As a coach, I regularly help my clients to change career – and just recently, I worked with someone looking to make a major transition.
Although my client had absolutely no idea what he wanted to do, one of his first questions was about a very specialized, very high-level – and very expensive – course. Intrigued, I asked what drew him to this particular field of study. Slightly embarrassed, he admitted he’d been recommended it… by his personal trainer.
This course would have cost my client well in excess of $50,000 and would have taken him nowhere near what turned out to be his true calling… but it got me thinking, about all the different influences on our careers, where we get our information, how we make our decisions and who we listen to.
Growing up, we get most of our career advice from the people around us – teachers, family, friends, neighbours. With the best of intentions, they pass on what they know and what they’ve heard, and the rest we tend to fill in from TV shows; Masterchef, Border Patrol, CSI… or for my generation, Dallas, LA Law and ER!
As adults, it’s not much different. We naturally seek advice from the people around us, and we still learn most of what we know about jobs from TV. Looking back over your journey, who’s offered you career advice? Family? Friends? Your work colleagues? Your hairdresser? In the past, I’ve been offered career advice information from all of these and more… and typically, the more confused I got, the more people I canvassed.
This can be a dangerous way to make career decisions, for many reasons.
Firstly, we’re often getting advice that was true in its time – but economies shift, labour markets change, industries and jobs emerge and decline. The ‘sure thing’ of 20 years ago may be anything but now. Before you choose or change career, you need accurate, up-to-date information.
More often than not, you’ll also get conflicting advice. One person’s recommendation will be another person’s dire warning. For every person who promotes a career, there’ll be others who bad-mouth it – sometimes from first-hand experience, often from what they’ve heard, read or from personal bias. If you’re seeking clarity, I guarantee this will not help you!
Perhaps most importantly, your career is for you. It’s wonderful that your friend’s found a career that works for them, but it doesn’t mean it’ll work for you. We want the best for our nearest and dearest, but we often fail to appreciate our differences… and the work that charges our batteries may run theirs dry – even if they can do it really well! It’s nigh on impossible to objective about the people we’re closest to.
I see the consequences of amateur career advice every day… new graduates realizing their degree isn’t a golden ticket, 30-somethings on the wrong path, 50-somethings tired of living out someone else’s dreams – feeling burnt out, sick and miserable.
So, before you choose or change career, stop.
Do you really know what the prospects are? Do you know what that job really involves, day to day? Will it meet your needs? Do you know what those are?