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Your Reality Check

To sit back and let fate play its hand and never influence it is not the way weíre meant to operate. Yet repeatedly, I hear people make statements such as ďI have the feeling that somewhere in the universe thereís something I do exquisitely, but I havenít found it yet. Itís wonderful to think about all the exciting possibilities out there. But what if Iím wrong? What if that second career Iíve always dreamed of is more an avocation than a vocation?Ē

A book that I read over 15 years ago, entitled Divorcing a Corporation, How to Know When Ė and If Ė a Job Change Is Right for You by Dr. Jacqueline Plumez, stated eloquently that the luckiest people know what they want Ė and work for it. The less fortunate just know that somethingís wrong. Do you feel impatient every time you sit down at your desk? Do you experience a nagging doubt? Or a growing excitement about all those other possibilities out there Ė if you just knew how to reach for them?

As Dr. Plumez states, when you discover your career isnít right, thereís no thunderbolt. The decision to move builds gradually; itís like a toothache that keeps aching until you can no longer ignore it. Itís hard to admit youíre on the wrong track, especially after having invested money in an education or time in a career. Itís unsettling to realize that you have been fulfilling othersí expectations instead of your own.

But there comes a point when you simply canít hide your head in the sand anymore. Somethingís got to give. For some people, itís their health. Theyíll begin to drink too much or get ulcers. For others, their personal lives become affected. Maybe theyíll start extramarital affairs or take out their anger on their families. Still others will fail on the job so the company will be forced to fire them.

It doesnít have to be this way. You can do something constructive before you hit rock bottom. Life is too brief to waste it in a job you hate. If you have explored all the avenues open to you within your chosen field and youíre still not happy, then read on.

If you donít have the time or the money to go to a career counselor to discover what you want to be, you might want to try the following exercises:

  1. 1. Daydream. Turn your fantasies into productive planning. Think of every job you ever wanted to have. Write them down. Mentally try each one on for size to see how it feels.

  2. Use your public library. Take out The Dictionary of Occupational Titles and The Occupational Outlook Handbook. Run your finger down the index, making note of any occupation that strikes your fancy. Donít be realistic right now. Donít limit yourself. Youíre an explorer searching new worlds. Donít think about anyone else but yourself Ė like a child, play with the possibilities. You can get more realistic about what may or may not be practical later on. For now, what you need are ideas and direction. Analyze your list to see if your interests are clustered in a particular field Ė or if any occupation brings a ďEureka!Ē

  3. Test your interest. One of my clients, a private investment banker, had always dreamed of being a doctor and she continually berated herself for not having the discipline to go to medical school. When I gave her a vocational interest test, she scored far more like a financial planner than a doctor. Realizing she had made a good choice, not a lazy one, she could put her daydreams aside and concentrate on her art Ė without uprooting her life. Another way to see if what you dream is what you want comes via a college catalogue. If youíve always dreamed about becoming a doctor, take a pre-med course. If you want to know more about computers, thereís a course tailor-made for your specialty. Schools and universities offer countless courses on almost any subject you can think of. Check them out. See if your dream is grounded in reality.

  4. Volunteer. Becoming a volunteer gives you a chance to try a job on a much higher level than if you came in as staff. A television producer I met began her career switch from motherhood to TV by volunteering at the local educational station.

  5. Become an expert. Read everything you can on the subject that interests you. Learn the jargon and the buzzwords that are used in the field.

  6. Network. Talk to everyone in the field. Make appointments and ask questions. Tell them youíre researching the industry for a career switch. If you want to keep your plan quiet, tell them youíre writing an article or gathering information for a course. The contacts youíll make can help if you decide the field is the right one for you.

O.K., youíve done your soul-searching. Youíve tested the waters. You can say with confidence that almost everything about your chosen field feels right. Youíre ready to take the plunge. The time has come to make the switch. A successful switch takes careful planning. How much work are you willing to put into the switch? How much will you give up in terms of money and prestige? How can you sell yourself? How can you make your idea work? Answering these questions is a lonely job. Planning a career change is, unfortunately, a one-person proposition. The exercises Iíve outlined can help you plan out a strategy. And a little ingenuity can go a long way toward a successful change. Think if I canít sell my experience, Iíll sell my motivation, instead of I canít do that.

Remember, what you ardently desire, sincerely believe in, vividly imagine, enthusiastically act on, must inevitably come to pass. Make your dream come true.

- Joe Hodowanes, Career Strategy Advisor

J.M. Wanes & Associates

www.jmwanes.com

Joe Hodowanes, M.P.A., SPHR, is a nationally recognized career coach, syndicated columnist, and president of Tampa-based J.M. Wanes & Associates, www.jmwanes.com. J.M. Wanes & Associates is a career coaching, outplacement, and executive search firm specializing in executive-level opportunities.