Why is career change not a straight line?

So you think you’d like a change of career or way of working? You’ve seen all those examples of people who discarded the thing they didn’t want in their life, moved somewhere exciting and instantly became a success at the new thing they’d chosen to do.

But in reality change isn’t like that. You don’t just go from one thing to another, even if you know exactly what you want that change to be.

If you don’t know exactly what you want, you have to experiment, you have to try things out to see whether you’d like doing them as the whole or part of your new working life. Whether that’s by doing a course, shadowing someone at their work, volunteering, or just coming up with an idea and finding a few potential customers to test it on.

And even if you do know exactly what you want, you still have to make that change happen with other things going on around you.

You’ll find along the way that there are unexpected challenges – in your own head and from the people around you. Maybe you’re not sure you want to give up a way of life, or you feel you “should” be doing something that others think is more sensible than the plans you have for yourself. There are all sorts of things that can temporarily distract you.

So in reality, change looks more like this:  (image used courtesy of Sarah DaviesThe Work Experiment.)

It can take a bit of going round in circles, going back on yourself, and meandering off at a complete tangent before you’re really sure where you’re going. You might find yourself going back to a short-term contract for some money, still knowing that your eventual path lies elsewhere.

But every detour, every meander teaches us something, adds a new element to our experience or determination to change. You could also discover new things on your career change journey and not end up where you thought you might.

And even when you know what you want to be doing, if you’re embarking on self-employment with a portfolio of skills, services or products, regular evolution or re-invention of your business may be needed to keep you interested or to keep up with what the rest of the world needs from your talents.

An important thing with change is to have supportive people around you. People who understand that you’re going through a period of transition, and that what you want today might not be what you want tomorrow, that just because today was bad doesn’t mean the whole idea was silly in the first place. And that just because they don’t quite understand what you’re doing or what you’re going through, they’ll be there for you anyway. It’s also crucial to have people you can talk to who are not involved in your day to day life who can offer a different perspective on your worries and challenges – whether you find these new friends online or at networking meetings, they can help you through the murky patches.

How many changes of direction and new plans have you already made in your own career change?

Do you have people around who are supportive, or do you need to find a group of like-minded people?

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