How coffee and cake can change your career!

So you’ve decided you’d like to change your career.  Only problem is, that’s all you’ve decided for the moment.  You keep telling yourself you’ll look up some options online, when you get the chance.  But when the occasional chance comes, you don’t quite know where to begin.  You’re stuck.

If you’re an introvert, much happier alone or with close friends than in a large group of people you don’t know, feeling stuck is even more of a problem, because you don’t want to ask for help.  You don’t really know what to ask anyway, you don’t want to bother people, and you don’t quite know how you might deal with any rejection.

If this is you, then welcome to my world just over a year ago!

I used to tell myself all kinds of stories about how I probably wouldn’t be able to make a change in my career.   I was approaching forty, so I was most likely too old.  I didn’t have a lot of money to support myself.  I didn’t even really know what I wanted to do, so how would I know where to start?

If this is you too, understand that this approach will make you feel like a failure before you’ve even begun.   

So it’s time for a whole new perspective.  In short, you have to expand your career horizons by talking to people, and asking them about what they do.

Does that sound terrifying?  When the idea was mentioned to me, I shrank from it.  I couldn’t bear the idea of asking people for help, when I spent most of my time actively avoiding the need to ask anyone for anything.  I could do all this on my own, surely?

Trust me when I say that connecting with other people was the best, most rewarding and genuinely fulfilling aspect of my career change.

After all, when you think about it, most of us spend most of our time with the same people every day.  Friends, family, work colleagues, clients…all of them people who know us as we currently are.  Meeting and talking to new people can introduce you to whole new ways of working, ones you may never have considered before – and all you have to do is ask!

Work out who you’d like to approach

If you don’t know what you’d like to do yet, start by thinking about jobs that sound interesting to you.  You don’t have to want to do them yourself just yet.  You’d just quite like to find out a bit more about them.

I started simple – by scrolling through my LinkedIn contacts for people whose jobs appealed to me the most, or people I simply thought it might be interesting to have a chat with over coffee.

Then I sent each one a personalised message, explaining that I wanted to change my career, and if they could spare me half an hour over coffee (and maybe a slice of cake too, if they were lucky!) it would be great to talk to them about theirs.  I mentioned that I was interested in writing and counselling, so if they knew anyone in these fields, an introduction would be wonderful.

I sent the messages – and then I held my breath.  Would people laugh at me?  Or worse, completely ignore me?

I have no idea if anyone laughed, and some did ignore me.  But a lot of them didn’t, and suddenly my diary was filled with coffee catch-ups with some very interesting people!

Don’t be afraid to think big

Who really inspires you?  Who would be your dream person to talk with over coffee?

In addition to my LinkedIn messages, I wrote to a few of my favourite, big-name authors and journalists, just because.  One of the very best parts of my career change process was receiving an invitation to an event one of the authors was speaking at, then getting the chance to talk to him in person about his work!

Looking back, I can’t believe I hesitated over asking people for help.  Not only did I get the chance to have so many fascinating conversations, but most of them were overwhelmingly positive.  I loved watching people become animated as they talked about the things they enjoy doing. 

As for the idea of bothering people – well, when I thought about it, if someone else had approached me, I’d have been flattered.  Plus, I’d have got a free coffee and a slice of cake just for talking about myself!  That definitely doesn’t happen every day.

So if you want to change your career, stop talking to yourself (and talking yourself out of it!).  Ask others to help expand your career horizons, and then get exploring all those brand-new possibilities.

Oh – and just to let you know, Careershifters – the fabulous people who kick-started my career change, have a programme of weekend and evening workshops that are packed with insight and will help you discover and explore options.  Have a look here.

(I don’t work for Careershifters, by the way.  I just think they’re fantastic).