How To Prepare For A Big Career Change

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Who doesn't fantasize occasionally about completely upending their lives by giving up blogging so they can start a completely new career as a puppy Instagram account manager? Whatever your current career and pipe dream career are, it is possible to turn your dreams into reality, but only if you're willing to work for it.

Image via Flickr/Anthony Auston.

Fast Company spoke with several experts on how they made the big career switch they'd longed for. While it seems impossible at times to take such a huge chance on your dreams, this advice will help you approach what seems like a magic breakthrough via practical, incremental steps.

Actually Try It

A lot of the things we think look like a perfect life from afar feel really different when you're actually doing them. Before Paula Davis-Laack was a psychologist, she was a lawyer, and before that, she wanted to be a pastry chef. That was until she interned for a week in a bakery. She says she hated the experience, but it made her realise that even incredible-looking jobs are comprised of doing the same sort of tasks every day. She ended up listing all the stuff she loved to do (reading, writing, talking to people) and then found a job that matched them: Psychology. Make a list of the things you really love to do, and see if they match the career you've been longing to try. Maybe it fits, maybe it doesn't; the next step would be seeing if you can find a way to simulate the experience - or dip a toe in on the side from your current gig - and get a real sense of what you're working towards.

How To Turn Around A Job You Want To Quit

You don't have to hate your job to consider quitting. Feeling only lukewarm about the work you do or the team you work with can be enough to get you thinking about sprucing up your resume and firing up a new job search. Before you put the energy into looking for a new job altogether, it might be worth identifying the problem at hand, and seeing if there are ways to improve your current situation.

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Embrace Networking

Freelance project manager Elaina Giolando recommended taking stock of who you already know. Chances are that if you've been considering running away to join the circus, you know some clowns. Make a list of everyone in your network who you could reach out to, then categorise them according to how comfortable you are contacting them. No harm in asking people out to coffee to get their insight, but Giolando says you should really consider how you can help them.

"You have something to offer everyone," Giolando insisted. "By getting in the practice of helping others, you put out good karma, and people will inevitably reciprocate - maybe not now, but at some point in the future."

Don't Get Caught Up In The Fantasy

There are a few common psychological things that keep people from making the change they want. Jeff Goins is a writer who says he only got to do that full time by making a lot of small changes to his habits and priorities. But he always thought redirecting his life would be a bigger deal, basically because of what we see in movies.

For the longest time, this embarrassed me. I had no Jerry Maguire moment, no dramatic declaration to the world that changed everything. But once I started looking more honestly at success, I realised how the slow-and-steady strategy might be more the norm than we realise.

The other most common issues people face are listening to their "inner critic" that tells them they will be bad at whatever it is before they even start, and that other voice that straight up says, "You're too old." Dismissing inner demons is a challenge, but starting over at an older age is more and more common. The economy changes, certain jobs go in and out of vogue, and facing the challenge of looking for new work may come no matter what. You might as well buckle down and start down the road that leads towards the thing you really want.


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