At school, I had no idea what I wanted to do or (as was so often asked) ‘be’ when I grew up. In UK 6th form (Years 11 and 12 in Australia) I rifled through tiny drawers stuffed with job profiles in the solitary space that served as our ‘careers room’. This was a futile exercise that simply fuelled my stress around having no idea what to do.
At university, I studied Biology because it had been my favourite subject at school (turns out it didn’t feel that way at uni). To this day, I’m still not sure how I ‘fell’ into my first short-lived career in relocation. Despite having just moved to London myself, I was helping business people who were locating to London with their work to find a house and settle in. However, after a longish nanosecond, I realised relocating wasn’t for me. Career anxiety and panic gripped my chest and flooded my brain.
While I couldn’t retreat to the career room, I now had Google.
Heaps of moaning and brainstorming with my housemates threw up the idea of doing ‘market research’. I’d done a minuscule bit of research at uni, but I had zero interest in marketing. I’d never ‘done’ marketing or spoken to anyone who worked in anything remotely resembling this industry.
In short, I knew nothing about market research. However, every link I pursued through a long and winding Google tunnel led me to believe ‘I could do this’. Besides, I was desperate to jump the ‘relocation’ ship, so I did.
Sadly, I landed in a job that didn’t match my Google fuelled mental image of life as a market researcher. Sitting at a desk for hours checking huge reams of data about women’s shaving habits just wasn’t the career move I’d envisioned.
So I learned two valuable lessons. Firstly a cyber assessment can tell you some cool things about a potential career. Secondly basing your decision to leap into that career almost solely on virtual research probably won’t pay off.
Fast forward ten years. After a sideways career move to marketing and project management for charities and numerous roles, I felt my next big career change looming. This time I limited my quota of virtual career change searching. I realised that while I loved doing online tests, and reading books and articles, they could only take me so far.
I knew I wasn’t going to figure it out by trying to figure it out! The answer wasn’t in my head or on Google.
I needed to find a way to try things out and to reduce the risk of making another bad career change. How could I really find out what a career might to be like before I decided to do it? How could I find out where I might fit and where I might find purposeful, fulfilling work?
The biggest gems of insight and information came from planned and random conversations with actual humans. I heard about the daily reality of dozens of different careers. Loads of generous people told me about the charms and the challenges of their jobs. They put me in touch with others I could talk to, and recommended organisations, courses, books and articles they thought might help.
These conversations lead me to two volunteering roles, to shadowing a workshop, to several short courses and finally to a short-term contract while I was setting up my coaching business. After I launched Jo Green Coaching it was conversations and contacts that found me an office space and some of my first coaching clients.
Getting out into the real world showed me what wouldn’t work as well as what could. I’d wondered for years if working in research for a charity or researching social issues would work for me. Soon after I spoke to a researcher working in this area, I found a volunteering opportunity with a social enterprise. I quickly learned that research still wasn’t for me. But at least I knew that now! One career to cross off the list.
Experience taught me that I couldn’t change careers from my virtual or real-time comfort zones. Although it felt like I was’ doing something’, hours of Google time didn’t help me to calculate my career change risks. I had to get up from my desk and out into the real world to do that.
Lost in a career change cyber maze? I know the way out. Get in touch.
By Jo Green, Career Change Coach
I help people who don’t like their job to figure out what to do instead! I can help you explore what meaningful work is for you. I’ll work with you to lessen the stress of changing careers.
Drop me a note to organise a free 20 minute consultation to chat about your career change and how coaching could help.