A lot of us go to college, work hard to find a job that we think will make us happy, only to realize, often after many years of experience, that it… doesn’t. We’re tired, worn out, and unfulfilled. We realize that there is no badge of honor for “powering through” once we reach the top of the ladder. In fact, it’s usually quite the opposite. Making it to the top rung only means more work, more anxiety, and even less recognition.
What do you do then—when everything you’ve worked so hard for has been toward one goal, one career, one path? How do you change directions or branch out into something new? When you realize your job, career, or industry is no longer the best fit for you, it’s the perfect opportunity to step back, pause, and redefine yourself and your professional brand.
How we define ourselves is how we give meaning to our careers and our lives. Branching out into a new career path involves digging down deep into your roots—your core and lifestyle values, your desires to make an impact, and what you want your career to look like.
Redefining your career means making a conscious decision to do what works best for you, regardless of your previous plans or the expectations of others.
I’ve fully redefined my career twice: first when transitioning from being an operations manager into an HR leader and again when moving from HR into self-employment as a career coach. It didn’t happen overnight.
It took me a while to realize that the cushy salary and corporate ladder climbing were not worth the soul-sucking effort it took to get through each day. When I realized it was time to actually live—not live to work—there was no going back.
Now, each day is packed with meaningful work, and I feel lucky to see the immediate impact of my contributions as I support others in following their hearts and making big career changes happen.
Redefining your career doesn’t happen overnight, but it can begin with two steps.
1. Ensure your mindset is prepared for growth/change. It’s a courageous act to move beyond what we always thought we wanted, what society tells us we “should” be, or what our parents/family expect from us. Take time to get yourself comfortable and excited with this big change.
2. Determine what’s next. Define what success looks like for YOU. Then, visualize this new path, how you’re going to feel in your new role identity, and what your career is going to look like. What will you be doing?
Once you’ve accomplished those two things, you can reverse-engineer the experience, exposure, and education needed to make change happen. That begins with identifying your transferable skills.
Transferable skills and experiences are the skills used in one role or industry that can also be useful in another role, a new company, or a different sector. They can be hard skills (competencies like bookkeeping), soft skills (traits like empathy), and/or leadership skills, and they can come from anywhere.
When thinking of your transferable skills, it’s a good idea to consider things outside your work experience. Think about the skills you gained from school, volunteer opportunities, side hustles, sports, or community involvement.
Dissect job descriptions or talk to people who have the kind of job you want. This will give you a realistic idea of what they’re looking for in a job candidate. It’s easy to get caught up in thinking you have to check all the boxes on a job description, but that’s not usually the case. Companies prefer someone who can grow and develop into the role over someone who will be bored in 6 months because they’ve been there, done that. A good rule of thumb: If you have 60% of the skills/experience, you should feel comfortable applying!
Look at doing the same kind of work but in an industry where you want to make an impact. Functional skills are highly transferable across industries. For example, someone who is a great account manager can manage accounts in the fashion industry or in the EdTech industry. Someone who is a rockstar accountant could be an accountant in the healthcare industry or in the publishing industry. What matters most is matching your industry to something you’re genuinely interested in because this will make your career so much more rewarding.
Consider these highly in-demand (and transferable) skills. With the world adapting and (readapting) to so many recent changes following the start of the pandemic, there are some transferable skills that are particularly in demand right now.
First, narrow your job search to the TOP 5 companies you’d love to work for. Then, find out what skills they need (that you also have). You can do this by talking to their employees, researching their website, or reviewing job descriptions. Then, begin incorporating those skills into your job search. Here are some places to start:
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For more insider stories, quick tips, and #CareerTalk, I invite you to connect with me on Instagram @flourish.careers.