How to plan a career side step

Want to find a different job?

Here’s a plan for getting started.

 careersidestepLast week I received an email from Susan, a woman in her 50s whom I’ve not met.  My impression is that she wants to find a different kind of job, while remaining in the same broad career field.

“I am physically fit and healthy and plan on working eight to ten more years.  I want to get out of [this] environment, have a different set of responsibilities and make more money.  Can you advise me?” Susan asked. 

Well, that’s a big question. And if Susan were a coaching client I’d start by asking her lots of questions in return.  However, in case an investment in coaching is not be an option for Susan, I told her I’d take up the challenge of suggesting steps that might lead to a career shift. 

This post is my plan for Susan. I hope you enjoy these suggestions, as well, and I’d welcome your comments, suggestions or requests regarding other topics.

If you want to stay in your broad field, but find a different kind of job, here’s a plan for getting started:

  • Write a big list.  Start by listing everything you want in your next phase.  Dream about what would be great not only in your job, but also in the rest of your life.  Sometimes we think we want a career adjustment, but part of what we’re seeking may be available without a job change.  For example, if you’re bored or lonely, you might create a richer life by pursuing new interests in your free time.  Or, if you love your job but want more income, you might consider a side business. 
  • Organize your list.  Break your comprehensive list into categories of what you want, like “health and fitness” or “social life,” as well as “ideal job factors.”  You are creating this broad picture partly because it will help you to see that not everything must be found through your work.   But this is exciting: when you create positive change in any part of your life it’s likely to bring new energy to your work life.  I see it with clients all the time.  When you make progress in one area, like your fitness program or your social activity, it has a positive impact on your work life
  • Commit to small steps. Once you have your categories, start moving slowly forward in each one. Decide how many steps you’ll take each week, for each category. It’s important to find a realistic pace, and stick with it.  For example, you might decide that each week you will:
    •  Pursue your job search by taking three steps.  The first week might include (1) going out for coffee with a friend, (2) spending 20 minutes doing research on the Internet, and (3) working on your resume for 30 minutes. 
    • Start exercising by walking for 20 minutes three times during the week.
    • Take one social step, like making a phone call to arrange a future dinner with friends.
  • Do research and notice trends.  While you’ve been busy in your day job, you may not have been tracking developments in your professional area or in fields that are just a step or two a way.  Your job-related steps should include looking around, seeing who is making contributions, money or headlines.  Read everything you can, but don’t stop there.  Look for conferences and associations where you can learn from people working in fields not far removed from yours.
  • Network methodically.  On your list of steps will be the names of people who might be willing to brainstorm with you.  Include not only those you’ve known well over the years but also professional acquaintances who seem career savvy.  Then work your list. Set up coffee dates, or find other ways to visit with just about anybody who might be able to spot trends or suggest opportunities.  Ask your contacts if they can suggest others who might be willing to talk with you. If people are too busy to help, they’ll let you know.  And, if they are willing to chat, know that someday you’ll be able to return the favor or pay it forward with another job seeker.
  • Engage on-line.  Social media now are playing a huge role in the hiring process.  Job seekers today are at a disadvantage if they don’t at least have LinkedIn profiles.  And Twitter is a tool that will allow you to connect with recruiters and others you might not be able to reach by phone or email.
  • Learn something new.  Taking classes is an excellent way to pick up new skills and broaden your perspective.  When you are engaged in learning, it helps you see your routine work in new ways and become more creative. And certifications earned through course work can demonstrate your commitment to excellence.  Taking classes at a local college could have the additional benefit of broadening your network.  But if there’s no convenient local option, there are many good providers of distance learning.
  • Volunteer.  If you want to build additional skills, look for ways to get new kinds of experience.  A good starting point can be to join clubs or service organizations.
  • Find a buddy.  Making a career shift can be a lonely process. Find a friend who also is engaged in reinvention and meet regularly to share ideas, networks and encouragement.  You don’t have to have similar careers.  Somebody in a different line of work might offer a new way of looking at things. 

Networking roundup: Building your social network is a big part of preparing for a career shift.  If you want to read more about networking, here are suggestions:

4 networking tips for busy people

Make requests to make friends

A strong network supports career resilience

Work that conference

Tips from great networkers

6 surprising networking tips

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Bev, a former lawyer and Fortune 500 executive, is an executive and transitions coach, and a leadership consultant with a broad and varied practice.

Posted in career transitions, networking, personal growth Tagged with: , , ,

Beverly E. Jones

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Links to occasional colleagues

ECCA - Website
ThreeJoy - Website
Kerry Hannon - Website
Ohio University's Voinovich School - Website
Senior Entrepreneurship Works - Website
Congressional Management Foundation - Website
WOUB - Website
ShadowComm LLC - Website

Books with Bev’s Tips

Bev’s tips on career change are featured in the books and other writing of leading journalist Kerry Hannon. If you’re thinking about a career transition, try:

What’s Next? Find Your Passion and Your Dream Job in You Forties, Fifties and Beyond


“Great Jobs for Everyone 50+: Finding Work That Keeps You Happy and Healthy and Pays the Bills”


Bev at Ohio University,
where she is a visiting
executive with the
Voinovich School of
Leadership & Public Affairs



Bev's garden at Buckeye Farm