If you’re like most people, once you’ve made the decision to embark on a whole new career, the first emotion you feel may be one of excitement and hope…followed quickly by a sense of terror. What have I done? you ask yourself. What am I doing?
Relax. (I know…easier said than done.) This is probably going to be stressful, but the emotions you’re feeling are completely natural. Making a major career change is certainly daunting. The best way to get past this feeling is to start making a plan. And that begins with what I call taking a personal inventory. With this process, you’re going to do some internal work to discover your “personal assets”–exploring your skills, your passions, and your motivations so that you can reimagine how these assets can fit into a new career. (Note: this step is primarily for people who have left their current job or are planning to do so, but they don’t really know what they want to do next. If you already have a good idea about your next career and why you’re making the change, this blog will be informative, but not essential. You’ve already done this work.)
Ready? Here we go…
List Your Strengths
The first thing to do with a personal inventory is to compile a list your strengths. Here are a few questions to ask yourself and get you thinking:
- What are your known talents?
- What are your acquired skills?
- What do you consider your personality strengths?
- What successes at your previous jobs are you most proud of?
- How do you uniquely solve problems or come up with creative solutions?
Think about what makes you unique and stand out from other working professionals. Consider any experiences or skills you have that could be valuable in the workplace. For example, if you’re seeking a leadership role, list any experiences you’ve had in the past that demonstrate your ability to lead teams. If you don’t have much experience in the area yet, think about soft skills like communication, problem-solving, and critical thinking that could be beneficial in any role.
At this point, don’t downplay anything. Every skill and talent matters! Writing down a thorough list of your strengths will help to create the basis for finding a new career.
List Your Passions
While the previous step focuses on what you can do, this next step focuses on what you want to do. Among the talents and skills you listed in the previous step, do any stand out as something you love to do more than the others?
Your passions are just as important as your strengths when taking an inventory of yourself, and possibly even more so. What drives and motivates you? What topics do you find interesting? List anything that comes to mind—even if it seems far-fetched at first—as these can highlight potential industries or roles that may be right for you. You may even find unexpected connections between passions and potential career paths once everything is laid out on paper.
Find Your “Why”
This one is going to take some work, and it may not come overnight…but it’s well worth the effort. With this step, you’re going to review your passions and strengths and try to narrow things down even further to find your core motivation–the thing that gets you up in the morning, so to speak.
I’ve talked about this before, but it especially bears repeating in the context of finding a new career path. Most people know what they do, but they don’t know why they do it. Finding your “why” is key to identifying a career path that you love, one that you’re going to stick with–one that feels more like a life calling than a job. For this step, I recommend re-reading this blog post, as well as working your way through Simon Sinek’s books Start with Why and Find Your Why. Doing this work should start pointing you in the direction of a career path that is more aligned with your “why.” (For many people, it also shows them why they weren’t happy in their previous career.)
View Your Personal Assets in a New Light
Once you have listed your talents and passions, and once you’ve at least begun the process of finding your “why,” it’s time to take a fresh look at these personal assets. Ask yourself why these qualities matter to you, both personally and professionally. Why do they make sense within the context of a certain industry or job function? This is where things get really interesting–because you’ll likely begin to see options for how these abilities and motivations can fit into a new and different career that you perhaps never even thought of. (I often use myself as a personal example here: when I made my career change, I discovered that the passions and skills that fueled my decades-long career in human resources would serve me even better in my current role as a career coach!)
Believe it or not, once you get through these steps, you’ll already be well on your way to discovering a new career for yourself. In the upcoming blog posts in this series, we’ll go through some more practical steps for setting yourself up for your new career. In the meantime, this process can be challenging, and it’s typically much easier when you have someone to help guide you through the steps. If you’d like to explore the option of getting some career coaching, that’s what I’m here for. Just click here to access my calendar and set up a free 30-minute initial consultation.