Career decisions are among the toughest a human can make. Job changes are easy. It’s a choice between different assignments, salaries, and companies. Often they’re self-imposed, perhaps driven by a new opportunity from a network or a really attractive posting online. Sometimes they’re done without our permission in the form of a layoff. Either way, the dilemma of “what should I do with my life” isn’t as important in a job change.
Career changes are much more complicated. Like a job, they can come from layoffs where the career itself might be going away or shifting radically. In other cases, it comes as part of a mid-life transition (What am I doing with my life? Is this what I want to do the rest of my life?). Making a radical career decision can be simplified by considering three perspectives:
- Where I’ve Been
- Where I Want to Go
- Where I Am Now
In 2005, I made the decision to fire my boss at the association I worked at in order to start my own training and consulting business. It was scary and exhilarating all at the same time, much like that rush you feel when the roller coaster car is heading up that first big hill slowly. You know you can’t back out and you know the big drop is coming. It’s fear, resignation, and fun all wrapped in one big package.
My decision was made carefully. I considered the following:
Where I’ve Been. I did 15 years in the Navy and spent about five more working for three different organizations. I knew enough about the workforce both inside the military and out to sculpt a good business plan. I also collated every lesson I learned from the different bosses, processes, systems, and strategies I’d worked with up to that point. I managed to let go of some of the baggage that accompanied me out of the Navy and was poised to go.
Where I Wanted to Go. I knew I wanted to work for myself. I knew I wanted to develop the next great generation of managers. I also knew that for my business to grow, I’d have to develop good systems and structures and surround myself with really smart people.
Where I Am (or was in 2005). I knew I was financially prepared with multiple sources of income. I also knew there were plenty of projects I could tackle now that I was working for myself full time.
With all three in place, I had peace about my decision. I launched and never looked back!
What are you wrestling with now? If it’s a career change, take some time to consider the following as you make you decision:
- Where have I been? Do an inventory of your past experiences, knowledge you’ve gained, problems you’ve solved, and people you’ve met. Make a list of what you’ve managed to assemble personally up to this point. Now you know what you bring.
- Where do I want to go? Think about what you wanted to be when you grew up. Think about jobs and assignments that really resonated with you. Take some time and with the wise counsel of people around you, see how you can fashion that into a new career. Remember, it’s about what you’ve enjoyed and found rewarding, not just something that sucks less than what you have now.
- Where am I now? Take stock of your current situation. Your family situation. Your income needs. Be sure this is the right time to make that move.
Career decisions aren’t easy. They are stressful and uncertain. Yet by asking these three simple questions, you’ll get some clarity and hopefully some peace.
I’ve found the career that’s right for me. I hope you can do the same!