Back to Back Issues Page
The 5 Minute Career Coach, May 09 -- Looking for Career Change Inspiration?
May 01, 2009

Helping Career Changers Around The World

May 2009


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

I have met some really inspiring people recently, inspiring in lots of different ways. In some cases, they have shown me what is possible by their own example, some have just made a throw away comment that really resonated for me, some have shown amazing and unexpected generosity.

Other people are a fantastic resource for all of us that we often overlook. We just need to be open to what they have to offer or what they can teach us.

When I gave up my full time job to work for myself, one of my anxieties was the loss of my community of work colleagues. Although I am an introvert by nature and can be quite happy with my own company, I worried that I might get very isolated.

So I have made an effort to get involved in a range of activities that bring me into contact with new people. Yes, this has sometimes been a bit of a stretch, but it has meant I have met many more new people over the past couple of years than when I was stuck in a standard work routine and I have gained so much from this.

Now I don’t mean that you should go out and meet people with the mindset of 'what can I get out of this?' Quite the reverse. Meet others in the spirit of 'what can I do to support them?' You will be amazed at what comes back to you, often when you least expect it.

So if you are planning a career change, make an effort to extend your informal network of contacts. Offer help and support to others and you never know when someone in your new, extended community may sow the seed of an idea in your mind or suggest a contact that gives you a breakthrough with your career plans.

The more people you connect with the greater the possibilities. Just be open to what opportunities may come from the most unexpected quarter.

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.

'A bend in the road is not the end of the road,
unless you fail to make the turn.'

You may be at a tricky point in your career and life. Perhaps you are unemployed or facing redundancy. There can often be times when you can’t see the way forward and it is easy to be frozen into inactivity. But the solution always lies in just keeping moving because that is when the surprise round the corner comes into view. If you freeze, you’ll never get to see it.

Creating a Career Inspiration File

One of the most important shifts I find many career changers need to make, is to allow themselves to be a little bit playful.

‘What do you mean?’ I hear you cry, ‘Career change is serious matter. This is my life and future you are talking about!’

Yes, I know, and by suggesting that you should be playful, I do not mean for a minute that this is not an important matter. But it is precisely because it is so important that you need to be playful.

Confused? Stay with me!

There is an enormous pressure on us to be sensible and serious once we have become adults and started work. Being playful is for kids. We are now in the serious world of grown-ups and life/work is a serious matter. But we lose so much by adopting this approach.

Serious somehow gets to mean that we have to go by the rules, we have to do what we 'should' do, what is expected of us. So many of us dutifully set off down a traditional career path of some kind - education, first job, promotion, responsibility etc., and end up down some blind alley wondering how we got there. Does that sound familiar?

And once we are on this path (treadmill, hamster wheel) we are carried inexorably forwards with little apparent opportunity to escape. (Phew, I am feeling stressed just writing this!)

So where does playful come in?

If you know you are on the wrong career path and need to make a radical change, the last thing you need is to get bogged down in the ‘more of the same’ thinking that suggests that the ‘sensible’ option is to just look for a variation of what you have been doing. You need a way of breaking out of this.

So a good way to start is to give yourself permission to be playful with your career planning for a while. Just allow yourself some time where you abandon any thoughts of what you ‘should’ be doing and just let your thoughts, ideas and dreams roam free. Yes, of course this is play. Yes, of course this will not necessarily provide you with an instant solution to your career change questions. But it does just begin to open your mind to possibilities that you would not have allowed yourself otherwise. Creatives come up with their great ideas because they allow themselves to take a playful, anything goes approach to their thinking.

Your Career Inspiration File

So get yourself a box, file, folder, envelope, anything you can use to collect bits and pieces in and start to make a collection of anything and everything that inspires you, that brings a smile to your face, that reminds you of when you felt positive.

This could be pictures, articles, quotes, book titles, inspirational people, CD covers of music you love – whatever works for you. The idea is to make a kind of Career Inspiration File that will reflect everything that is important to you in life and work.

You can include job ideas if you want, but they can sometimes narrow your thinking too much at this point, so you might find it more helpful to look out for themes in job ads that excite you. Words like travel, media, designer, countryside or director.

Take your time over building up this file. Just keep your eyes and ears open over the next few weeks or months and be playful about collecting things that represent your most important values in work and life. Don’t limit yourself.

Anything that works for you is OK and your box or file can contain dozens of things if they all inspire you.

Your yardstick for career ideas

This playful, open-minded approach will result in a glorious collection of ideas that you can use – probably indirectly rather than directly – as a way of helping you to assess more specific career options further down the line. So, for example, if you find a friend is suggesting accountancy or IT as a ‘sensible’ career move for you, use your Career Inspiration File as a guide to whether that career will really fit in with your deeply held values.

If you find you are resisting this exercise, just push past the resistance and let your hair down for a while. Above all have fun creating your Career Inspiration File. Grown-ups are allowed to have fun too, you know!

You will find more about the Career Inspiration File on the How To Change Careers website. (I have called it Career Ideas Log there. I think I like Career Inspiration File better – I guess I am just feeling in a more playful mood today!)

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.

Challenging and interesting 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.

This month's question.

Success is...?

Sounds straightforward enough. Just take a piece of paper and write ‘Success is…’ at least 10 times down the left hand side. Then take your time to answer that question for yourself 10 times over.

What does success really mean to you? Being famous? Having lots of money? A job with high status? A big house? Time to relax with your kids? Work where you feel valued? A chance to give something back?

Look at your answers and consider whether they really reflect what matters to you – or are they perhaps goals that you have been brought up to value, or that society has told you are important. (Just ask yourself if you are aiming this so that Mom & Dad would be proud. It is a good way of checking whose view of success you are following!)

Make sure you end up with a list of YOUR vision of success, not someone else’s.

This is a good exercise to store in your Career Change Project File so that when you start considering specific lines of work you can check whether you will get the kind of success YOU want from the option you are thinking about.

Recommended Resources

OK, I seem to be in playful mood this month, so I am going to recommend a website which is not careers related.

The TUT Adventurers’ Club invites you to sign up to receive regular Notes from the Universe.

Notes from the Universe are quirky, unconventional and humorous and yet can sometimes offer you just that glimpse of insight that you need to nudge you forwards.

Once you sign up, you will get regular, short messages to your Inbox, personalised with your name, to encourage you and to make you smile.

Here are a few examples:

There isn't a moment in any day, Cherry, when someone, somewhere, isn't better off because of something you've done.
The Universe

Do you know what you have in common, Cherry, with the tiniest percentage of human beings who have ever, ever, ever graced the face of the earth? You can still walk barefoot. You can still pick flowers. And you can still make a difference.
Life is yummy -
The Universe

Cherry, the Chinese say, "The best time to plant a tree was always 20 years ago. The second best time is always today." Funny how planting trees and taking action on the life of your dreams are the same that way.
The Universe

See what I mean?

I don’t take them too seriously, but they usually bring a smile to my face - or make me think, or just make me grateful.

And that can’t be a bad thing!


Sign up for Notes from the Universe

Oh and Mike Dooley, who writes the Notes, is a great example of how an apparent career failure can turn unexpectedly into career success. Read about him on the TUT website.

Your Subscription Information

Back to Back Issues Page