Total Business Magazine

New Year, New Career?

New Year is often a time of reflection and goal setting. It’s a time when we dream big and consider our true aspirations, and it’s not uncommon to conclude its time for a real change both personally and professionally.

But then what?

While it’s easy to dream of an alternative lifestyle and new career; one that provides more peace, freedom and personal fulfilment, the practicalities might seem challenging if not impossible.

Typically, two obstacles stand in the way of pursuing and realising a different kind of life.

Obstacle 1: A lack of clarity on what you might do instead.

While you know you want to love your work, you want it to have meaning and purpose, and you want to find a real synergy between your work and personal life, you aren’t confident about which path to pursue, which keeps you firmly rooted where you are.

Obstacle 2: A concern about financial security.

While the idea of a change feels exciting and energising, the practical reality is that you have financial commitments to meet, and any choice you make might impact not just you but your loved ones too.

If these barriers resonate and you’re feeling heavy with the seemingly impossible task of making a life and career change, there’s good news.

What most people don’t realise is that the life they want is achievable, and its achievement is possible without risk.

The simple truth is that once you are specific about what you really want and why, it’s purely a matter of pragmatism; a practical action plan to see you on your way, in a timeframe that suits your circumstances. One that doesn’t impact your immediate financial stability.

So, how do you get clarity on what you really want, so that you can act and make it a reality?


Avoid This Common Pitfall

The single biggest mistake people make when considering their second career is starting with their CV.

I know this sounds surprising and it belies logic, but using your résumé to lead your thinking is largely unhelpful because it pigeonholes you.

This is particularly true if you’ve had a long career in a particular field or role. If you’ve spent years building expertise, contacts and know-how in one sector or discipline, it’s common to let the details of your career history dictate your available choices and narrow down your options until a change feels impractical or unobtainable.

To avoid being trapped by this tunnel vision and get clearer on the right path, the most effective place to begin is with a deeper dive into not just what you’ve done, but who you are.


The Four Foundations

Taking the time for some intentional self-reflection to uncover what truly drives, motivates and interests you, and which feel-good skills and strengths you naturally possess will provide the best data and parameters for decision making.

There are four foundational areas that deliver the most impactful ideal career and life criteria. Unique to each individual, these are your personal values, strengths, passions and skills.

Like the pieces of a puzzle, together they start to create a picture, honing the path and providing guidelines for the right role, working environment and even the types of people you are best suited to working with, whether clients, partners, colleagues or bosses.


Undertaking Your Own Deep-Dive

To help kick-start your own process of self-reflection try answering the following questions. Your answers will provide personalised results that you can use as a checklist of criteria and guidelines to determine your own ideal career and life:


  1. What are your values? Which principles underpin the way you need to live and work in order to be happy?

TRY THIS: Take a look at this list and pick up to eight values that reflect what’s most important to you. Then write down what they actually mean. What do they look like in action? What behaviours do they require of you or others? Then consider what your values mean in relation to your ideal role, working environment and the people you work with? Write those requirements down so that you end up with a checklist.


  1. What are you passionate about? What activities or topics absorb you so that you lose time when you’re engaged in them? What do you read, watch, listen to or do that keeps you captivated?

TRY THIS: Have a go at this quick exercise. It’s a really simple system for capturing the things you are passionate about, so that you can then determine whether any of those things could be integrated into the work you might do.

  1. What are your strengths? What are you naturally talented at? What do people always tell you you’re good at?

TRY THIS: To identify your top five strengths, take the Strengths Finder assessment developed by Gallup. When you’ve got your results, review the accompanying reports and write down what your strengths mean you need from your ideal role, working environment and the people you work with, using the criteria as a filter for the right and wrong ideas.


  1. What are your skills? Which of your skills do you enjoy using the most?

TRY THIS: Make a list of all the roles you’ve had, both personal and professional. Then write down all the skills you use or have used in those roles. You can use this list as a prompt. Then review all your skills and highlight the ones you enjoy using the most, keeping this list as a guide.


Does It Really Work?

The following people undertook an in-depth analysis of their values, strengths, passions and skills to identify the career and lifestyle of their dreams. They then developed a step-change action plan, taking into account their own personal and financial circumstances, to make the dream a reality:

Jeremy left a career in IT after 32 years for a leadership role with a children’s charity and life in the country, where he cooks and gardens to his heart’s content.

Elijah, after careers in law and communications, landed his dream job at Google, and has written his first book after recognising and indulging his passion for writing.

Tom, after years working for other agencies, has set up his own creative marketing firm that puts his passion for pixel perfect work at the heart of his services.

People believe a life and career change is impossible to achieve. Fortunately, that’s not true. Using the formula based on your intrinsic drivers, talents and passions it is possible to determine and realise the career and life you aspire to, no matter what your circumstances.

So, if you’ve been dreaming of a change, choose to do something for yourself today that alters the course of your career, and consequently your life, for a happier, more meaningful and fulfilling future.


Alison O’Leary is a life coach, specialised in career coaching and, specifically, in career change to facilitate life change. You can find her at

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