There comes a point in most people’s career where dissatisfaction sets in.

You know what I mean…

The nagging feeling that maybe you’re not doing the thing you want to any more.

Sometimes it’s a blip, and all you need is a change of attitude or a change of scenery. (In which case a holiday and a new job will often set you up nicely).

But sometimes—when the career you used to love has lost its shine—a bigger shift is required.

What if being a _____________ (insert your job title here) just doesn’t make you happy any more?

How do you go about shaking up your career?

I’ve been deep down there too, in the pit, wondering why I got into my job in the first place. It got to the point where washing dishes or pouring pints… in fact doing anything else at all… seemed better than being stuck in front of my computer pushing pixels for another day.

A few people are lucky, and seem to have an instinctive feel for what they want to do next.

For many of us though, the sheer range of possible career options ca feel overwhelming.

So I wanted to share something from Roman Krznaric’s excellent book “How to Find Fulfilling Work”, which suggests the following thought experiment:

Imagine yourself in three parallel universes, in each of which you can spend next year trying a job in which your talents meet the needs of the world. What three jobs would you be excited to try?

I’ve always had a few other things I’ve wanted to do. Part of me wants to be a music producer. Maybe making quite commercial pop music. (I used to make a lot of electronic music when I lived in Glasgow). Another part of me wants to be a writer, maybe penning science-fiction as well as this blog. And I could see another James starting a street-food stall. (This is the least likely of the three if I’m honest, but I’ve still thought about it).

If you try this exercise, make sure you write your thoughts down, and on a piece of paper if possible, as the physical act of writing makes thoughts flow differently.

Once you’ve captured your three possible careers, you might be wondering….

How do I get past the fear?

Making big changes is scary, I know.

It’s all too easy to get lost in “what-ifs” instead of taking action.

(And I’ve gotten stuck myself, many many times, so I’m not judging you).

Here’s the thing.

The fear isn’t going to go away.

(In fact, it makes sense to be afraid, because there’s an element of risk involved.)

But the good news is that there’s a simple solution…

Act first, reflect later

You don’t need to worry about picking the right thing, and then going all-in on that seemingly perfect career.

Instead, you can try multiple career options before you quit your job.

(Excuse me if this sounds like Captain Obvious stuff, but I believe it’s worth spelling this out…)

You could take an evening class, or work one day at the weekends on the skill you want to develop, or get up an hour earlier every day to do it.

It won’t be easy, and it won’t be glamerous, but it is possible.

And aftewards you can look back, chop out all the boring bits and play the Rocky theme tune over your montage.

Whatever you do, take your career idea from hypothetical to practical as soon as you can.

Remember this: it doesn’t matter if your first step is tiny, because it still takes you in a new direction.

You need to start moving the car before you can steer it.

And there’s something even bigger here…

Our lifes aren’t just “work”, they are an ongoing experiment

Career ladders don’t work like they used to. Not only do people change jobs more often, they change career more often too.

I could never have planned to be a web designer in my early teens, because the job didn’t exist yet. And even when I was studying design in the early noughties, they hadn’t quite worked out how to teach “digital” design (whatever that means).

Things are moving so fast that traditional educational establishments can’t keep up. And that’s not going to change.

So we have to keep learning. To keep trying new things.

This might seem daunting, but I think it’s exciting too. We’re the first generation to experience this freedom. We can have multiple careers, stringing together different experiences and different roles, whilst building on the same core skills. We can freelance, flexi-time, work-from-home, work-from anywhere.

We can be more than one person.

It’s time to find out who you’re going to be

What’s the first branch in your career tree going to look like?

And what’s the first baby step you can take to make it happen?

Act on your career ideas now, and reflect later.


PS. Some questions to ask yourself if you’re not sure what to do next:

Imagine a venn diagram with three circles: what you’re good at, what you enjoy doing, and what people pay money for. Somewhere in the middle is a sweet spot where they overlap, and I hope you can find it.


Posted to Uncategorised in 2016.

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