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How to Find a New Career: Avoid These 5 Mental Traps

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confident young business woman

You probably fell into your current career.

Yes, I know you planned. You carefully considered your choice of degree. You got a job you were qualified for.

But you only assessed opportunities that were right in front of your nose.  

Your choices were (unwittingly) limited. Limited by your environment. Limited by the expectations of friends, family and teachers — and yourself.

Career theorist John Krumboltz called it “planned happenstance.” A bit of planning, yes. But also luck. Being in the right (or wrong) place at the right time.

How to make your own luck

Instead of fishing in a pool of limited options, you have the chance to find where the most delicious fish are swimming.

Then, when chances do arise, you will be ready, and want, to say yes.

Increase your luck by knowing the five most common reasons people stay limited: (Click here to tweet this list.)

1. You don’t know what you want

You think you need to be sure of your passion before you can make it a reality. Not knowing is paralyzing you.

You are afraid that making the wrong decision will have you go through the pain of change for nothing, especially if you are interested in a radically different career.

So you take no action at all.

The truth is, to find a career you love the action comes first, then the decision.

Find ways to test the water before diving in. Pick small, frequent actions that give you insight into potential careers, without making a commitment (yet).

Simply talk to someone already in a job you’d like to explore. Even better, shadow them for a day.

Want a creative career? Create intensively for 30 days.

Or come up with five ideas for how you might get paid for activities you already do for free, or used to love doing as a child, and implement one of them.

Learn from doing. Then decide if you want to commit.

2. You think your dream career is not realistic

It is dumb to decide you can’t do something before you’ve even tried it.

Throughout history people have made things happen, despite barriers bigger than most of us will ever face.

Maya Angelou became the first black female bus conductor in San Francisco by turning up every day for nine months, even though she’d been turned away on the first day.

Annys Darkwa came out of prison and founded a social enterprise while living on welfare payments.

Grace Quantock became a writer and award-winning entrepreneur despite living with chronic pain and multiple disabilities.

Realistic is a state of mind.

If you knew you could not fail, what would you do with your career?

3. You are too busy

We are all busy. But we are not all victims of our busy-ness.

Do you ever watch TV, use social media or go to the bar? Then you can choose to make time to work on your career.

On a scale of one to 10, how much of a priority is your career? Seven or above?

Then make time.

4. You know what you want, but you don’t know how to go about it

You are in the right place. Find one to three articles on Brazen that solve your biggest problems.

Don’t just read them, do what they suggest. Otherwise you have just found another way to put off taking action.

Try articles that help you find ways to meet potential employers or customers, use online tools effectively and apply for jobs in compelling ways.

Stick to a few actions that you will do thoroughly. Set a deadline, and find a buddy who will hold you accountable.

5. You place too much importance on a singular dream

I know this sounds backward, but taking steps toward something you deeply care about can be terrifying.

If you fail at this, what do you have left? You will have killed the dream.

The more important something is to you, the more scary it is.

The reverse also applies. The scarier something is, the more likely that you are going in the right direction.

Hear your inner critic screeching ever more loudly? Is that voice in your head telling you that this is too risky, you are not up to it, people will judge you?

Good. Then you are probably on the right track. You are worth the risk.

Adjust the details of your action plan if you need to.

But don’t stop.

Devi Clark is an author and career coach at NewLeaf Coaching, which specializes in helping career changers find work that makes a difference. She is founder of the Outsiders’ Network, a community for people who feel different from the social norm.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.

  • Aeolienne

    Just where am I supposed to find a buddy?

  • http://www.outsidersnetwork.com Devi Clark

    Hi Aeolienne,
    Start with your friends: is there anyone you know who wants to make something happen in their own life and who you also find to be supportive? Pick someone who will hold you to account, without putting you down.
    If no-one springs to mind, try going to meet up groups or other social activities and get talking to people. The thing is, we don’t really know what is going on for other people until we ask. When you do ask, you may find it easier than you think to identify a suitable person.
    There are, in fact, LinkedIn and Facebook groups and Networking / MeetUp groups specifically for others who want to develop their career. You don’t have to know them well before you start.
    If you are too geographically distant to meet in person, you can use Skype, Google hangouts or Facetime just as well. Before any of these existed (over 15 years ago) I used to have a phone call with my own buddy every week. We’d spend half an hour speaking about her plans and progress, and half an hour speaking about mine.

    • DBQChief

      Devi, What was the final outcome of the project you discussed with your buddy?

      • http://www.outsidersnetwork.com Devi Clark

        Both of us went on to find new jobs, having clarified what our priorities were and how to go about making it happen.

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