Are you sure it’s a career change you really need?

do you need a career change

If you’re thinking you need to change careers, the short answer is: You actually may not need to. The longer answer is, well, longer – and it’s why the short answer exists in the first place. 😉

Do you need a career change – or a change of perspective?

Before deciding you need a career change, first figure out what’s making you consider one in the first place.

But that’s not always easy because it’s rarely one thing. So, I advise people to ask themselves four questions as a starting point. I also caution that skipping this step or not being wholly sincere about the answers can have disastrous results.

Considering your current work:

  1. What made you gravitate toward it in the first place?
  2. What do you like most about it?
  3. What part are you best at?
  4. What hobbies/personal activities do you enjoy most?

Starting with these four, you’ll rediscover interests, skills and curiosities to explore. You’ll also uncover what your actual desire likely is (career change, work structure change, trajectory change, etc.).

What could be more important than determining what it is that you REALLY want?

Mine your mind

Understanding what you want from work – and believing you deserve it – are equally critical. Especially considering that we spend more time each day working than on any other single activity, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

time spent working graphicBefore COVID-19, this meant that we physically spent more time each day with our coworkers than with anyone else in our lives.

Now, a significant portion of the global workforce has shifted to some sort of remote situation. That doesn’t mean the employed are working less. But, it does mean they are naturally beginning to think about ‘work’ much differently.

So, the first stop on the road to finding out what you want is to do what I like to call mining your mind.

This helps you chip away at the clutter of what you don’t want (which is usually what is hindering our progress in the first place).

It also reveals what you have positive associations with. Those are important because those are where your best-use transferable skills will be.

From here, you can break it down into segments that genuinely mean something to you. And, somewhere in there will be a path (or two or three) that may be attractive to you.

That could mean a career change, or it may reveal something else entirely.

Find your tangential pathing

Tangential and career aren’t typically put together – but they should be.

mindmapThe definition of tangential includes unrelated, divergent or slightly connected.

A lot of us have been conditioned to view the world of work as a linear thing. The trouble with that is it conditionally blinds us to a plethora of possibilities from tangential pathing.

The best place I know of to explore those tangents is by looking closely at the things you enjoy outside of work.

What we spend time doing outside of work reveals a LOT about our personalities, goals, and dedication but also about the skills and talents many people overlook when considering ‘work’.

What apps, sites, and other sources of information do you seek out to support these activities? Are you part of a hobby discussion group? A special-interest forum? Do you follow specific people?

All of these are products and networking opportunities.

Most of us are exceptionally familiar with the ‘products’ because we use them daily. We have opinions about how they work, their features, functionalities and countless other things we’d like to see offered or modified. That’s real-world user testing.

Now, think about the people, companies and entities associated with those products. Are you beginning to see the potential of tangential pathing?

Mash up your skills

The four questions aren’t directional. But, the lists you’ll create from them will give you very clear insights leading in many directions. Researching those will produce even more.

Mash up the hard and soft skills from your current role with those from your key interests. You’re likely to find that many overlap. You’ll also discover new skills in each you may never have thought of as occupationally applicable.

That’s tangential pathing.

You’re more than the work

You are the rich combination of all of your experiences in and outside of the role that ‘pays the bills’.

And you must keep that in mind when considering a career change (or when faced with one).

“I’m an agate clerk, it’s all I’ve ever done.”

A friend who’d spent a career as a newspaper sports editor said that to me after he was presented with a severance package (and the end of that career).

“No, you’ve done so much more than that,” I replied.

“You’re an editor, which means you’re likely also more of a writer than you realize. And, you’re a fact-checker, a communicator, a negotiator and deadline-maker which, as you know are often mutually exclusive.”

He’s also a runner, a gardener and an avid photographer.

A career spent in the newspaper industry did not mean a newspaper job was the only fit OR that his career had to end there (or at all).

About 20 minutes into our discussion, we realized we were talking more and more about gardening.

How he decides what to plant, where to plant, when to plant. The gardening gurus he follows on social media, GardenWeb and other places. The time it takes to draw up the plans for his gardens … and those he does for his friends! And, all of this before a speck of dirt is moved.

THIS was his joy – but he never thought about his gardens as a set of skills he’d also cultivated.

Because he’d never considered tangential pathing.

Skills (which are among THE most in-demand, I should add) such as:

  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Attention To Detail
  • Critical Thinking
  • Problem Solving
  • Creativity

A little research uncovered several opportunities, including one he said he would have never even looked for — in the Horticulture and Grounds department at his local zoo.

“I only know how to do billing.”

That’s what another friend said to me after her job of 18 years was outsourced.

“Not true at all!” I reminded her. “To do your job, I know for a fact that you have to know a lot more than how to process billing statements.

“You have to be part project manager, part customer-service rep and part records-keeper. You also have to have excellent organizational and communication skills. That company is huge, so that also means you have to be collaborative and diplomatic. Shall I go on?”


It didn’t take much prodding to get her to realize what made her happiest.

At work and in her life – creating situations that made other people happy is what generated the most excitement.

Whether that was resolving customer billing inquiries, planning a virtual insurance reconciliation or organizing a socially-distanced get-together with friends – creating situations that made people happy is what makes her tick. Always has.

But where are the ‘make people happy’ jobs? They’re behind the ‘make people happy’ skills.

Skills (ahem, again – highly in-demand) such as:

  • Active Listening
  • Problem Solving
  • Collaboration
  • Engagement
  • Resilience/Adaptability

The relationships she’s nurtured in her career, combined with the skill adaptation she’s done during quarantine opened up several new opportunities – such as virtual office manager for an insurance agency.

Be open

Those are examples of folks faced with a job change they didn’t seek out.

But the shared experiences of working in the age of COVID have millions thinking about work very differently now. Not just what they will do, but how, when and definitely where they will (or won’t) do it.

Someone recently asked me for career change coaching. Listening to him answer the first two questions, it was clear that he really loved the work he was doing.

So why was he considering a career change?

Because he was equating the work with the work environment.

Turns out, it wasn’t a career change he wanted at all, but more of an employment type/structure change.

We discussed flat companies, which led to the discovery of several that aligned with topics important to him.

Very quickly, he realized his work could be quite satisfying — under a different structure.

Be selective

The good thing about this exercise is that you discover very clearly what can (and cannot) work for you.

Use that.

Look for opportunities that speak to what you’ve discovered.

And, when you find one (and this is critical) be as selective about every aspect of it (the company, the environment, the people, the role) as you would someone you’d consider dating.


We spend a lot of time working, at work, interacting with those we work with – so the fit is every bit as important as the work to be done. That could mean a career change … or a change of perspective.

👋I’m Gretchen

👉I am a career and personal development strategist on a mission to teach you to find what you love without losing yourself in the process.

🎯I create sane strategies that produce serious results.

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