Cooking Up Your Next Career Change

Thanks to some bad choices I made in the last 40-odd years, I now find myself forced to make better food selections when I eat. So how does a guy who’s spent the better part of his childhood and adult life enjoying steak and pizza find a healthy lifestyle? It turns out that the approach is not very different from the steps one needs to change careers. Think I’m kidding? Read on.

Diet as a metaphor for career change? Really? Yes.

Your diet, like your career, is often the result of years of personal choices and tastes. You find what you like, what you’re good at making, and you stick with that. Then one day you discover that that diet/career is no good for you.

  • One the dietary side, your diet might be contributing to specific medical conditions, weight problems, or other health problems.
  • On the career side, you might find yourself getting downsized because your employer or the market you’re in is shrinking; you’re finding your skills no longer necessary because they are being supplanted by technology; your current line of work or work environment is causing you a great deal of stress; or you’re getting bored with the line of work you’re in and have decided you just need a change.

So no, I’m not kidding. A change to one’s lifestyle can be a major disruption to your routine. You know what you like, and you’re good at making it (I have a decent recipe for chili I can’t use anymore, for example). What next?

Making dietary changes

On the dietary front, I’ve been doing the following:

  • Talking with professionals (doctors) about what to do and what not to do to make my diet healthier.
  • Asking for literature on the subject.
  • Researching  recipes and dietary restrictions online.
  • Asking people I trust, like the lady friend, for their suggestions since they know me best and understand my abilities and limitations.
  • Trying different foods at restaurants.
  • Trying different recipes or foods I find online.

Making career changes

Let’s look at that list of tasks from a career perspective:

  • Talking with professionals about what to do. In the career world that might mean speaking with peers already in your chosen field or with career counselors about your intended career path.
  • Asking for literature on the subject. Sometimes it just helps to have hard-copy lists, reminders, or books around that you can refer to when you’re away from your computer (I know: that sounds like a shocking statement, but it can happen). Personally, for the diet I have a couple handouts from physicians on dietary recommendations stuck to my refrigerator where they’re the most useful.
  • Researching online. And yes, if you’re in front of your computer a lot, you might need to look things up online and then bookmark articles that are particularly useful.
  • Asking people you trust. A career change can and does create turmoil and stress because it’s a fundamental change to your life, and change can be stressful if it’s unexpected or unwanted. If you ever take a stress questionnaire, it will ask you whether you have experienced any major personal upheavals in your life that might be contributing to it, such as a move to another city/state, a death in the family, a divorce, the addition of children to a previously childless household, or, yes, made a major career change. So given that you’re about to make a career change, it’s a good idea to talk with the people closest to you about a proposed change. Your friends, family, significant others, and house/flat/roommates, because they know you better than other people, can give you the best feedback, assuming you’ve developed a trusting relationship with them. They’ll be willing to ask things like, “Are you sure you want to get into sales? You didn’t even like selling your used car to the next-door neighbor.” They can provide a good filter for helping you make a good call.
  • Trying something different. The career version of this would be attempting a small contract job in a field you’ve considered trying but otherwise have no experience doing. Until you actually try the new thing, you won’t really know if it is for you. That means going out onto the web and practicing writing tasks in your chosen new profession. If you don’t have any experience, you can at least develop a product/document that you can add to your portfolio to demonstrate that you can do the work on your own. You could do what I did and try a new type of work on a volunteer or intern basis (note: this is easier if you’re younger and have the time/money to test the waters). Another alternative, especially if you need to make a job change now is to go a step bolder and attempt new work on a contract basis. Small businesses are often the best places to try this approach because they’re more interested in your abilities than your specific background/training. They need a writer, you need a paycheck.

Hopefully these tactics will help you with your job search if you find yourself having to change your professional “diet.”

Bon apéttit!

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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