Career changes are GOOD news in the new economy: 3 ways to make an easy transition

Are you happy in your career?  Have you ever felt like maybe you wanted to follow another star toward more happiness in your work life?

Today I was watching a live video chat featuring Porter Gale and DJ Waldow from Marketo. The talk was mostly about technology and how it is changing the marketing landscape, but Porter said something else about working and careers that really resonated with me. She said that as a marketer you have to ask yourself if you are really passionate about the product or service you are offering. If you don’t feel passion, she said, it’s time to take a step back and think if you need to be working on something else, because you need that passion to fuel the best work possible.

Her advice crystallized some thoughts I’ve had during my post-school job search. I’ve noticed lots of job descriptions that demand “rockstars,” “gurus” and people “obsessed” with data, email marketing, A/B testing, or one of any number of tactics. In some interviews that I’ve had, the job description has been tossed out the window and the interviewer has turned their focus squarely on me and where my interests and passions are. I’ve heard, “let’s just talk about you and what gets you excited, because I believe people do their best work when they are doing what they love.”

This was surprising and disorienting to me, I have to admit, and those interviews made me more than a little uncomfortable at first.

The career game has changed

I think my confusion stemmed from the fact that the job market and the structure of business have changed so much since I came of age in the 1990s. I’m from Generation X, the first generation that was told it probably wouldn’t be as well-off as its parents’ generation. Pensions dried up, healthcare costs skyrocketed, and the economy bucked jobs like a bronco on multiple occasions. I thought that you had to be willing to take any job for which you had the skills, and those skills would be more than enough for the employer. I came of age thinking that a career change was a luxury. I come from the worlds of “Reality Bites” and “9 to 5” before it.

But those worlds are definitely long past, at least in the knowledge worker category. Now people are expected to have multiple jobs spanning more than one career.

Welcome to the new hiring criteria

Times are still tough, but a massive shift has occurred, at least here in the red hot Bay Area technology job market. Hiring decisions seem to be made based on exact fits or specific potential. The economy here is booming, but it’s still an employer’s market — there is still fierce competition for each open position. You need the skills, the experience and the “obsession” with the job function as well as the product or service you’re working on. You can’t just be the President — you kind of need to be a client, too.

So, this probably sounds a little scary to a lot of us. After all, a huge percentage of American workers are unhappy in their jobs, and changing careers can be a daunting task, even if you haven’t had it drilled into you that it’s a luxury you can’t afford.

But here is the big, beautiful silver lining — these changes mean that you are only doing yourself a favor if you move toward a career that really resonates with you and makes you happy. Having begun reading Porter Gale’s book, I’m certain this is the place she was coming from in the chat this morning. Maybe these changes are the permission that so many of us need to reach out for happiness in our careers instead of telling ourselves the story that work is never fun and that weekends are when life really happens. I see so many people living that TGIF life, and I have always, always told myself that I don’t want that to happen to me.

Moving on to a career you love is a win/win for everyone

When you move toward your happiness, you open up your position to someone who is “obsessed” with the tasks that have bored you to tears. You give your company the opportunity to hire a person who can propel the business forward. And most importantly, you open yourself to the possibility of true happiness and fulfillment every day of the week, not just Friday evening through Sunday morning. You make it more likely that you’ll experience quick success in your job searches. Changing careers can be daunting, but look, I did it! And I know others who have done it as well.

It could be a separate, more in-depth post on its own, but here are some beginning thoughts about how to make a change in your career:

1. Research and do internal work.

You’ve got to know where you’re going! Seriously, read Porter Gale’s book for help on figuring out where your north star is. I haven’t finished it yet, but I can say that the first few chapters will motivate you to make positive changes that will move you forward. Maybe see a career counselor, if you have the resources. Ask your friends what they think really gets you excited. They’re the ones who see the change when your eyes light up if conversation turns to working on cars instead of HR…or vice versa.

2. Take one class at a college each semester.

It can be daunting to throw everything off at once, but you can get the ball rolling by studying what you love while still in your current career. Your happiness will improve and momentum will build if you set small goals like finishing one class on the way to your grander vision.

3. Volunteer!

When I first moved to San Francisco, I made my first career change. I wanted to switch to working in non-profits from financial information publishing. I started volunteering like mad. There are organizations in every town and city that would accept your help — and write you a fantastic recommendation on LinkedIn afterward. Non-profits need all sorts of help in nearly every business function, so building experience while helping your community at the same time is another win/win.

You’ve got this!

For a lot of us who came of age in a very different era, it can be hard to give ourselves permission to go for exactly what we want in a career. But the new reality is that you must be invested in and stimulated by your career in order to be attractive to employers during your next job search. I did it, and others have too. Reach for happiness!

I don’t know about you, but I think these changes are exciting, and I hope it’s a sign that Americans are tired of subscribing to the idea that work is miserable, you pay taxes, drink beer on weekends and nap by the Gulf in July, and then you die. That is bleak. This new reality is bright!

Have you made a career change? How did the process go for you? Have you found job searches easier since the change? Let’s talk in the comments below!

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6 Comments on “Career changes are GOOD news in the new economy: 3 ways to make an easy transition”

  1. […] Career changes are GOOD news in the new economy: 3 ways to make an easy transition → […]

  2. Thank you for this Dwayne! It is hard to contemplate a career switch, but much harder to spend your working years miserable. I live the life long learner perspective you bring.

  3. Paula Kiger (Big Green Pen) says:

    Hey Dwayne, I am running late to work so this is the very very short version comment but I like what you wrote and it’s fantastic food for thought. The other thing that comes to mind that is somewhat complementary to what you said about potential employers who want “gurus” … and that I think some of them are missing … is I fully believe that if you hire someone with the right characteristics (even though they may not be a “guru” or “obsessed”) they can learn the specifics and make a contribution. I’ve seen enough bad hires deteriorate in the workplace over time to know that much of the key to success lies in hiring the right person in the first place (and “right” doesn’t always mean “obsessed guru”). I’m considering making a career change myself after TWENTY YEARS in the same place — it scares the crap out of me but makes my heart a little happy too to know I may be able to align myself more with something I love.

    So much for “short comment” LOL.

    • Paula! Thank you for this thoughtful comment. We can do your career change together! You’ve got a great network supporting you already.
      You know, that’s one thing I didn’t get into in the post — hiring based on culture and personal fit. I’ve also heard so many hiring managers say that they hire people they would want to have lunch with after the interview. And we have the responsibility to bring that same level of awareness to the process as candidates now!

      • Paula Kiger (Big Green Pen) says:

        Oh hallelujah – I can use the support! Culture and personal fit are definitely BIGGIES. And the bicoastal career change club is off and hunting! 🙂

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