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  • Indrani Stangl, M.A., Career Coach

When I grow up, I want to be...

We all faced the same huge decision. What should I be when I grow up? Some of us had a desire very early on that didn't waver. Others (like myself) fell into something because so many options seemed to be good matches. Doctor? Lawyer? Pilot? Musician? Ballerina? The stuff of childhood fantasies. Of course, some of us do end up in those occupations, but many of us end up sitting in an office, plugging away at something boring, wondering where we went wrong (or if there is something better out there).

So, you've been in the same industry for quite some time, and it is all you know. Or is it? If you are feeling envious of other peoples' work, or just curious whether you can transition into a new career, don't push that thought away. With a little dedication, time and direction, you can. You need to explore. Even if you have no clue what else you can do, there are ways to help you whittle it down.

  1. Talk to people. If you have friends, family, or acquaintances that do something that sounds cool, set up informational interviews. This is the perfect, low pressure meeting. Buy a cup of coffee for them and let them talk about what they do for a living. Most people enjoy talking about themselves so it shouldn't be too hard to get someone to meet with you. Bring questions, and be respectful of their time. Remember, this is just for information, so no need to bring your resume. It's just to talk. After a few meetings, you will be surprised at the clarity you will gain.

  2. Assess your tendencies, talents and affinities. If you still cannot figure out what path to take, you can get a little help by using some assessment tools. Figure out what kind of learner you are, what kind of personality you have, work styles, social and cognitive traits, communication styles, etc. There are online tools you can access for free, or for a fee. For example, if you are risk averse and have a shy personality, you may not want to go into a sales position that is paid only commission.

  3. Take inventory of your current work experiences and skills. Even if you feel your job is mundane and it will be impossible for you to start a new career, I beg to differ. We all have transferrable skills. Things like customer service, writing, public relations, marketing, management, communication, organization, or project management. All of us do some of this in one way or another. Think about the jobs that you are interested in and how you can leverage the skills and expertise you already have.

  4. Ask yourself a lot of questions. Changing careers is a very personal thing. You know yourself the best, what you will like, how you will thrive, and what you want to avoid. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Will I need to get some training (certificate? degree?) before I am qualified?

  • Do I want to work at a big company, a smaller one, or a non-profit?

  • How much flexibility do I need?

  • Is traveling ok, and how much?

  • Do I do better working independently, or as a member of a team (or mixed?)

  • Is passion more important than salary, or vise versa?

  • Am I willing to relocate?

Once you have answered these questions (and anything else you can think of), start doing some more research. Talk to more people. And continue to trim the options down.

And of course, you are welcome to contact us for some help!

Yes, this sounds like a lot of work, and it is. But if you think of it as an investment for your future happiness and fulfillment, it will be worth it.

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