Change always sounds good, right?
It’s the “something else” that inspires us when we’re overwhelmed by today.
It’s the “anything but this” when we find ourselves out of hope.
But change doesn’t just happen. We have to seek it out, and make real efforts to get it going.
In other words: we need to work for it.
And that’s where things get interesting.
For some people, change is a reward, not a struggle. It’s not only easy to handle career change, change itself provides the inspiration to keep going forward, and to keep wanting to make it bigger and bigger.
For others, change sounds great in theory, but the actual undertaking can cause stress, anxiety, and outright fear.
So if you’re not sure if you’re ready – or you’re not sure just how much you’re ready for – it’s important to ask some basic questions before committing to anything too big.
1. How much energy can you afford?
Some transitions are easy, some are hard. It will all depend on both how big the move is, and how easily your skills will be transported.
And that’s a combination. Maybe it’s a small move, but – depending on where you are in your life – it might still take a lot out of you.
If you’re 24, single, and making a ton of money, the biggest move in the world might seem easy to handle. If you’re 37, have a couple of young kids, your partner isn’t working, and the mortgage has precluded any nice vacations – then any new job might feel overwhelming when the boots hit the ground.
On the other hand, if you have tons of energy, you’ve mapped out where you want to go, and you know you have great skills that anyone could use: why would you set small goals? Why not set crazy, ambitious targets for yourself?
Could you do more? Be honest: and if the answer is yes, then go for it.
2. How easily do you sell yourself?
When I first started my consulting business and was debating what my fees might be, I asked a friend what kinds of calculations or projections I should make to determine what my daily rate should be.
“How much can you ask for,” he said, “without your voice cracking?”
Sure, he continued, at some point you have to estimate revenue and operating expenses for the year. But if you don’t know what your value is, then what are you basing your calculations on?
And your value should be as high as you can sell it.
Some people will able to sell their skills as transferring to any job, any industry, any time. They will say it so confidently that it will almost be a challenge to prove them wrong.
Other people will only feel confident in smaller, iterative steps.
Neither side is “better.”
But both sides have to be honest.
3. How objective are you being?
Which brings us to one of the foundational questions you need to ask yourself.
Are you being honest about your skills?
Yes, some people will oversell their abilities. They’ll say that they can perform brain surgery, confident that their baking skills will help them to figure things out on the operating table.
But with most people, it’s the complete opposite.
We sell ourselves short. We assign limitations to our skill sets. We act as if what we’ve accomplished in our careers is just some sort of “given.”
You’ve already learned a boatload in your career. You’ve also worked incredibly hard to get better at everything. Those two things alone will distinguish you from the overwhelming majority of job seekers.
Don’t be afraid to sing your own praises.
4. How much do you want it?
I know, I know: it sounds like a ridiculous question. Too simple a question, with too simple an answer, right?
“I want it a lot.”
But do you really?
Everyone has an idea of what they “want” in life, whether it be more money, or fewer people living on the streets, or raising children who become Rhodes Scholars.
But to bring it from fantasy into reality, after you figure out what you “want,” you then have to ask: am I willing to do what it takes to make it happen?
I’d always thought it would be cool to have three little letters at the end of my name: “P,” “h,” and “D.” Wouldn’t it also be great insisting that people call me “doctor??”
But then there’s the investment. Not only the money, but the time: 20-30 hours per week, every week for the next four or five years. There is a ton you can do in 20-30 hours per week, so the question is: would I rather be doing something else?
And that’s not hypothetical. I met with heads of university faculties, I sold them on my candidacy (despite my horrible, horrible undergrad grades), and I had my wife’s support. There was also a solid chance that my employer would have paid for it all.
The only thing I needed to invest was my time and my energy.
And I just wasn’t willing to do it.
All I could think of was: how else could I spend that time? And the result was my own business, something to which I was happy to dedicate those long hours, that energy, that money – and more.
In the end…
As with all success stories, there is no universal blueprint for everyone.
We are all built with special talents, and our special circumstances drive us toward unique goals that serve our individual careers and lives.
If we’re happy and achieving what’s important to us, then we don’t need to subscribe to other people’s definitions.
The only people who will know if we’re being truly honest – is ourselves.
If we want a little bit of change, then we shouldn’t pretend that we want to change the earth’s orbit.
But if we want to change the world, then we shouldn’t shy away from changing our routines.
Something is either good for you, or it’s not good – for you.
So, I ask again: do you want it, or don’t you?
What are some things you “wanted” but decided not to pursue? What did you “want” so badly that you fought for it despite the odds? Tell us in the comments!