29 Sep 10 WAYS TO COME UP WITH IDEAS FOR YOUR CAREER CHANGE WHEN YOU’RE STUCK
Everyone needs to be ready for career change; the days of the career ladder are over! Now, your career is like a lego creation, where you assemble different kinds of experiences, skills and strengths to create your very own career story, one like no other! But sometimes, finding career change ideas, ones which speak to your heart and mind, can feel like chasing a rainbow; an impossible task which has you feeling like you’ve been running in the same place, getting nowhere.
Our career experts share a basketful of tips and tricks to get you out of this stuck place and into a place of action and getting closer to your desired career. So, go ahead and take your pick from these tips and most importantly, get cracking on them.
Before you get started with these ideas, we are going to ask you to pay attention to the voice in your head and see what that voice is telling you.
Do you hear a voice which says
“This won’t work, it’s crazy, it’s not me, I don’t think I am going anywhere with this idea”
“I think I can move into this, but then this isn’t looking that different from what I’m already doing. Will the change really be worth it?
In the first case, your career change is getting scotched even before you start on the process, because you’ve set up too many conditions and filters. Many of these filters arise from fears and assumptions, which may not even hold true once you actually test them out. But the voice in your head is keeping you from those tests.
And what of a career change idea which looks so similar to what you are already doing, that it comes a cropper! When you’re stuck to using the same lenses to see the world as always, then you only see very similar ideas. The real, exciting career change ideas are in places and among people who you haven’t been with.
Now that you know what the voice in your head kind of sounds like, let’s move onto finding ways to let a new voice emerge, one which gets you firmly on the way to career change.
1. Mine your experiences for career change ideas
“Adults are always asking little kids what they want to be when they grow up because they’re looking for ideas.” – Paula Poundstone
What better place to start than your own memories and most satisfying experiences when you were young!
Reflecting back on our most satisfying childhood interests gives us important clues for career change ideas, because at that time we were not burdened by two of the greatest career anxieties – money and position.
Some questions which can help you get started with this reflection
- What are some enduring interests from childhood until now?
- What subjects, conversations do you naturally gravitate towards?
- What childhood achievements are you proud of even today?
- What do your friends know you as and come to you for help with?
2. Dig deeper into your envy
“Nothing sharpens sight like envy.” – Thomas Fuller
Does envying someone make you feel guilty?
Envy can be a helpful emotion too. We can envy what other people HAVE and the results they have achieved i.e. money, fame, business growth, title etc. Such envy triggers off other difficult emotions like hopelessness, feeling small in comparison, guilt at not doing enough, fear of failing if we try to be like the other people we envy; all in all a downward spiral.
This kind of envy misses two very important things
1. A deeper understanding of what it took those people to get to where they are, often editing out their journey quite a bit
2. A recognition that what matters to each person is different, so judging by the final result is a wrong yardstick
But envy can be a helpful emotion too. How?
When we envy not what the other HAS, but how the other person LIVES for e.g. if the object of our envy enjoys freedom and autonomy, then envy can be helpful for us to recognize that these 2 values may be truly important to us. Envy can point us to our own stuffed up or unacknowledged aspirations which we aren’t acting on.
Keep an envy diary and create a picture of what your ideal career is through an analysis of your envious feelings. This will take you closer to the right career change idea for you.
3. More career change ideas are better
“Do as many ideas as possible. The right idea will pick you.” – James Altucher
A good example from the book Art & Fear tells the story of a ceramics teacher who graded half of his class on quantity (how many pieces they could make) and the other half on quality (create only one piece but make sure it’s perfect).
“Well, come grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity.”
So is it with ideas. You have to come up with many good and bad ideas and then filter through to the best. Aim for quantity and quality will follow suit.
Strengthen the idea muscle in different spheres; practice asking ‘how might I’ questions of yourself and answering them in as many different ways.
For instance, ‘How might I see if I like content writing’ could produce answers like
- Offer to write for a friend’s blog or help organize her content
- Write 1 post every day on a social media platform
- Curate a weekly/bi-weekly newsletter on a topic I love
- Write reviews of books/movies/products
- Take a course in SEO rich content writing
When you force yourself to come up with plenty of ideas, you have not one, but many starting points. And fewer excuses not to try, so your career change ideas turn into reality.
Read more: Switch to Success (a career accelerator program where you can learn to come up with ideas for career pivots, network with diverse people and mine your career stories to understand your skills and strengths)
4. Call out to your multiple selves
“The core of my personality consists of many selves.”- Hans Bender
The idea that we are meant to be one thing, and one thing only is an idea way, way past its due date. You are not just defined by the one role/title you have at work and that can’t limit the possible other things you can be and see yourself as.
So instead of being fixed about the kind of career which most closely resembles what you do currently, and searching for what’s available there, flip the process. Begin by thinking of all the possible things you could be doing, before applying filters like how much will it pay, what will you be called, how will you explain what you do. Career change is facilitated by calling out to all the possible selves which reside in you.
With some imagination and even some wishful thinking, list down 5-10 possible roles/work you are keen on doing. And don’t go only by what your present skills and prior experiences set you up for; at this stage, just ideate.
After you list the possible titles or sectors, you can go a step further and try creating an explanation for each possible self. What’s the connective tissue that binds your existing experiences and skills with what you want to do? That is where you will find those elusive career change ideas which you can grab.
