I'm a clueless career switcher wannabe

You want to switch careers, but have no idea what you want - what do you do?

Samantha Ng

7/16/20232 min read

I knew I wanted to get out. I was working from 7.30am to 10.30pm many nights. The pay was great though probably not worth the pain, and I had a mortgage to consider. But I had no idea what I wanted. I had hitherto had an 'accidental career' - i.e. I went with the flow and that was where I ended up. I'd built up a CV in one industry and function, and would have loved to be in neither but didn't know how to move. So I continued to do what I did best - go with the flow - except this time I tried to direct the flow a little. That was eight years ago, and it took an employer change, two educational investments, three more functional changes and three kids before I got closer to knowing what I wanted.

You might be thinking - "What? Eight years? I can't wait that long!" - but the truth is, each time I flowed down a slightly different stream, the scenery was different, I picked up new things, and I enjoyed parts of the journey even though I couldn't see the destination. The minute I hit barriers that made the journey painful again, I flowed somewhere else.

So, what do you do if you're clueless about your career change?

The first thing is to accept that nobody knows exactly what they are doing. Even if you had a meticulous career plan laid out, life happens and you have to improvise. There's another great article by Careershifters on this.

The second, is to understand and love yourself. What are your values? What drives you? What do you enjoy? What are your super strengths? I've always found the term "follow your heart" cheesy, but one thing's clear - if you allow yourself to explore your interests and do the things you're good at, the worst that can happen is that it gives you some joy and reprieve from what you don't like about your job.

The third is to know your boundaries. What can you not live with? Who are the important people in your life? How much money or time can you sacrifice in pursuit of something different, and how will your decisions affect the people you love?

Lastly, say yes, and try to see only opportunities, not potential mistakes. Invoke the "YesMan" (Danny Wallace) in you. One of my philosophies in life is to never regret - everything is an experience in life, and you'll never know what saying yes to one thing leads to next - as long as they align with your values and interests of course.

Armed with the above - experiment - and change your course little by little. You may hate everything about your current job right now, but only a change of boss or employer is realistic. Do it. Perhaps that change comes with a more supportive environment for you to switch functions later on. Something caught your fancy? Read about it, enrol in a course on it. Speak to someone who knows about it. Perhaps it'll be better off remaining an interest, perhaps it'll be a viable alternative career. However you choose to direct your flow, don't be harsh on yourself for any perceived lack of progress in your career change. Invest in yourself, find some "me-time", and take some chances.