You've come to the end of your wits...and your resume.
Your boss is a curmudgeon, you can't seem to get ahead, and the idea of applying to yet another job in the social media marketing field or the accounting profession makes you cringe.
A dead-end career feels a bit like you've used up all of your chips at the poker table, yet you still have to sit there and watch everyone enjoy the game. Not fun. You might think there's a way to switch careers, but it's a daunting proposition. Head back to business school? Find a career coach? Join the foreign legion, whatever that is?
There's a better way.
I made a dramatic career shift in 2001, and it was a brilliant move for me. I used to be a corporate management type, someone who spent entire days tweaking a project budget worksheet and dealing with vague HR dictums. When I left the corporate world, I had to be really intentional about my "rebound" and make smart decisions that helped me embrace the career change. Here's what I did.
1. Find other people in your new career
Once you decide to switch careers, you basically have two options. They are both similar to what happens in basketball. A good rebound means you sail into the air, grab the ball, and race down the court. It's smooth and graceful. A bad rebound makes a thud against the backboard. The difference is in how you develop new relationships with those in your new field. They make everything smoother and easier; they provide the guidance you need.
I remember early in my writing career how I'd linger after tech conferences and find people who were in my new field. I picked their brains. I bought them a free sandwich. I was a bit of a spaz. It helped tremendously because there's this "go it alone" feeling you get when you start a new career and you have to find other people to support and encourage you. If you don't, you'll quickly lose traction.
2. Let your curiosity run wild
A new career means a major change. I've written before about how you have to embrace and even pursue change, and that's incredibly important when you start out in a new career. Your new-found curiosity is a major asset. You might feel lost, but you have the wonderful advantage of being in a learner mode, which can be exciting and motivating. A good rebound in another career will land with a thud when you let the change overwhelm you. When you see it as an opportunity to learn, it suddenly becomes a challenge-a reason to get up in the morning. It feels fluid and graceful.
In my salad days, I literally accepted any gig. I just couldn't say no, because I was happy to learn anything. It was fun to figure out how Wi-Fi worked or make my own Website. That curiosity is what saved me from questioning the career change. (It still does, actually.) Just in the last week, I had to learn about office ergonomics, the future of robotic virtual assistants, and read a book about phubbing. I'm still in curiosity mode.
3. Stop worrying about money
One of the reasons people fail when they change a career is that they have an unrealistic expectation about getting quick promotions and collecting a bigger paycheck. Most career changes are lateral moves or even force you to start on a lower rung. That's OK. Go ahead and start at the bottom if you have to, but realize that you can pick up momentum as you learn more skills and figure out all of the intricacies of the new career.
There's some cool science at work on this one. Faced with new situations and new challenges, your brain will actually go into "overdrive" and work harder to figure things out. Part of the reason you felt stuck in that old career is that you were the victim of routine. You weren't getting exposed to new situations that prompted you to think differently. Whew, good thing you switched, right? I'm here to tell you the money will come. Hang in there. You are on a new upward swing.