In my role as a career coach, the topic of career change usually comes up for active discussion. I meet with all of my prospective clients for a complimentary hour. I start by asking if they are thinking about moving to a similar job, or are they looking for a change of focus. Many are surprised to admit they have run out of enthusiasm for their work of more than 15 years.

This doesn’t surprise me at all since I had three distinct careers myself. First, as a federal manager, then as a fundraiser for several national non-profits that I cared about, and finally when I began career coaching for people in transition. When I look closely at how I approached my own career change, I see two things:

  • I always felt that I had learned all I could and
  • I was confident that I made the kind of contribution I envisioned when I chose that profession.

Today I remain fascinated by helping people discover the work they would love to do next. Here are some examples:

Same Field, Different Focus

A wonderful and very talented thoracic surgeon came to see me and expressed disappointment in his relation to the hospital where he practiced. “Medicine has changed so much. I have so little discretion over my work that I feel like a cog in a machine. That’s not why I chose surgery, and I want out.”

His new field became creating a medical device that would measure essential indicators in the operating room. He decided to work one day a week as a surgeon to pay the bills, but he poured all his energy into developing a prototype of his device. “I have never been happier. I feel so creative, and the work I am doing now could aid the entire surgical field.”

Life Choice Leads to a Different Position

Sometimes the need to choose a different career derives from a critical life choice that makes the previous work less desirable. I worked with a single woman who wanted to figure out how to continue working at a similar salary but for fewer hours because she was determined to adopt a baby. “The clock is ticking, and I have made it through several rounds of paperwork and interviews, and I think I could have the baby within the next six months.”

She moved out of the senior management position she held and into an expert consulting role at her same organization. She said a year later, “I feel so blessed because the baby is great and they allow me to work from home most of the time. I am so glad that I faced up to my most important priority in time to make a smooth transition”.

Second Career to Use New Skills

A senior leader in a very successful non-profit came to see me because she had just completed a major project that had set the organization in an important new direction. “I did it for my organization and now I feel I need to do the same for myself. I want to get back into a private sector company and use the skills that I learned in business school and my many years as a management consultant.”

She knew that a career change between sectors was more complicated. So we fashioned an elevator speech and some examples of her achievements. She used these to make a successful career change to a new career in a significant international travel-related business. “I feel great, and I am glad I took the risk of moving. I could have rested on my laurels, but I knew that I would never feel like I was using all the cards in my hand.”

The Value of a Second Career

Second and even third careers are going to become much more common as large organizations continue to outsource many of the functions that they historically performed. As a result, a whole range of possibilities has opened up for people to move to an area of interest that may or may not be related to their current professional field.

So when you are thinking of a transition, ask yourself this: Is it best to continue in your current approach, or do you have a new interest that fits better into your life and who you have become? What kind of career change is right for you?

Peter Sherer is a nationally recognized career coach who offers clarity and confidence to mid-career and senior executives in transition. In just two short days, his rigorous assessment tools enable his clients to identify a meaningful assignment that uses all of their skills and experience. Learn more and get in touch with Peter today.