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The 5 Minute Career Coach, August 2009 -- Career Change. Will You Take The Risk?
August 01, 2009

Helping Career Changers Around The World

August 2009


Welcome to the August edition of The 5 Minute Career Coach!

I was at Nick William's Inspired Entrepreneur’s meeting in London recently. He had invited the along authors of the book Brand You to speak and one of the stories that came up really stuck in my mind.

David Royston-Lee, one of the authors, mentioned a client he had worked with who was a very talented musician and who was making a living as a concert pianist. However, in spite of doing work where he was clearly using his talents, he was not happy. After some time exploring, he admitted that he really wanted to join the church and become a minister – and to cut a long story short, this is what he did. He is now much more fulfilled than he was as a musician, though he still gets to play the piano in a much more local context.

But what struck me about the story was the leap of faith (literally, in his case!) he had to take to make the change. His plan was viewed with incredulity by those around him who saw him giving up a high profile role and a high level of income for an unknown quantity. How could he risk everything? How could he be sure this would be right for him?

The answer was that he couldn’t be sure. But he had reached a point where the only way to test out his theory was to take the risk and give it a try. It would have been a ‘safe’ option to stay put in a career where he was already excelling, but he had the courage to take a step into the unknown, trusting that it would work out.

This is often the crunch point for career changers. You can do all the research, review your experience, your skills, values and interests, explore what options are out there, even try volunteering in the new area you are interested in. But there is no way you can get a 100% guarantee in advance that you will be making the right choice.

When the moment comes, you have to be ready to take that risk. Not an easy call.

That is why I have written the main article this month on career change and risk – take a look below.

With very best wishes

What's in this Issue

Quote of the Day

I love some of the quotes and aphorisms that you find in careers and personal development books. So often they seem to encapsulate something I have struggled with in my own life or have seen coaching clients grapple with. I hope the examples I offer can inspire you too. Here's one of my favourites.

'You will never discover new lands across the oceans
if you do not have the courage to lose sight of the shore.'

Author Unknown

You had to eventually let go of the side of the swimming pool when you learned to swim. You had to take the training wheels off your bike and have a go at wobbling along on just two wheels (and you probably fell off and grazed your knees a few times before you got the hang of it!) If you want things to be different, you have to strike out, letting go of the familiar without always knowing what the outcome will be. If you stay safe, your life will always be limited by the walls of the box you are currently inhabiting.

Career Change - Will You Take The Risk?

Changing career is risky. But then so is stepping outside your front door.

Interesting that we all take risks in our everyday lives, much of the time without even thinking about it. Some risks just seem more acceptable than others. And somehow the risk you need to be prepared to take when you change career feels just too big, so you end up doing nothing.

Early conditioning
We are conditioned from an early age to be risk averse. How often did your parents warn 'be careful' rather than encourage you to be bold with 'go on, give it a go!' Of course it was done out of love, but it sets so many of us up to be hesitant rather than courageous.

At the same time our education system encourages us early on to seek the 'right' answers, it teaches us that there is one correct solution and the alternatives are wrong. But the result of this is that we are discouraged from being experimental. If we are not confident that we know the right answer, we just keep quiet.

So the net result for many adults is an ingrained attitude of risk aversion – one of the classic barriers to career change.

Taking risks leads to growth
But then when you think about it, it is when you take risks that you learn and grow. Taking risks is where you stretch yourself that bit beyond what you thought you could do and find that you can do it after all. These are the moments when you feel really proud of yourself, knowing that you have used some of the enormous potential that lies within you. And once you have grown into that new potential, you are a bigger, stronger person than you were before.

I am not suggesting for a moment that you take totally random and uncalculated risks, but just that you just start to challenge the artificial boundaries you have put up around yourself that stop you from actually doing something about your career change.

So ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the worst that could happen if I made a career change?
  • How likely is it that this worst case scenario I have just created in my mind will actually happen?
  • What, on the other hand would be the positive outcomes for me if I changed career? How will I feel when I have finally done it?
  • What is the cost to me at the moment of doing nothing? Not just financially, but emotionally, physically and in terms of my relationships and general wellbeing?
  • Who do I know who takes a bolder approach to life and work? What has it enabled them to achieve? What can I learn from them?

So my challenge to you this month is to take a serious look at your own attitude to risk and to think about where that particular bit of conditioning has come from for you. Are you allowing your reluctance to take a risk lock you into an unhappy work situation? How would a shift in your attitude impact on your approach to changing career?

What are you going to do about it?


The Career Change Question

Career change is not easy. It often requires a lot of hard and deep thinking about how you have been living your life up to now and how you would like it to be in the future.

As a coach, I know that asking challenging questions can be very powerful in helping clients move forwards. Questions can help you explore where you are and where you are going.

These questions should not be given a quick and glib response, but instead you can just let them wander round your mind for a few days, or even weeks and see what answers unfold for you. They are designed to get you thinking in new ways and hopefully gain insights that may open your mind to new possibilities.

So, in keeping with this month’s theme, here’s a question about money.

Imagine yourself 10 years in the future. What will you be saying to yourself then… ‘I am so proud that I had the courage to take that bold step 10 years ago’, or ‘I wish I had done something about my career back then’?

Will you be bold or will you play safe?

Your choice.

Recommended Resources

This month’s recommended resource is a great book on career and life change by another well known name in the field.

Wishcraft: How to Get What You Really Want
Barbara Sher

This book was published some time ago now, but it is just as useful today as when it first appeared.

It is very relevant to career change, but in fact could be used to help you with the process of any major changes in your life.

As the title Wishcraft suggests, this book has its head in the clouds and its feet on the ground. Yes, it starts by encouraging you to think about what you really want in life, it tosses aside that old admonition to be sensible and realistic (boring!) but then having allowed you to identify your dreams, it moves on to give you hard information and tools that you can use to make it all happen. It offers practical techniques for problem solving, planning, accessing materials, gaining skills, information and contacts.

At the end of the day, the difference between making a change happen or not can be down to getting both the right know-how and the support to keep you going, Barbara shows you how to get your hands on both of these. She acknowledges that change involves risk taking and for her, getting the right support in place is crucial to your ability to take the risks you need to face.

I’d second that!

The process in the book has been tried and tested many times in workshops that Barbara has run, so you can be sure that her ideas and suggestions work. She gives examples from real-life case studies all through the book which really brings what she says to life.

There are four main sections:

  1. Looking at who you think you are and how your sense of self and your aspirations have been shaped and formed.
  2. Looking at who you want to be, identifying your goals and acknowledging some of the negative thinking that holds you back.
  3. Plotting the route to your goals in practical steps, finding support and managing your time.
  4. Dealing with the fears that hold you back, and finding strategies to help you work through them.

So don’t be put off by the fact that this book was written some time ago. It is jam packed with useful ideas and practical strategies. If you want a practical guide to making changes, then nip on over to Amazon now and get it!

More recommendations

If you would like to see more recommendations for books and similar resources, follow the link to the Career Change Books page of the How To Change Careers website. Do keep popping back to it as I am adding to it all the time.

And if there are books and resources that have inspired you and that you would like to recommend, there is a place for you to do so on that page.

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