Ask them what they would do differently if they had to start their career all over.
Pay attention to what they focus on here, because those are lessons learned from someone who’s in the trenches.
3. Test your true level of interest in your desired career.
Ask yourself how interested you really are in learning, diving into, and talking about the topics that relate to that career. Then test your answer.
For example, say you want to get into Real Estate.
How interested are you in reading about, learning, or talking about all things real estate?
Go ahead immerse yourself in the topic for a week or a month. Take some online courses. Read a few books about it. Hang around people who are in Real Estate, either doing the work directly or people who support it.
Then see how you feel afterward. Are you energized? Did you find most of the topics interesting? Do you feel like you can’t wait to get into that world?
Those are all good signs!
• • •
There may not be any guarantees. It may not be entirely possible to know for sure. But there are things you can do to get comfortable with your decision to pursue a particular career path or career direction. We talked about 3 ways you can do that in this article.
The most important thing is to get the idea out of your head and to start experiencing it. No amount of tests or personality assessments and such can give you that level of assurance. It’s only really through your personal experiences that you’ll know if it’s the right career for you.