How to find a new career direction

How to find a new career direction

Whether you’ve been out of the paid workforce for a while, bringing up your family, or are feeling stuck in your present role, the same ideas apply to thinking about a new direction for your career. Sometimes, the real barrier to finding your new direction is lack of confidence. If lack of confidence is preventing you from exploring new opportunities please read this article.

I will be suggesting a four-step process for you to follow to become really clear on the direction you wish to take. The clearer you are in your own mind about your new direction the stronger you will sound when you tell people what you are looking for which increases the chances that others will be able to help you.

Step One - List your skills

It is important to write down your skills as this helps them to become much more concrete than when they are swirling around in your head. Put down everything, with as much detail as possible (when you used the skill and what impact you had). Notice the ones that you enjoy thinking and writing about as this may indicate those skills that you really want to use in your next role. Additionally you will become clearer on skills you really don’t wish to use. For example, although I have made many presentations throughout my career, it is not something I particularly enjoy or wish to find more opportunities to do.

Step Two - Consider your interests

Think about:

- What you care about. What topics and issues you are drawn to in the media or in conversations. What sections of the newspaper you always read. Would you like your work to address any of these issues or topics?

- Your hobbies and passions. Would you like to be employed to do your hobby or even turn it into a business?

Step Three – Consider other factors that will affect the work you do

Think about your preference for:

- Working alone or being part of a team

- Working within a structure or having autono

- Having flexible working arrangements or having fixed/certain hours and days

- Working in a large, medium or small organisation

- Being employed or self-employed.

Think about your need for:

- regular reliable income

- time off (e.g. for school holidays).

It can be hard to do all this work and thinking alone. You may find it easier to work with a friend, partner or adviser who can guide and support you. You need someone who has time to listen to you and who can provide an objective view of your skills and ambitions.

Step Four – Research and experiment

Once you have identified the skills you wish to use, the areas in which you want to use them and your preferences, it is time to investigate, research, and even experiment with, potential roles. There are many ways to explore what might suit you, such as:

- Volunteering for an organisation which works in your area of interest or needs the skills you wish to use

- Talking to people doing the kinds of roles you think might be interesting. This is particularly helpful if you have been out of the workforce for a while as it re-introduces you to meeting strangers but without the pressure of asking them for a job. Websites such as Linked In are very helpful for making initial connections with others to whom you might want to speak

- Start doing what you want to do for yourself and test it out on others. This is how I started my work as a coach and how the woman who made my new curtains created her business

- Sign up to temp agencies to start working without a permanent commitment

- Join other networks such as school, college or professional ones to enable connections with new people.

Use your research time to find out:

- what qualifications, training or experience might be needed for the roles you are exploring

- what roles are called and what they really involve

- which industries and sectors are likely to be growing or needing people with your skills.

Your goal during this period of research is not to find a new role. Rather it is a time for exploration and discovery. It is important to set yourself a specific time for this research phase, otherwise you could spend the rest of your life doing it! Ask yourself – by what date do I want to have completed my investigation? This will give focus to your activities.

Apart from lack of confidence, the greatest obstacle to finding a new career direction is inertia. It is much easier to carry on in your current role or situation than to make the effort required to find a new one. Finding a new direction requires energy, focus and discipline. The time and effort you invest in your research phase will help you to have the best start in your new role or when you relaunch yourself. Your personal investment will pay dividends as you find a new direction which excites, stimulates and fulfils you. 

Katerina Gould is founder of the executive coach and career consultancy business Thinking Potential. She will be joining our expert panel and will be writing occasional articles for working on careers advice.

Related tags: Career change

Have your say

It does sound great, but what if you need a new career and more money in a very short time scale? Mums usually are very busy 24/7 and are happy if they achieve one thing for themselves in a day.The process sound exciting, but exhausting at the same time.

Anonymous | Report this comment

I've been told by several agencies because I have not worked in an office since 2005 employers see that as a sign of weakness and lack of experience.

I worked as an ICT Instructor until 08/2011 most work is done in an office i.e. writing reports/letters/filing/communicating with parents/peers.
Collecting data/ upgrading and filing progress.

I have the most up to date IT skills and after 200 applications I cant even get an interview. What do I do?

Anonymous | Report this comment

The end is finally in sight to me hopefully passing my OU degree.I have not worked since 1998 as have stayed at home to look after my 3 lovely children. I am very proud of this and now they are all at fulltime school, it is my turn to get back out there and find my perfect job. If it is half as rewarding as giving up my job in accounting to look after my children then I will be a happy lady. Yes, I am nervous but more excited to be honest. Good luck to us all and when things get a little disheartening, remember girl power!

Anonymous | Report this comment

I don't agree with this article. I don't think its confidence thats the biggest barrier. Its knowledge of careers out there, what skills they require, how much they pay, who employees these people. I know what I am good at I just have no idea what industry uses my skills let alone the job title or companies I should target. As for part time - dream on...

Anonymous | Report this comment

Having applied for over 200 jobs, only 2 people got back to me to let me know I was not successful. Having asked why that was, I was told I hadn't got enough experience. I'm worn out looking for work. It's time-consuming and costly.

Anonymous | Report this comment

For some people it's lack of confidence after years raising children, for others it's lack of self- awareness (not knowing your key talents), for others it's lack of job market and jobs knowledge.... But I think we all have one thing in common (for most of us): we want part time and can't find it., unless we work in certain jobs/industries (secretarial, hospitality...). I wish part time was more common and accepted. Parents have a lot to offer to the economy, why can't we give them a chance (and an extra day off, with matching lower salary!)?

Anonymous | Report this comment

Still struggling to find a job I can tolerate after having had some time at home with our only child. I'm sure that being age 54 does not help. I do appreciate that I need help updating my IT and Social Media skills but could not find any appropriate courses that I could afford. Also I'm sure transport issues hold many parents back as unless you can afford your own car how do you get the child/children to school then go to work and do all those necessary "visits", dentists, doctors, hospital etc. for you and them - let alone managing to help elderly parents, older children at University, a friend who's experiencing health or relationship difficulties, you are really stuck.

Helen Taylor | Report this comment

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