When changing careers, many people have a hard time figuring out what they want to do. With so many options out there the decision can seem overwhelming. It would be much easier if someone could just tell us what we should do, right?.
I recently had a conversation with a woman who came to me for some career advice about changing careers. About five minutes into our conversation I could tell she was getting frustrated with me. All she wanted was an answer to her question; "I don't want to practice family law anymore. I can't stand all the conflict. What else should I do?" She assumed this was a fairly straightforward question to ask me, a former lawyer who was now a career coach, but the answer was far from simple.
For one reason, I couldn't possibly know what she should do next. Lawyers go on to do many different things, from starting bakeries, to becoming political speech writers, to practicing in other areas of law. But more importantly, she was the best person to answer her own question, not me. When changing careers, people need to start with self-reflection, not outside direction.
In order to help her find her way, I asked her a series of questions to help her find her 'career sweet spot', the intersection between one's passions, skills, and the market. Similar to the sweet spot on a tennis racket, finding this intersection allows you to move forward with more power and control in your professional endeavors.
What are your passions and interests?
What do you care about? What do you enjoy doing or learning about? What do you spend your money on? How do you spend your time when you aren't working? What is a problem that you have that you would like to solve? What is an issue in society that you would like to improve? These are all clues as to what you deeply care about and when you work on something that you genuinely care about you will invest the time and effort it takes to become successful.
What are your strengths and skills?
What are you good at? What skills do people compliment you on? What skill comes easily to you? What role do you excel at at work? Are you good at writing, researching, editing, speaking, organizing, or presenting? Are you a leader, motivator, helper, listener, negotiator, or advisor? Are you creative, technical, efficient, a people person, etc? You are probably good at several things so think about what you enjoy the most and what you want to get better at.
What is your market value?
Who will pay you for your skills and passion? Is there a specific group of people or type of organization that would benefit from what you have to offer? Who could you serve and make a difference for? This does not have to be in the altruistic sense. It is more about providing value that people will pay for.
After answering these questions, my client found a unique answer that I could have never come up with! She realized that she really did like the area of family law, but instead of being a divorce lawyer (her current role), she felt passionate about working with kids who came from broken homes. As a lawyer she knew she was good at being an advocate for her clients and she knew she could use this skill to speak up on behalf of children who didn't have anyone else speaking up for them. And she felt that the place where she could be the most useful would be working with state agencies and lawmakers who create the laws and policies that affect the lives of at-risk children. It was wonderful to see how with a little bit of coaching she was able to organize her thoughts and create a clear picture of what her ideal next job would look like.
What does your career sweet spot look like? What is in the intersection of your passions, skills, and the marketplace? Please let me know in the comments below.