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Struggling to take the first step towards exploring a career change? Try this.

Struggling to take the first step towards exploring a career change? Try this. Photo of colourful fishing boats on the quayside next to blue water and a blue sky.
Career changes need to start somewhere and it might just be that identifying what’s holding you back from taking the first step is the best place for you to begin.
 
Try this exercise* to identify and move beyond what might be holding you back from starting your career journey:
 
Read through the following list and jot down which statements apply to you.
 
– I am too old
– I am under-qualified
– My experience is all in one area
– I have a health problem
– Lack of information about the area I am interested in
– Financial commitments
– Family/personal problems
– Fear of approaching people
– Lack of confidence
– I don’t have many achievements
– I worry about taking risks
– I have no idea what career I could change to
– I have too many new career ideas
– I worry that I won’t make a success of a new career
– Lack of up to date skills
– Fear of rejection
– Lack of relevant qualifications
– Lack of relevant experience
– Worry about having to retrain or go back to full time study
– So far, my search for what to do next in my career hasn’t worked
– I don’t want to make the wrong decision at this time in my life
 
You might want to let your list percolate a little before you move to the next step. This could reveal more clarity on the real barriers you are encountering. Sometimes we can’t recognise what may be holding us back as it has comfortably settled into our thinking and doesn’t seem like a barrier at first glance.
 
When you feel satisfied with your choices, (yes, you guessed it), it’s time for some reflection.
 
Get curious and answer the following questions to understand more about the barriers you have identified:
 
  • What’s surprised you?
  • If you have identified several constraints, which ones keep you awake at night?
  • Which constraints have you overcome in the past and how?
  • Which constraints can you do something about (even if this feels scary)?
  • Which constraints would you like to do something about? What could this look like?
  • If these constraints were no longer there, what would this mean?
It can be helpful to unpack your answers to these questions with someone you trust. This gives you the opportunity to disrupt your current thinking and see your constraints from new angles. 
 
From here you may find some of your constraints are not quite so real as you previously thought. Then you can start to think more freely about the ‘what ifs?’ as you contemplate the new career possibilities that await you.
 
Now you are out of the starting blocks and can begin to walk the path of the career explorer.
 
You have unlocked a little of your curiosity; watch and see where it might lead you.

*Exercise originally published in ‘How to Get a Job You Love’, John Lees (McGraw-Hill). Used with permission. Adapted by Victoria Howard.

Photo by unknown.