As a career coach, workers reveal their souls to me. Not just clients, where the relationship requires and benefits from, deep personal exploration -- but complete strangers send me emails, almost daily, about their work experience, their frustrations and dreams. Always, they ask, "What shall I do?"
More often than not, they tell me that they've been working on a career shift for a long time " a year, or longer. And it's clear that they have made little to no progress on their path.
Granted, career change does take a long time and people learn and grow in different ways. But to have worked for a year or two, and be no further ahead in terms of clarity suggests that, despite the yearning, career change may not be an important priority after all. In fact, I'm reminded of a framework put forth some years ago by coaching industry great (now-deceased), Thomas Leonard.
Thomas drew the distinction between "wanting" and "being ready". He described a scenario that we can all relate to personally, or because we know someone who fits the bill: many people want -- a healthier body, or a new career, or to be a well-known author -- but few are ready to roll up their sleeves and do the work necessary to reach their goals. "Wanters live in hope", he explained. "The adrenalin rush comes from the dream, not the reality of their lives."
Sad, but true. And while career change can be a cat's cradle of variables that provide near-endless excuses for non-achievement, all of the variables can be managed. For example, I encourage workers to 'keep their day job' to alleviate the financial pressure that causes them to pick 'any old job'.
I provide many approaches to managing fear.
I guide workers through the change process, step-by-step.
I provide a supportive environment and nudge clients gently forward.
But the variable that must be managed initially, and by the seeker alone, is the readiness factor" a willingness to take the bull by the horns. Career change doesn't happen in a vacuum. It requires action: soul-searching, testing and planning -- to name a few of the steps. And, it requires objective feedback from a mentor, friend or coach who is market-savvy and wise to the ways of career change.
Finally, it requires consistent focus. Under the best of circumstances, career change takes one to three years. Without consistent focus, it will simply fall through the cracks of your busy life.
For those who desire change, here's how you can tell if you are living in hope:
1. You have talked about it for a long, long time" without measurable progress.
2. You've done a bit of soul-searching, but your 'clues' are too few, and probably not specific enough.
3. You've done the soul-searching and refuse to pare down and prioritize the many interests you have.
4. You've read a book or two, but kept the process in your head. You're not "in play" " researching, testing, getting coached.
5. You dabble. Your quest for career change goes in fits and starts and generally takes a back seat to other circumstances in your life.
Those who have completed the career change journey successfully know that, despite the challenges, it is the most rewarding outcome imaginable. For those, who are willing to do what it takes, let this be your wake-up call to action.
For those who are not willing to do the work, what's my advice? Stop living in hope. Let go of the angst, the guilt, the frustration, for you are only chipping away at your sense of self. Find another dream that you can embrace fully and march out after.
Patricia Soldati is a former President & COO of a national finance organization who re-invented her working life in 1999. As a career fulfillment specialist, she helps corporate professionals enhance their working lives. She is a certified coach (International Association of Coaches) and was recently selected to be a thought leader for a major workplace-related website.