By Bev Bachel
Trout Lowen went from freelance writing and editing to selling real estate.
Lynn Barber pivoted from managing a work comp claims center for a Fortune 500 insurance company to teaching residents in her community how to build sustainable gardens.
Barry Scanlan transitioned from serving as a school district crisis response coordinator to being a visual artist.
Laurie Gilbert rotated from managing the production of intricate pop-up books to designing her own line of dishware and jewelry.
Otis Zanders shifted from being the warden of a correctional facility to serving as the president and CEO of a nonprofit dedicated to reducing criminal recidivism among African-American young men.
How did these individuals safely and smoothly change lanes into their new careers?
They did it the same way you can: by following this seven-step process recommended by Catherine Byers Breet. A former high-tech recruiter who launched her own business in order to change lanes from speaking to coaching, Byers Breet is on a mission “to help one million people love what they do for a living.”
Step 1: Look back for happiness.
Plot all the jobs you’ve had and rank them from 1-10, with 10 being “loved it” and 1 being “hated it.” Then, look back at the jobs you loved and identify the specific activities you enjoyed. Coaching team members? Being creative? Diving deep into a problem on your own? Collaborating with others? Finding solutions to nagging problems? Raising money for a cause you believe in? Also identify the activities you hated.
Step 2: Look ahead for fulfillment.
If money wasn’t a concern, what work would you do? What work wouldn’t you do? If you didn’t have to worry about having the right skills or enough talent, what would you try? Who might you partner with? Who would you choose to avoid? Also think about life priorities, such as family, friends, health and making a difference in your community. Identifying your values can help. So can keeping in mind that what may have been fulfilling in the past may not be so moving forward.
Step 3: Define your non-negotiables.
Now that you’ve gotten in touch with what you’ve enjoyed and what you’ve disliked or perhaps even hated about your previous jobs, it’s time to home in on your non-negotiables. “When I was 33, I had two kids in diapers, a bedridden mother and a dad who had just had a massive stroke,” says Byers Breet. “I was caring for all four so two of my non-negotiables at that time were minimal travel and a flexible work schedule.” Now, her parents are gone and her kids are in high school so if she were job hunting, her non-negotiables would likely focus more on salary requirements so that she can reach her family’s college savings and retirement goals.
Step 4: Spear your fear.
List what you’re afraid of. For some people, it may be lack of money or job security; for others, it may be loss of respect or inability to influence others. “But don’t stop at surface fears,” says Byers Breet. Instead, dig deep to uncover the tight-in-chest, butterflies-in-the-stomach, worst-case scenario fears that lie two or three or even a dozen layers beneath the surface. Then, once you’ve identified your fears, assess the likelihood of each fear becoming real and develop a plan for addressing it.
Step 5: Identify the gaps.
Now that you know what you want and better understand skills, qualifications and education required, what gaps exist? Are they real or perceived? If real, can you fill them by gaining experience as a volunteer or going back to school? Barber, claims center manager turned sustainable garden guru, did both things, first volunteering as master gardener, then eventually earning a master’s degree in environmental horticulture. Bridge jobs also offer a way to pick up industry experience or develop new skills.
Step 6: Research the market.
What jobs are out there? What do they pay? What skills and experience are required? Who’s hiring? How do they feel about older workers? Is a college degree required? Are part-time options available?
Step 7: Start networking.
“Surprisingly, this can be the most terrifying step of all for many people,” says Byers Breet. “But you really can’t consider changing careers unless you’re willing to talk to people in the new field or industry you want to be a part of.” Use the conversations to ask for advice and introductions to others who may be willing to help or advise.
Follow these seven steps and you, too, can safely and successfully change lanes to a fulfilling and purpose-filled second career.
Bev Bachel is a freelance writer and editor, and the author of What Do You Really Want? How to Set a Goal and Go for It. A lifelong goal-setter, she’s tapped into the power of goalsetting to sell Girl Scout cookies, stay connected to her four sisters and make new friends. One of her second-career goals? To work on a podcast.