The 5 Minute Career Coach

Helping Career Changers Around The World

September 2012

What is the Magic Answer?

You may have seen the Survey Monkey questionnaire I set up recently to find out some of the key issues facing would-be career changers.

One of the replies to my question ‘What would be the most useful information or support to help you to make your career change happen?’ really jumped out at me. It goes like this:

The most useful information or support I need is a step by step methodology on how I will be able to figure out what I can do as a career without being asked all the same questions that all career counsellors ask. Until I can answer this one question, I am unable to move in any direction.

Stubborn WomanSomething about this reply conjured up for me the image of someone standing with his/her arms folded, lips tight, steadfastly refusing to budge. Does it do that for you too?


The response suggests a belief that there is a magic answer out there just waiting to be handed over, but it is invisible from where this person is currently standing. And yet there is a refusal to make any kind of move until that answer is handed over.

What would you do if you were lost?

Now if you were out on a country walk and had got a bit lost and were looking for the path back to the car park, a path that you know is there, but you just can’t see from where you are, would you just stand there waiting for it to appear? Would you just refuse to move till someone came along who could tell you exactly how to find the route?

I suspect not.

Especially if it was getting cold and dark and you were hungry.

You’d start casting around looking for clues and indications that you were going the right way. You’d be stopping anyone you saw and asking them for directions – even if they are not locals they might have some idea of the way.

The point with career change is that there is no magic methodology that will guarantee a perfect solution. But one thing that will certainly help is to start looking around, start exploring, because as you move, new things will come into view and new ideas will emerge.

And if you can find someone who can give you some tips and hints about how to explore the territory in a more systematic way, would that not be worth trying?

The fact is that if you stand stock still, then you only have access to the limited perspective available from where you are right now. The minute you begin to move then new perspectives come into view that were hidden from you before.

So what is it that makes someone get so stuck?

If you are feeling frozen into inactivity like this, before you go looking for the perfect solution, it may be worth asking yourself ‘what is the hidden benefit to me of staying put, of not taking any action?’ There must be something in it for you, or you would have moved on by now.

Do you think that staying put is somehow keeping you safe? Ensuring you evade the risk of failure? Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t?

How about reframing the key statement in a way that might be more helpful. Instead of ‘Until I can answer this one question, I am unable to move in any direction’.

Try something like: ‘I can choose to move in any direction whenever I like – the decision is mine. Advice and suggestions to help orient me would be helpful but I do not depend on them to take action’.

And begin to accept that there is no step by step methodology that will deliver the perfect solution.

Come to think of it, doing a puzzle when you have been handed the steps to the answer is no fun at all. The fun – and the learning – comes from trying to figure it out as you go along and then being able to take credit and pride in what you achieve when you make progress.

And your next step will be…?

Something to think about

Following on from my article, I thought this definition of procrastination was worth sharing:

Procrastination is making a decision, for no clear and valid reason, to delay or not complete a task or goal you’ve committed to, and doing instead something of lesser importance or nothing at all, despite there being negative consequences to not following through on the original task or goal.

Guilty or not guilty?

With best wishes for your career change success

About the author

Amy Thomas

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