3 Tips for Preparing Your Career for Big Life Changes

by meslayter, published 05/20/2013
Early summer often brings major life changes: weddings, graduations and moves. Along with these personal events can come career changes. Maybe you’re looking for your first job after graduation, or you’re moving cross-country for your new spouse and need to find work in your adopted home? More than 80 percent of respondents in a recent Monster Meter poll revealed that they would rethink their career after a big change in their life, such as new child, marriage, graduation, and so on. If you are at a crossroads, pay attention to what you know about yourself and look for guidance and advice from your circle of contacts. If you are lucky enough to have the freedom to choose a career path, use that self-knowledge to select your direction wisely, and remember what you learned along the way. Here are three tips to help you navigate that transition effectively.

Tip 1: Have a Plan

When faced with major life changes, people may find that when it comes to their career, they focus more on the fact that they want to change, and less on the what they want to change to. “Many changes come from a sense of ‘I want to do something that feels fulfilling in way that what I’m doing now doesn’t feel fulfilling,’” says Freda Marver, a certified career and life coach in Minneapolis. “People are saying, ‘I know I want to do something different, but I don’t know what it is.’” The problem with this approach is that it’s easy to get stuck, Marver says. “They’re more likely to be paralyzed than jump into something they don’t like,” she says. Instead, take the time to really figure out what you want from a career change, and identify a plan to get there. Will you need to get a different degree? Who do you know in the industry? How can you prepare yourself for that path?

Tip 2: Get the Support You Need

Change can be painful, and if your career epiphany is spurred by a life change, you’ll have a lot to deal with all at once. An event such as a new member in the family or the death of someone close to you can make you re-examine a lot of deep beliefs that are suddenly thrown in a new light. “Those a-ha moments end up being at the basis of something that can clarify the direction your career change is going to go,” Marver says. Make sure you have people who will support you through your transition as you explore your options. Your reaction to life changes can even bring up unresolved personal issues, and you might find yourself reacting more emotionally or vehemently than you would otherwise. “Find someone to go there with you; that’s where the serious stuff is,” Marver says. “Big change doesn’t happen without risk.”

Tip 3: Think Big

Life crossroads are a good time to take stock of what’s important to you and to ask yourself if you’re living the life you imagined. As you look at your career transition options, be impractical for a moment and ask yourself if it’s time for you to follow your dream. Marver says she’s worked with many clients who resist change because they’re established in their field and make good money. “What I would say is, if you found even moderate success at what you’re doing but you’re not loving it, think how good you could do if it were something you really loved?” After considering all of this, it’s possible that you find that you don’t need a career change and are better off tweaking where you are now. If that is the case, find ways to re-engage or go deeper into the career you have through training, mentoring, volunteering or other ways.
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