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Want to make a career change? 3 questions to get you started

Most people at some point in their lives question whether or not they have chosen the right career path. They might be experiencing extreme stress, lack of motivation, depression or even just that niggling feeling they are meant to be doing something else. Quite often they feel trapped. So what stops us from making a career change? While everyone has their own reasons, three of the biggest obstacles people face are: 1) not knowing what they want to do 2) not knowing where to start and 3) the fear of potential job or financial insecurity. Here are some questions to help you address each one.

1) What do I really want? 

There are a couple of ways to help you figure out what you really want. The first step is to identify what is most important to you in your career. Your values. What are your ‘must-haves’, without which you wouldn’t want to get out of bed in the morning. Write a list of 10.

Then write down all the skills you have picked up in your career and life so far. Include both technical skills e.g. accounting procedures, HR processes, IT knowledge, and non-technical e.g. organising, filing, creating, building, designing, leading, influencing, managing, listening, training, teaching, reporting etc. Make a note of the things you are good at and enjoy.

Take these lists, put all the information together and think about potential careers that could encompass them all. For even more career ideas, explore the internet and meet as many people as possible. They might have a career you haven’t even thought about. Simply by talking to people, you might get the inspiration or ‘light bulb’ you are looking for.

Remember you need to really want it. Because if you’re 50/50 about it, chances are you either 1) won’t be motivated enough to go get it and you’ll stay stuck or 2) you’ll give up as soon as it starts to get tough. Make sure whatever you choose is something that will give your life meaning, to ensure you stay on track in making your career change.

2) How do I start?

Depending on your new career choice, simply typing “How to become an astronaut?” into Google could give you the answers you need. There is so much advice out there, including numerous blogs written by people who made a successful career change. Maybe even the same one as you want to make.

The three main questions to ask yourself are:

a) What do I need? E.g. a new qualification, finances, work experience, bigger network, an updated CV, increased confidence or self-belief etc.

b) What action(s) do I need to take to get it?

c) Who do I know that could help me? Who could they connect me to? Think of anyone and everyone you know: friends, family, colleagues, ex-colleagues, recruiters, people you met at a social or networking event etc. Connect / re-connect with as many people as you can. You never know what that connection could bring.

I often recommend my clients to find a role model – someone who has made a similar career change in the past. You might know this person directly, or they could be a contact of someone you know. They could be someone you found while doing some research on the internet. Most people are willing to help others – and enjoy talking about their own experiences – so bite the bullet and connect with them. If possible, set up a coffee or a call and ask them how they made their career change and what advice they would give you.

 3) What am I willing to do to get it?

This is a big question – and one that causes confusion for many. Particularly when it comes to the financial side of things. Sometimes, a career change can bring financial uncertainty or a lower salary – at least to start with. And this puts many people off starting something new – especially those with family responsibilities.

Again here, the key thing is to ask yourself – what is most important to me? A client of mine said the thing most important to him was providing for his family. He would work all hours of the day in a job he hated if it meant his family were provided for. When I asked him what was important to him about providing for his family, he said he wanted them to be happy. Seeing them happy was his reason for living. I asked him how working 24/7 in a job that he hated would affect him and who he was. He said he would probably be stressed and most likely depressed. Knowing that his main driver was seeing his family happy, my next question was – how happy would his family be spending very little time with him, and seeing him stressed and depressed when they did? Of course he said they wouldn’t be happy at all. And neither would he. So while he thought that providing for his family was the key to his and his family’s happiness, he realised that his actions could create the opposite.

There’s a difference between providing a safe and comfortable living environment for your family and providing the latest ipad, designer label clothes and a villa with a swimming pool. Providing a safe living environment can be done without a huge salary and ridiculous working hours. More and more stories are emerging of people who left the rat-race to work a 20-hour week for a happier life. Yes they had to downsize their apartment and they couldn’t buy some of the luxuries they could afford before. But having those extra hours every week to spend time with their kids and help them with their homework, to exercise and take care of themselves, to do the things they love and make them happy, meant more to them than a decent pay cheque every month.

If financial security is a big one for you – and not necessarily something you are willing to risk right from the start – there are other options available to you than making a definitive career change. If your dream involves becoming an entrepreneur, you can always slowly ease into it by keeping your current full-time job and working on your own business in your spare time. This is what I did before becoming a coach full-time. Freelancing in your spare time is also an option.

So going back to the original question – what are you willing to do to get it? Take a pay cut (remembering it could only be temporary)? Go back to school? Work two more years to save money to go back to school? Sell your car and use public transport? Downsize your apartment? Ask your spouse to take a greater share of the financial responsibility while you find your feet? Go through a period of potential uncertainty or maybe stress?

There are no right or wrong answers here. Of course if making a career change is going to hurt the people you love, or put you in so much debt you could be out on the street, then you need to be smart about this. What are your other options? How could you do this in a way that works?

If you want to change careers but are not willing to do what it takes, then my guess is that instead of focusing on the pleasure the new career will bring you, you are focusing on the pain e.g. what you will have to sacrifice in terms of time, energy and money. What if you spent 30 minutes writing down all the great things that could happen if you decided to go for it? What would life, including your relationships, health and emotional well-being, look like in a year’s time, 5 years’ time or 10 years’ time if you left your current role and followed your heart instead?

Of course there is always the risk it might not go to plan. But if you’re genuinely unhappy and stressed in your current career, nothing will change unless you change it.

For more advice on how to make a successful career change, please visit or email me at

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About the Author

Zeta Yarwood is recognised as a leading Career Coach and NLP Life Coach in Dubai, helping individuals across the world to achieve success in all areas of their lives. With a degree in Psychology and over 10 years’ experience in coaching, management and recruitment – working for multinational companies and award-winning recruitment firms – Zeta is an expert in unlocking human potential. Passionate about helping people discover their strengths, talents and motivation, Zeta lives to inspire others to dream big and create the life and career they really want.

For further information and inspiration, please visit or follow on Twitter @zetayarwoodLinkedin or Facebook