5. Get past the idea of the perfect job/career
Instead of pushing yourself to an impossible ‘perfect,’ and therefore getting nowhere, accept ‘good.’ Many things worth doing are worth doing badly.” – Gretchen Rubin
You need to drop the idea of a ‘perfect’ career faster than you can drop a hot potato. This impossible idea of the perfect career stops you from taking action, instead winding you up in fear and anxiety. Truth is, there are a vast majority of career options that you can consider as career change ideas, but no perfect one.
Moreover, at present, what you consider to be your ‘right’ fit may change over time and that’s nothing to worry about.
Not just the idea of a perfect career option, striving for perfection during career change can be extremely limiting. So what does getting past this mindset look like? Some examples
- Picking up the phone to call someone for an informational interview with genuine curiosity and interest in understanding what they do, instead of waiting for a referral to your perfect job
- Experimenting with a career change idea through a side project/hustle before going the whole hog
6. Plan ‘happenstance’
“The older you get, the more you realize how happenstance has helped to determine your path through life.” – Rowan Atkinson
Have you come across someone who stated an extremely lucky event as their starting point towards their dream career? Well, chances are if you put yourself out there, you can engineer such lucky happenstance events.
In fact, there is a whole theory of Planned Happenstance by career theorist John Krumboltz. At the core of this theory is the fact that unpredictable social factors, chance events and environmental factors are important in determining one’s career. Being able to capitalize on such ‘happenstance’ requires certain actions and mindsets consistently
- Diversifying your network to include varied kinds of people
- Commitment to self-learning, curiosity in trying out new things
- Asking for feedback from others
- Resilience and perseverance in the face of setbacks
- Financial prudence and planning to incorporate temporary breaks in employment
These mindsets and actions set you up to take advantage of happenstance to swerve into a career change opportunity and make the most of career change ideas.
7. Stack it all up
“You can make different colours by combining those colours that already exist.” -Herbie Hancock
You can have many skills which on their own are the same skills which thousands of others have. But when you combine your skills, and stack them up one on top of the other, you produce a unique combination which holds many more possibilities for career options than if you marketed your standalone skills.
For instance, one person we know made a very successful career change from sales into standup comedy? Yes, you heard that right. He stacked up his sales skills at being persuasive (getting event organizers to take a bet on him), being entertaining (in sales, he had perfected the art of being entertaining and likable so people would want to buy from him), having a vast bank of people and interesting experiences and encounters with them (which gave him heaps of material to turn into comedy) and being able to connect with the pulse of the audience (again honed through his sales experiences).
Stacking up your existing ideas, talents and skills, problems which you want to help solve and playing with different combinations of these can produce unexpected and novel career change ideas.
Throw in two or three different ideas into the melting pot, see what shapes up. If you have a skill learnt in one domain, how might it serve you in solving a problem in another?
8. Inhabit intersections for novel career change ideas
“Life happens at intersections.” – Jack Dorsey
As Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter says, intersections and boundaries are places where ideas are fluid, being created in one domain and then getting transmuted or transformed into something unexpected in another domain.
How can you inhabit more intersections?
- Meet people who have career change stories of their own to tell, they can let you into career change ideas which you hadn’t thought of before
- Have coffee/lunch at a different place from your usual, where you meet new kinds of people
- Read books/shows different from those you usually read/watch
- Attend a virtual conference on a topic which is absolutely new to you
As you inhabit more of these intersections, your thoughts will swirl together to produce many career change ideas.
9. Talk to people
“Surround yourself with people who talk about visions and ideas, not about other people.” – Akin Olokun
Some of your career change ideas will come not from you but from other people. We get trapped inside our own heads with notions about our careers, what kind of work to do, what we’re capable of. But opening ourselves to other people’s experiences and ideas, can generate a wealth of ideas for us to use in our own lives for career change.
People we know little are often those who inhabit different worlds from ours. They see things we don’t and they do things which we haven’t thought about. Hearing them talk about their visions, their journeys, can be expansive and an effortless way to build on one’s own skills and experiences with something novel.
How do you get the most out of talking to people?
- Have conversations with people you know on new kinds of problems
- Have new conversations with people you don’t know on just about anything, but most importantly their stories, their visions and experiences
Did you know that jobs that you find through your weak ties, people who you don’t know very well, who are just acquaintances, are also the ones that come with higher compensation and satisfaction? Mark Granovetter’s highly influential theory of weak ties has proven that weak ties in our network are the bridges to other networks and those bridges have new and unique information – like job openings and career changes – relative to other members of the strong ties.
Plunge into conversational research with all sorts of people to quickly muster a long list of career change ideas.
10. Flip the process
“Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.” – Soren Kierkegaard
If you are having a hard time coming up with ideas for career change and future careers, flip the process and work backwards. Make the finish line your starting point instead of the other way around.
- What would you like your career and body of work to stand for at the end?
- What would you like to remembered for through your work?
- Solving what kind of problems would make your work exciting and meaningful?
- What kind of people would you want to have spent the most time working with?
Use these questions as a springboard to work backwards from the point of painting the picture of your career and then looking for ways to make this happen.
We’ve given you 10 ways in which you can stir up different kinds of career change ideas. Which are your favourites and what are you going to start doing with them? Let us know in the comments.
Kavita, an alumna of IIM Ahmedabad, brings 20 years of experience in Experiential Learning, Coaching, Personal Growth & Change. Her forte is Career Transition Coaching and Leadership Development for mid-senior individuals, helping them find success and fulfilment at work . She also teaches Career & Self Development courses at leading management institutes including IIM Kozhikode, IIM Udaipur, IIM Indore and at the IITs.