Forge a New Career by Taking These 4 Steps

To forge a new career, it takes action, and by reading this blog post, you’re already moving in the right direction. Reading may seem like a small step on the road to career change, but overcoming inertia can be the hardest step of all. So, congratulations on getting started.  

Acknowledge the status quo isn’t working and why

The impulse to forge a new career comes from restlessness with the status quo. Reasons for this range from the most urgent – being out of a job and needing work NOW! – to the less heart-pounding, but still significant, like: 

I want to feel more valued at work
I want to command a higher salary
I want to be in a career that uses more of my talents
I want a job that reflects my deeper purpose

If you’ve felt these or similar yearnings, take a moment to define what’s not working about the status quo. For the next couple of minutes, dig into the discomfort. What are the 3-5 elements you dislike most about your professional life. And then flip the switch and dwell on the upside. What are the 3-5 positive elements that are essential for your next job to be satisfying?

Now, write them all down.

Get career change ideas out of your head and onto paper

Clients who reach out to me to forge a new career, come with differing degrees of clarity. A few have a strong idea of what they want to do next. But for most, the idea is vague, if they have any idea at all. To start gaining clarity, one good exercise is a version of the “genie” question. In other words, if I could wave a magic wand and presto! you could do whatever you want professionally, what would that be? What’s the first thing that comes to mind – whether it’s a buried dream that’s been gnawing at you since childhood or a more recent longing.

Using 6 words or less, give a title to your career idea.

For example:

Train to be a psychotherapist
Write and sell a comedy screenplay
Run for local office

Your idea doesn’t need to be entrepreneurial. It might be relocating your skill and experience to another field or identifying a company within your current field for whom you’d be thrilled to work. Once you’ve got a name, fill in some detail. Write 5 or 6 sentences that describe it. This might include geographic location, the kind of colleagues you’re working with or the job’s impact. For now, don’t concern yourself with how to make it happen. This step is about the WHAT.

And after you’ve written about one career change idea, challenge yourself to come up with 1 or 2 more.

To forge a new career, air your story

You’ve jotted down your new career idea(s) and it’s time to move into a research phase. Make a list of people in your life with whom you can safely talk about career change (without putting your current work in jeopardy) and if possible, who are temperamentally optimistic. I say optimistic because at this early stage, it’s better to have a cheerleader than a naysayer. With this small group, brainstorm to see if anyone knows anyone who’s already doing what you’d like to be doing. If it’s a company you’d love to work for, do they have connections? And if not, go to the company’s Linkedin page and cross reference with your network. Schedule at least 3 research meetings to build your network and learn more. For a guide to writing emails that will get you a meeting, click here:

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Do a test run

Research is important, but at some point, you’ll want to push your career idea into the light. It’s not possible to figure out everything first in your head. Let’s say, you’re thinking about switching fields and becoming a therapist. Before quitting your job and investing money in school, how can you test the idea? Volunteer for a hotline to see how it feels. Find out about shadowing a professional who works at a mental heath clinic. Or if your idea is for a new product, figure out how to build a cost-conscious prototype and share it with friends for input. Test runs are another way to get feedback to see if you’re on the right track.

When you’re at a crossroads, it’s the perfect time to dream about a new career idea. But give your dream a deadline. And then follow the steps above to make it real.

If you’re looking for personalized support to forge a new career, please get in touch and let’s have a conversation.

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