I like January. It’s a time for dreamers. There’s a whole bunch of you who will try to change careers this year, and to you I say, go for it! You’ve made a pact with yourself. You want to like Mondays again. You want to do what you’re meant to do in this world, whatever that is. But how do you begin?
Give yourself credit for getting to this point. Talk to yourself like a friend, a good friend, not the annoying frenemy you inevitably bump into at the grocery store. Tell yourself that you’ve worked hard, that you’ve managed to update your resume or your LinkedIn Profile. That’s progress.
Maybe you don’t know your next move yet, but that’s not important yet. What’s important is you’ve begun. Have you mulled over your options? Mulling is work. It’s honorable. Give yourself credit for even that. Remind yourself that this process is hard, but you’re capable of doing hard things. Avoid listicles that claim career or job change can be accomplished in five easy steps. It’s not easy. It’s never easy.
Find your dream some friends. If you and your dream are alone, you don’t stand much of a chance. You need a network of supporters. I don’t mean people who can put in a word for you at their companies, either. I mean people who believe in you, who have a quiet confidence in your ability to pull off change.
Those folks can be hard to find. People like to worry over each other, and that’s fine. But find the people who are sure of you, who don’t ask you every other day how the job hunt or career change is going. Spend time with the people who know you’re capable.
I remember talking to one of my favorite professors when I was trying to decide whether to go to grad school or give journalism a try. After I’d babbled for a while, he asked what I really wanted to try at that stage in life. I said journalism. He said, okay, go do that. He didn’t remind me of how hard it was to break into that industry. He didn’t try to warn me away. It gave me strength. There’s something magical about those kind of people. When you find them, value them.
Keep secrets (the flip side of finding your dream some friends). Don’t just trot your dream out any old time. There are places and times for sharing. Evaluate whom you tell. Create privacy for yourself to research your possibilities.
I have five or so dreams floating around in my head right now, but I won’t talk about them yet. They’re gestating, and I need to respect that time. When I’m ready to share, I’ll find the right friends.
Engage your senses. Your dream needs to become a reality in your head before it becomes a reality in your life. Are you dreaming of making a big career change? Go find the people doing it, out in the world. Visit them in person. Hang out. Smell the smells, feel the vibe (Yes, I’m going all California here, but bear with me).
Before I committed to becoming a career coach I visited some. I called some more. I found some who had been doing the work for 20 years and asked them if they still loved it. Many still did, and I asked them more questions, to see if I was like them in the ways that mattered. It helped so much.
It’s okay to let your dream go. There may be a point this year where you decide your dream is not going to work out, and that’s okay. That’s wise. Not every dream becomes a reality, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have them. What was the spirit of the dream? Did you want an entirely new career, but maybe what you need is to do the same thing in a different industry? Let the dream morph into something more useful to you. And don’t worry that your life won’t change. It will change whether you like it or not. Approach that inevitable change with an eye for opportunity.