The Art of Project Management: Expert advice from experienced project managers in Silicon Valley, and around the world
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Changing Jobs or Your Career

iStock_000002267483XSmall(This article is part of a series originally published in Japan by ALC Press English Journal, and is written in “Global English”. CLICK HERE to see the accompanying video, spoken in “Global English”.)

QUESTION: “After working for 20 years in the same kinds of jobs I realize that I don’t enjoy my work, but it’s all I know. How can I change to a new career that really inspires me? The work I’m doing now isn’t at all what I wanted to do. But I don’t have guts to change careers; I’m afraid of failure and losing everything.”

ANSWER: You’re right! A secure job, even one we don’t enjoy, can be preferable to the uncertainty of a new career. Human brains naturally prefer status and certainty to the risk and anxiety of making a change. Here are some small steps to begin your journey to the future with much less risk.

Figure Out What You Want. Knowing that your current job doesn’t inspire you won’t help you find a new one that does. Figure out what you want to do next. (You might benefit from career counseling and a career assessment.) Imagine 10 years have passed and you’re doing the work you love. Write a description of your ideal work, and make a collage of pictures that captures this ideal beyond words.

Learn From Others. Subscribe to email newsletters, read books, take classes, attend webinars, and join a professional association related to your new field. Listen to the stories of people already working in this profession. Many people are delighted to share their experiences with an attentive listener. Ask for their advice on your transition. You may find that many of your existing skills and experiences will be useful in your new career. And you’ll have built relationships to people in your intended career.

Start Small. Even if you can’t immediately change jobs, you may be able to change your current job to make it more inspiring. Or do volunteer work where you can get some relevant experience, even if unpaid. You’ll gain confidence, and hopefully a positive recommendation or two about your excellent performance.

Take Your Time. Although I’ve known people who’ve abruptly quit jobs to start a new career, few people can afford this luxury. A more gradual approach reduces risk and anxiety. In my case I took six years to transition, but once I started on the journey to my next career I wasn’t as frustrated in the job I was currently doing.

Start, and Keep Going! Don’t worry about how long it might take, just start. Naturally there will be times when you’ll feel discouraged and want to give up. Keep going! Record your progress and celebrate even small successes along the way. Spend time with people who encourage you. Keep your eyes open for opportunities and eventually you will be able to change to your new career.

Don’t settle for a paycheck! One day you’ll be at your retirement party looking back on your career. Do you want to be saying “I wish I would have.” or “I’m glad I did.”?

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About the Author

Kimberly Wiefling is the author of one of the top project management books in the US, "Scrappy Project Management - The 12 Predictable and Avoidable Pitfalls Every Project Faces", and the founder of Wiefling Consulting, LLC, a scrappy global consulting enterprise committed to enabling her clients to achieve highly unlikely or darn near impossible results, predictably and repeatedly. Her work focuses on keynote speaking and workshops on practical and sensible business leadership and project/program management scaled for the size of the company and the project. She has worked with companies of all sizes, including one-person ventures and those in the Fortune 500, and she has helped to launch and grow more than half a dozen startups, a few of which are reaping excellent profits at this very moment. She spends about half of her time working with Japan-based companies that are committed to developing truly global leaders. Kimberly holds a B.S. in Chemistry and Physics from Wright State University and a M.S. in Physics from Case Institute. She spent 10 years at HP working in product development project management and engineering leadership. She worked with several startups, including a Xerox Parc spinoff where she was the VP of Program Management. In 2001 she launched her consulting practice and never looked back. She holds a certificate in project management through UC Santa Cruz Extension, where she is an instructor in the Project and Program Management Certificate Program. Kimberly spends about half of her time facilitating leadership, communication and execution excellence workshops for leaders of Japanese companies committed to becoming truly global. Thousands of people have viewed the hysterical video documenting the final phase of completing her book at www.youtube.com/watch?v=KDCJBu3rdvk. You can reach her via email at kimberly@wiefling.com
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