How many times in the past have you “thought” about changing your career? And how many times have you just sighed and decided to stuff the idea away in your mental file folder labeled “To do in the Future”?  I know, it’s just too overwhelming and besides, there’s work to be done right now and you just don’t have time for this kind of soul searching contemplation.  

It doesn’t have to be so difficult, and you can break this “project” (the project is YOU), down into a few easy steps that can be one at a time, at your own pace, and feel like you are on your way to really making progress on figuring out what the change would look like and how to determine if it could be a good career fit for you.

1) Start with "Who You Are" – a process of self-examination and discovery. You may think you know yourself inside and out because, who would know you better than you?!  But the person you know best is the “adult you”. There is so much more richness to discover when you look back at your past in detail using various reconnaissance tools, assessments, and other exercises. Enjoy being Sherlock Holmes, or Columbo, in this discovery puzzle.

2) What are my innate strengths? Reflect on times in your life, as a child or in your adult years, and remember the situations when you felt you were really in your “zone”, where everything flowed and you enjoyed the activity, were good at it, and proud of it too. See if you feel passionate about any of these experiences. That’s a clue, Sherlock.

3) Ask yourself “what matters?” in your work -  where, what, how, colleagues, income, culture, values, relationships, ethics, and roles.  For example, do you see yourself working in a bustling downtown with creative colleagues in a free-form, collaborative environment,  or are you drawn to being “on the road”, calling on clients, reporting back to your manager in a defined, hierarchical top-down structure?

4) Decide how you want to apply yourself strategically – recycling your transferrable skills in a new field/industry; being high risk with a change in both your industry and your role; or becoming an entrepreneur by buying a company, starting a new business, or opening a franchise. These are the three major areas of choice when you are contemplating a career change.

5) It’s not always about your “passion – There’s a new theory cautioning job seekers and career changers that “following your passion” is bad career advice. You need to prove yourself first by becoming excellent at something valuable, at your “career capital.” (per Cal Newport, author of “So Good They Can’t Ignore You.”)

6) Summarize what you’ve discovered from this process.  By now you will have developed some clear insights. If you feel stuck on seeing the larger, strategic picture from these insights, then hire a career specialist, coach, counselor, or mentor to help you sort it out.  Together you can create an action plan to move you into the next phase:  

JOB CREATION AND SEARCH – where the rubber meets the road!

Laura Schlafly is the founder of Career Choices with Laura in Lake Oswego, Oregon, and with an MBA from the University of Michigan and 20 years of serial entrepreneurship she's a Boomer eminently qualified to help others with their own encore careers. As if that weren't enough, she's also a professional speaker, private pilot, dancer, and student of Asian culture and languages.You can find out more about Laura and what she does at her website, www.CareerChoicesWithLaura.com.