How To Change Careers

Working Out What You Really Want

what do i wantWorking out how to change careers involves a lot of careful thought and reflection.

One of the key questions you will need to think about is ‘what do I really want?’ Not just what do you want from work, but what do you want from life as a whole.

Work plays a big part in life for most of us, but it is just one piece of a much bigger jigsaw that makes up our whole lives. It is worth looking at the wider picture, at how your work fits into the rest of your life, because this may lead you to change the emphasis you currently have on work.

So what does this reflection involve?

There are a number of ways you can explore what you really want in your work and in life to help you plan how to change careers.

Here are a few to experiment with.

Some are more concrete offering you checklists to review. Others are more imaginative. Use the ones that feel right to you.

Visualise an ideal working day

Take time to think through what your ideal working day would look like. Give yourself permission to assemble what would be exactly right for you. Don’t worry about how ‘realistic’ it is at this point, just open your mind to the perfect job. Try and use all your senses in creating this picture – what would you see, hear, feel?

  • What would you be doing?
  • Where would you be based?
  • What kind of people would your colleagues be?
  • What about clients or customers?
  • What kind of company or organisation would it be?
  • What hours would you be working?
  • What would be the focus of your work – technical and factual? Creative and ideas based? People and service orientated?
  • What would make you really rush to work each day?

Once you have thought about your perfect working day, write out a description of it. Make it a detailed and colourful as you can. Or if you prefer, draw a picture or describe it in detail to your Career Change Buddy and use this to prompt your thinking about how to change careers.

Work activities checklist

This career planning exercise is for you if you feel more comfortable with a checklist to review.

Try thinking specifically about the kind of work activities that appeal to you. It may be easier if you think about the different jobs you have done – especially the best ones – and analyse exactly what was enjoyable about each. Your aim is to define the kind of thing you want to be doing on a day to day basis in your ideal job.

Have a look at the Work Activities Checklist to assess you own priorities.

What do you want work to do for you?

In the Who Am I section we have looked at what you have to offer. But when you are thinking about how to change careers, it is helpful to also consider what your work motivators are. What do you want work to do for you?

Once you have got this ideal job, what will you get out of it? What satisfactions, benefits and rewards are important to you? We all work for a reason and no, it is not always just for money! What motivates you to work? What do you want to get back from it?

Here are a few ideas:

Material rewards





Chance to be creative

Sense of purpose

Structure for your day/life


Opportunity to learn & grow


Live your life over

Here’s another interesting idea to play with when you are exploring how to change careers.

If you were given your life to live five times over, what would you do with it each time? You don’t change as a person – this is just a chance for you to pursue all the different things you are interested in. What different careers would you follow? What other things would you do with your five lives?

This exercise can help you identify where your interests and passions lie.

What don’t you want?

If you are tired of your career and are feeling very stuck and negative about your current work situation, you might find it easier to start with what you know you don’t want.

That’s fine if it gets the ideas flowing. Make as long as list as you need to get all the ‘don’t wants’ off your chest. But then ask yourself the simple question – ‘so what would I like to be doing instead?’ Look at each of the items you have listed and ask what you would put in its place? Build up a positive picture of your new career.

If you haven’t done them already, have a look at the Values Exercises too.

These exercises will help you put together your plan for how to change careers. Use them together with the other ideas on the Where Am I and Who am I sections of this site.

About the author

Amy Thomas

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