Lots of people surprise themselves by taking a career leap—so why not you? It’s worth it—and as the saying goes, you’re worth it, too. Here are five ideas for making that change:
Find out what living the dream is really like
‘In order to move to your dream job, you don’t just need great skills—you need a strong personal network,’ advises leadership coach Michelle Pizer.
If you’ve broken out in a cold sweat just thinking about doing making cold calls to strangers, ask your current network of friends and colleagues to make some introductions. Reach out and ask these new contacts out for a coffee, and then hit them up with the big question: ‘What’s it really like to work in that job?’
If approaching others sounds daunting, remember that most of us like to talk about our experiences. ‘Most people will happily talk to you honestly about what their career is like and what it’s like to work in their industry,’ Pizer says.
Consider this the big wake-up call
Are you waiting for a sign? Well, this is it, even if you’ve been justifying your decision to stay put for longer. ‘In my research I’ve found that lots of people do mental trade-offs to justify sticking with a job,’ says Pizer. ‘For example, they don’t like their job but they like the people, so they can justify staying.
‘The only thing they can’t trade off is when their own career development and ambition is being blocked.’
Some people finally move at that point of realising they’re not achieving their own goals, while others remain stuck in a spiral of hoping things will improve. You might think you’ll make that big career change later, when all your metaphorical ducks line up in a row. The truth is that it’s never the perfect time to jump into something new. And while many wait for the big wake-up call to come (perhaps a cancer scare or someone they love passing away), now is the time to pull up your socks.
‘You need to be brave enough to face up to the reality of your circumstances,’ advises Pizer, ‘and if you’re finding that hard then you can get professional help from a coach or psychologist.’
Make your uncomfortable zone more comfortable
If you’re staying in a job you dislike because it’s within your comfort zone, it’s time to shift that thinking. ‘You have to get used to being uncomfortable,’ says Pizer.
Still, it is possible to make that uncomfortable zone a little more comfortable by creating a safety net. That might be in the form of those newly formed strong networks, or taking small steps that won’t create a big fall if the change doesn’t work out. ‘The sooner, the better. The longer you stay somewhere you hate, the bigger the hole you’re digging for yourself,’ Pizer says.
After all, sticking with a miserable job isn’t as comfortable as you might think, she says. ‘You can hold back your career and your potential, lose confidence and, if you’re in a bad situation like being bullied at work, you can get depressed or anxious. If you’re miserable at work, it can affect your home life and your health.’
Reward yourself for small steps in the right direction
Staying too long in a job you dislike has a huge impact on your life, whereas making a positive change is good for your wellbeing. ‘When you like your job, you have more energy and you’re more fun to be with, and you’re happier in yourself,’ says Pizer.
Moving into your dream role doesn’t have to be done in one big leap; it can be a series of small steps that move you towards that next career. ‘As soon as you have an inkling that something isn’t right for you, start taking small steps towards changing it,’ Pizer suggests. ‘It’s like doing mini experiments; instead of taking one big risk, choose some small things.’
One small step might be doing a short course, brainstorming your plan, or approaching a new contact. You might even want to set up a little rewards system for yourself: if you make that scary phone call then shout yourself a coffee, for example.
Make the most of where you are
If you can, try to reframe your current role as the perfect stepping stone to living the dream. ‘Put your head down to increase the skills that will help you jump ship,’ says Pizer. ‘You might get really good at your current job so that you can move into an expert or consultancy role somewhere else.’
Other options in your current workplace might include re-negotiating some aspects of your role, or getting involved in other departments or projects that have sparked your interest.
The biggest thing to remember is that there are always options. Sometimes it just takes a little creativity to come up with the best one for you.