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How to Make a Major Career Change, Simplified

How to make a major career shift, simplified:

1.Trust yourself. Be honest about your habits. Are you chronically dissatisfied? Or has your intuition been telling you to make a change for years now? If you've plateaued and it's time to move on to something more in your “zone of genius”, allow that. Don't make yourself wrong for it.

2. Rather than ruminate on your options (and I can almost assure you the options you have readily available in your head are too limited), put yourself in the path of possibilities. Scan LinkedIn job postings, but not as a way to contract and make yourself feel bad about what skills you do or don't have. Use it as a way to check in on your energy. Does a particular opportunity turn you off? Why? That's valuable information. If another one excites you, make a list of reasons why. Now you have clues.

If none of the postings excite you, start "following the energy" in any way you can. Buy books on topics that interest you, even if they seem to have nothing to do with a potential future job. Get in touch with people in your life who seem fulfilled. Take an online course on an impractical but fun topic. Again, it's about putting yourself in the path of new ideas so you can start to broaden your understanding of what's possible.

3. Apply to a set number of jobs online per week. Make it a number so low you can easily do it in five minutes (so you'll actually do it). Apply to at least a few that are a stretch for your level of skills and experience, and at least a few that don't excite you that much on paper. We all know job descriptions rarely tell the full story. You might be pleasantly surprised.

4. Remember, though, that your next job is likely to come through your network. Make a list of all your contacts. Peruse your LinkedIn connections or your phone's address book. I'd like you to write them all down or list them out somewhere, so you see how big your network is. Include family members, former colleagues, friends of friends.

5. Now, set logic aside. Politely contact a handful of people who just make you feel good. Concisely explain your situation - that you're exploring your options - and see if they have any ideas for you or, at a minimum, a good next person for you to talk to. Be as precise as possible, so they know what direction to lead you in (people want to help). But know that it's ok if you don't have it narrowed down. Be confident about where you are in your process. It's nice to start small rather than blasting out a hundred messages, because each conversation will help you refine what you're looking for.

6. Next week, respectfully contact a handful more. Even some of the people who are less energizing to you, or whose backgrounds wouldn't necessarily suggest they can help you. You never know who they know. Do this every week.

7. Make sure your resume is strong but don't obsess over it. Block an hour or so to update it, have someone else proofread it, and then own it. At most, tweak a few sentences here and there if a job description mentions a certain skill and you happen to have it. Unless your resume is riddled with errors, or factually incorrect, it's not about the piece of paper.

8. Get out of your head. Focus on the other areas of life - health, relationships, your creativity. While the steps above are relatively straightforward, a job search can bring up all kinds of insecurities, money fears, and self-doubt. Getting back into your body by taking a daily walk or sticking to the exercise or breathwork routine that works for you can keep you on course. And you might be surprised. By spending time on other parts of your life, you could realize the problem was not with your job at all.

9. If indeed it is time to move on, be open to the concept of a “bridge job”. This is a job that might not be your ultimate destination, but it gets you out of stagnation. It teaches you a new skill. It rounds out your experience so you'll be ready for your dream job in a few years. If you've been in an industry for 5, 10, 15, 20 years or more, switching to a new one is like steering a big ship. The turn is often slower.

Once you make a career change and get your “dream job”, you'll have new desires. That's the human condition. We always want more, and we always want to expand. So the key is to hold it all lightly, prioritize health and joy, and enjoy the journey.

~ Mary Margaret

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