Many of us who feel the time is right to change careers often find that we don’t actually have any idea which career field we want to shift to. What would be really suitable for us? What would we not only be good and great at, but also enjoy? What are we passionate enough about to make a career out of? As overwhelming as these questions might initially seem, if we break down the process of deciding upon our new career into several steps, we’ll find it more manageable and will increase our chances of successfully finding the right career.
1. Reflection time
Although it may seem obvious to say you need to reflect on yourself and your life to identify your passions, it’s easier said than done. It’s not natural for us to take time out and reflect upon our interests, preferences and experiences, but it’s absolutely essential to finding a career we’ll be passionate about. Sit down, get a pen and piece of paper, consider the following questions and write down whatever comes into your mind.
- What are your hobbies/interests? Include activities from throughout your whole life, from childhood onwards, that you still enjoy doing. If you can find a way to get paid for what you love doing anyway, then that’s great.
- What are your beliefs/principles? If you’re passionate about a particular cause or feel strongly about a certain issue, acknowledging this may help you to identify a career or employer organization that is aligned with your beliefs and objectives.
- Which aspects of your current career are you passionate about? Even if you only really enjoy doing one thing at your current work, use that as a potential basis to build your new career around.
- What are you good at? We tend to be good at the things we enjoy and to enjoy the things we’re good at. If you really can’t think of yourself in terms of your talents, ask those who know you well, or think about what people ask you to do most often. If you’re asked to do certain things frequently, it’s most probably because you’re good at them.
2. In-depth research
Once you’ve got clearer on what you care about and what you enjoy, you can start thinking of career fields that match up with that. For instance, if you’re interested in elderly rights/care and you enjoy campaigning and interacting with others, research charities that offer advice, support and services to the elderly and/or draw attention to social or legislative issues affecting older people. Look at the organisations’ websites or literature to get an idea of the different roles they employ people in. Phoning up an organisation is also a good way of getting information on what they do and who they employ, as they’re often happy to help in any way they can.
A great way of finding out if you could be passionate about a certain type of work day-in, day-out is to of course try out the work. Volunteering is an accessible and convenient way of doing this, as you get a taste of the work with relatively little pressure and you need not commit full-time — there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer in the evenings or at the weekends, or for one or two days during the week. Don’t feel you have to be limited to volunteering for a not-for-profit organisation either; business volunteering is becoming increasingly common. Many volunteer opportunities also include on-the-job training, which will look good on your CV and will help develop skills you may need in your new career.
Talk to people within your network who seem passionate about their careers. Firstly, being around people who get that kind of energy from their work — and invest it back in —may help stimulate your own passions, giving you a clearer idea of what they actually are. Secondly, if the people you talk to are in the career areas you’re interested in, you’ll get the insider’s view on what it’s really like to do the job every day. Whatever you do, there are some days when you won’t feel passionate about your work, or you’ll feel discouraged — you know this already from your current work. Find out from others what these days are like in your potential new career field.
5. Gaining knowledge
If, by now, you’re serious about changing to a particular career field that you believe aligns with your passions, you may need additional training to be competitive in that particular labour market, or you may just want to learn as much as possible about the job and how to do it. In this case, look out for learning or training opportunities near you. Check in with your local further education college to see what relevant courses it offers. Some community centres also run classes and short courses. Ask around for a private tutor or go to your library and take out books that you can use to teach yourself certain skills.
This guest blog post was written by Nisa Chitakasem. Nita is the co-founder of Position Ignition – a career consultancy dedicated to helping professionals with their career change, job search, career choices and career direction.