No, it’s not just you.Things really are more complicated these days. And by these days we mean as opposed to in your parents’ time. By your age they had already bought a house, maybe they had even popped out a few kids and they were well and truly on track in the career they are looking to retire from in the next couple of years. In a nutshell - they were settled (yawn).
But you? Well after years at Uni and a couple of years travelling, you've decided that the career decision you made in your late teens/early twenties isn't quite what you want to do anymore.
The problem is - you’re now well into your twenties. Or you might have even ticked over into your dirty thirties. And now you’re facing the ultimate conundrum. You feel you’re too old to just throw it all in and start again. But you’re too young to resign to the fact that this is the rest of your life.
So you’re frozen. Trapped by your own indecision.
"You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life." - Steve Jobs
Well, the thing is - you’re not alone. Quite the contrary actually; you’re more than likely in the majority. In fact Clinical Psychologist Meg Jay cautions in her TED Talk that because of an ongoing rhetoric that would have us believe that ‘thirty is the new twenty’, we are running the risk trivialising what are actually our most defining and transforming years. Jay suggests that rather than spending our twenties figuring out who and what we are; messing around in relationships that ‘don’t matter’ or in careers that lead nowhere - we should be using the time to lay the foundation for our future.
She suggests this misguided labeling by modern culture is resulting in a generation of people reaching their thirties or even forties and finding they are nowhere near where they thought they would be by that stage in their lives.
So whether you feel like it is time for you to find a new vocation or have just been thinking about exploring something new - the time is now. Don’t waste your today's on promises of tomorrow.
Here are our tips to making a career shift.
1. Don’t freak out. So you've realised that you have spent the last five years or so doing something that doesn't fulfill you anyway. So what! At least you are wise enough to realise, and bold enough to think about making a change. The worst possible thing you can do is panic and make a rash decision. Think of this as a life pivot. If it helps, use this netball analogy; so the Goal Shooter option no longer seems viable, pass it off to the Wing Attack and work the ball into the goal!
What matters is you keep one foot firmly grounded in the foundations you've built so far and just adjust the compass a little bit.
2. All experience is relevant; it’s how you spin it that matters. Don’t be put off by long winded job descriptions where the criteria seems impossible to meet. These are typically just a guide. Ask any employer what they’re looking for in applications and they’ll tell you an effort to address most of relevant skills or prerequisites outlined is enough. Remember pretty much all skills can be taught or learnt on the job, but attitude and the guts to get out there and have a crack is a whole lot more difficult to teach. And at the end of the day, that’s what actually count.
3. You’re never too old (or too young). There's always a thought that we are either too old or too young to do something.
F. Scott Fitzgerald summed it up when he said “For what it’s worth … it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”
Whatever age you are, now is the perfect age to do exactly what you want.
4. There will never be a perfect time. There is always going to be some reason why now is not the right time. You have just have to make the decision and go for it. In other words the perfect time is today.
5. Start with building your personal brand. Your personal brand is what people will say about you when you leave the room and when you learn to define it, you will attract more of the opportunities to work with the people, teams and projects that inspire you. And no matter what you think, if you aren’t managing your personal brand, then you’re letting other people do it for you. If you want some hands on advice on getting started and a chance to build your profile, make sure you get along to our Personal Branding Masterclass offered here in Melbourne at the Australian Institute of Management on 12 September. You can register online here.
So, what are you waiting for? Go out there and be awesome. Live the life you want to be living.
And if you haven’t found what your path yet then remember the words of Steve Jobs - “keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”