How to get the career you want

Woman with a black coat considering career, standing against a tall building.

Have you ever thought, “I want to make a career pivot, but I don’t want to start over”? If you have, you’re not the only one.

This is what I hear from Work Bigger readers all the time: “If I’m going to make a career pivot to something more meaningful, something’s gotta give. I’ll have to give up my pay or start at an entry-level position.”

Maybe.

But maybe not.

When I hear this, I think: you’ve already decided your future before even exploring an alternative and uncovering whether your ideal scenario — career pivot + more money + better title — is possible.

Underneath this assumption is the idea that you can’t have it all, and what you want isn’t possible. I call this black-and-white-thinking — it’s either A or B; it can’t be both.

This is really common. We’re often told to be “realistic,” which I understand but also know kills creativity.

This type of thinking will stop you in your tracks.

Think about it. Does it feel good to tell yourself you have to make less money to find meaning, growth, and happiness?

No. It’s de-motivating.

And, even worse, it stops you from taking action to explore possibilities!

Let’s change this right now. Here’s how to give yourself the best chance possible to get anything you want.

Gather information to expand your view

When you feel stuck, your brain is experiencing an impasse. You lose momentum because you can’t see where you’re going. Your brain is a computer that craves certainty. 

But when you have an insight about something and experience clarity, your brain releases dopamine. This motivates you to take action. For your career, that can mean networking, applying for jobs, and stepping out of your comfort zone. 

The best way to move through the impasse is to write out what exactly has you feeling stuck.

For example, let’s say you’re looking to transition to a new industry, but you’re concerned about how it will all work out.

Start by making a list of all the questions that you have about making a transition. Don’t hold back. List everything that comes to mind. 

Here are some things to think about:

  • With my background, what do I need to show to move up in this industry?
  • What are the skills they value the most?
  • What gaps do I currently have on my résumé?
  • What’s the pay in this new industry?
  • Where do I reach out for these opportunities?

Then make a list of all the people you know in that industry and reach out to them. Share these questions with them and see what they say.

Sit with the possibility of what you want

At first, you may not believe that what you want is available to you. Even if it feels challenging and impossible, give yourself some space to sit with the possibility of what you want. 

Let’s use a career transition again as an example. You’re looking to change industries, and maybe you don’t know yet where you’d like to go.

Spend a few moments visualizing how that transition would feel:

  • What would it feel like to work in an industry that’s different from the one you currently work in?
  • What would you like to be doing every day?
  • Who would you want to be surrounded by?
  • How would you show up in your personal life and at work?
  • What would your mornings and evenings look like?

If it helps, write out your answers. If anything, it’s a fun exercise that will help you start to put together thoughts and ideas on what a potential change could look like. And it feels really good! It’s fun to sit with possibilities.

Build your confidence 

I feel that a possibility mindset and confidence are strongly linked.

With many Work Bigger readers, I see that one reason they don’t believe what they want is possible is because they lack confidence in themselves to pursue what they want. Failure is a big fear.

And I understand that.

That’s why it’s so important to always work on your confidence, especially if you feel doubt and nervousness when you have to try something new.

One way to build your confidence is to focus on the value you add in and outside the workplace. Once you do this, figure out how to add those things to your goal.

Still, you may get caught up in the details and the how of actually achieving this goal.

Let’s go back to the career transition example.

If you decide to go ahead with your career change, one of the most important steps you can take is to communicate your value powerfully. (That’s why, first, you have to be in touch with it.)

The best way to do that is to focus on the impact you’ve created. Impact is transferable.

I often see people listing out tasks on their résumé, for example: “Wrote analytical reports.”

This will tell the employer what you did, but it doesn’t highlight the value you created. Plus, what you did may not be transferable in this case because you’re looking to do something different.

On the other hand, impact can help the employer see how you can add value for them. Rather than focusing on the task, speak to what that analytical report did. For example, “Supported the company with scaling through analytics and data.”

See the difference?

Now I’d love to hear from you: What is something you want for yourself this year? How can you leverage a mindset of possibility to make it happen? Stay accountable to your growth and your goals. Share your thoughts and next steps in the comments below.

Belma McCaffrey

Author Belma McCaffrey

More posts by Belma McCaffrey

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Pamela says:

    Just what I needed. Thank you Belma. I was in the category of those that are stuck but last night I came across an article that spoke about the different approaches to an upward career. I took the approach of connecting with people who work for my dream employers. I connected with the Vice President of one of the companies in my list. I sent him a message introducing myself and asked him if they have plans of opening up an office in Africa. In my current job I manage their account so he was excited to hear from me. He asked if we can have a meet and greet and share more.
    Your article is very helpful to me as I now know how to get ready for the meeting, the selling points and questions to ask.

    I would appreciate if you could share more or guide me on how go about a meet and greet. The do’s and don’ts.

    Thank you.

    • Belma McCaffrey says:

      Hi Pamela! Thanks so much for writing in. Big congrats on getting unstuck and taking action. I’m hearing it’s all paying off! And I’m also really glad to hear this article resonates with you.

      On the meet and greet, I’d focus on a couple of things:

      (1) Understanding their needs and pain points – what are they currently struggling with and going through? What’s their biggest challenge, and what have they tried so far? This way you can think about how you specifically can add value and help them solve those pain points. (I always anchor myself in empathy and listening so that I can be of service. I focus on “how can I help here?”

      (2) Share genuinely how you want to contribute and why their work is interesting to you. And if you’re not sure yet how you want to add value, that’s totally fine – listening to their needs will help you get there.

      Keep us posted + we’re rooting for you in the meantime!!! ?

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