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  • Want to Change Careers? What Will You Be When You Grow Up?

    Pretty preschool ballerina

    What do you want to be when you grow up?

    Seems like a fair question for a kid, doesn’t it?

    I ask my kids that question all the time, and the answers frequently change. My oldest daughter has wanted to be a frog farmer (raising frogs with the goal of selling them to PetSmart), a chef, a marine biologist, and – currently – head scientist at NASA.

    We think it’s amusing – and totally fair – for kids to constantly change their minds about their future professions. It’s okay because they have their whole lives ahead of them to figure it out.

    But what if they don’t figure it out?

    What if – hypothetically – they get to be middle-aged and still don’t know how to answer that question?

    What if they get to a point in their lives where they realize they really had no clue when they chose a career path?

    What if they made a choice based on the money they thought they’d make, the jobs their parents pointed them towards, or the prestige of a certain title or working for a certain company?

    What if they confused the idea of being “successful” with simply making lots of money, getting promoted every few years, and maybe being able to take a nice vacation every once in a while?

    Hmmmm… do you know anyone in this stuation?

    Chances are great that you do. Over 70% of workers in the US are “actively disengaged” at work, according to a 2011 Gallup poll.

    Translation: they hate their jobs.

    Is this percentage acceptable?

    I don’t think so.

    But I wonder how many of those actively disengaged workers will actually change careers in the coming year. My guess is, sadly, not enough.

    But why in the world wouldn’t you make a change if you were (are) that dissatisfied?

    I have a few guesses:

    You’ve got a family to support, and they’re counting on your income. And, you’re very busy. You don’t dare take the time at work to look for a job because you’ve already got too much on your plate. And, when you get home, you’ve got kids to feed and transport and a house to clean and bills to pay. When in the world are you supposed to find time to look for another job?

    Or fear. You could call it either one. You may not like your current job, but at least it’s… predictable. You’ve been there long enough that you at least know what to expect. You’ve got your three weeks vacation every year; the benefits are decent; the pay is okay. You might not like the work, but… what if you went somewhere else and it turned out to be worse? Sometimes the fear of the unknown can keep us frozen in place. For all you know, you could be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. Better stay put.

    Uncertainty: What would you do if you went somewhere else? You look at your resume and wonder what you’re really qualified to do anyway. You may have grown to hate accounting, but… what else are you going to do when you have nothing but accounting experience under your belt? The idea of finding work that you truly love sounds incredibly appealing, but you don’t know what you could do that would even make you happy anyway. Oh well…

    Do any (or all) of those excuses sound familiar to you?

    Even though they’re a little sad, there’s validity to those excuses. But is there just surface validity, or can those excuses be overcome and taken down?

    I say we can take them down.

    I think it’s a sad thing to be stuck in a job / career that you find unfulfilling. We spend over 1/3 of our adult lives working – shouldn’t we be finding more satisfaction in our work? If you’re at that point where you’re wondering what the heck you want to be when you grow up, why not take the time to really figure it out? Wouldn’t you rather spend the rest of your working life doing work you enjoy rather than dread?

    You really can. It’s not unrealistic to believe in this. You have certain gifts and skills and abilities and interests that make you the perfect person for certain kinds of work. And not-so-perfect for others. But to transition to this kind of work, you need a plan to overcome that list of excuses.

    Let’s take a look at how we can knock them out, one by one:

    Responsibilities: I heard you loud and clear on that one. We all have responsibilities and obligations. And it’s a good thing that we want to fulfill them and do our part to support our families. So, let’s get the right mindset on this one: making a job – or complete career – change doesn’t have to be a dramatic, sudden event. I’m not going to advocate quitting your job without having something lined up in its place. And scouring the job boards for several hours a day will probably be impractical, too. So… my advice is to just do something. Map out a path and take a step every day to get you further down the path. If you can only carve out 15 minutes a day (and you can, I promise), then take that 15 minutes each day to do something that moves you away from your current job and closer to your dream job. Use that 15 minutes for networking (make a call or write an e-mail), research, or anything else that could get you from Point A to Point B. Bottom line: move the ball forward every day.

    Insecurity: To overcome this one, you might want to imagine your future self. In twenty years from now, will you be happy with your decision to stay put? Or will you regret it? How do you see your life playing out over the next twenty years if you don’t make a change? It’s not too late, but… one day it will be. This is an area where you’ve just got to overcome your fears. Think of all that you have to gain, and then make your move.

    Uncertainty: You really may not know what else to do. You know you’re miserable where you are, but you don’t know what would truly make you happy. So, take the time to figure it out. What do you love to do? What are you really good at? If you didn’t have to worry about money, what would you spend your time doing? Take the time to really figure it out. If you’re not sure, take advantage of the resources that are available to you. There are some great books out there that will help you go through the self-evaluation process. A couple of my favorites are 48 Days by Dan Miller and What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles. There are also career assessments that can match your abilities, personality, and interests with careers that have proven to be a good fit for others with similar characteristics.

    So… if you’re dissatisfied with your job/ career, it’s time to get the ball rolling.

    It doesn’t matter if you made the wrong choice in the past, you have the chance to get it right now. Whatever your age, whatever your reason for being at this point in your life and trying to figure out your next move… take the time to figure out the answer that will lead to you to fulfilling work. Or, as my friend Penny says, find the work that will help you move from success to significance.

    It was a fair question back when you were a kid, and it’s a fair question now.

    What do you want to be when you grow up?

    The Profiles Pathway Planner is a an assessment designed to help those in career transition identify potential jobs that are a good fit for their abilities, personalities, and interests. If you’d like to see what careers might be a natural match for you, please contact us at to schedule an assessment. Assessments can be taken online, from home, and take 60-90 minutes to complete. A 30 minute review session is also included with the results.