The Rolling Stones say, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.” The Stones are wrong. You can totally get the career you want, and in the process you can also get what you need. But get ready because a career change is almost always a world-rocking experience.

When embarking on a career change, confidence is either built up or knocked out, probably both along the way. It can be a lonely, confusing time. What will shape your experience along this journey (which lasts months or years) is how you approach it and how you manage your mind in the process. If done well, you’ll land where your passion is alive again and work is a natural expression for you.

Through my own experience and the experiences of people I coach, I have found a few key action items that most help the beginning of a career transition:

Write your dream job. Make it a long list. Include everything likely and unlikely, superfluous and necessary. Let your thoughts go and do not edit. Think about how you would really love it to be then write down those characteristics and qualities – what the job looks like, feels like, what you have, and what your life is like. Add to your list for a few weeks, then come back to it from time to time and make tweaks. Do not dumb down your list. Use this list as your North Star. Picture it happening.

Take care of yourself, starting with managing your mind and nurturing your soul. This will give you energy and focus to build the work-life you want. Four simple things you can do:

  1. Listen to or read material that feeds your soul. Audiobooks are especially great when commuting to/from work, folding laundry, doing dishes, etc. Some of my recent faves are by authors Gabby Bernstein, Michael Hyatt and Jen Sincero.
  2. Do things you enjoy (or think you would enjoy). It can be anything you like to do but haven’t made time to do – watch a TV show, read a magazine, take a class, go for a hike, run, get a massage, join a local sports team, take a bubble bath, treat yourself to a fabulous dinner… you get the point. This makes life more fun and cultivates a general positive outlook.
  3. Meditate, even for just 5 minutes a day. Over time, this will set a foundation of feeling calm and centered. If you’ve never meditated before, or tried and “failed,” give yourself time to adjust, to learn and seek what meditation can be for you. For beginners, I recommend a guided meditation app (check out Buddhify or Calm). 
  4. Be grateful. When you feel frustrated or lost or like you’re doing all you can to just make it through the day, think of 10 things you are grateful for. If that doesn’t work, think of 10 more. It is nearly impossible to stay in a funk when you are grateful. 

Get out there. Expand and enhance the circle of people you know (also known as: Networking). Some people can’t stand the thought of networking because it seems self-serving and pushy. If shaking hands and passing out cards at events isn’t your thing, do something that’s a natural expression for you and where you’ll meet new people. Network in a way that feels right to you. One great networking activity is volunteering because in helping others you’ll also feel good about yourself and life.

Inevitably, you will meet people and they will ask what you do, so be prepared to share with them a few favorite characteristics of your current job that also match your dream job. This way, you are connecting people with what you’re naturally passionate about. These conversations can happen in brief moments while volunteering, taking a class, having coffee, or watching a game, so keep it simple, bite-sized and authentic. Tell people what you want them to remember and what they can remember

Update your resume and your LinkedIn profile. Ask friends or an adviser to review, and then incorporate their feedback. But first, do the top 2 bullet points above because they will positively influence how you represent yourself.

Career changes happen when we are ready, whether we feel we are or not, and when something better is ahead. Doing these things at the beginning of your career transition will help you get what you want – and need. You will have the energy to make it happen and provide yourself with a richer experience of life along the way.