Updated: January 4, 2021
Whenever I meet successful people, I often ask about their life stories because I find it a great source of inspiration. I’m sure you’ve read or heard those kinds of stories as well, ones which are full of admirable courage in the face of obstacles.
Interestingly, I’ve observed that most of these successful people also didn’t really plan to be where they are now right from the start. In fact, their college degrees and first jobs are often unrelated to what they’re doing today.
In his book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell wrote about the 10,000-Hour Rule. This principle alludes to the length of time, which he considers being the key to success in any field. Simply, by practicing a specific task for 20 hours a week for 10 years, you’ll attain mastery of it.
Thus, if indeed it takes a decade to be successful in any field, then between the time we start working in our 20’s up until our 60’s, we would have had multiple opportunities to attain mastery and success in different fields.
Now and then, I get to talk to people who are considering changing careers. They have various reasons, but they all have that brewing desire to get out of their comfort zone, try something new, and perhaps pursue a passion they’ve long had.
I am an engineer by education and worked as one for several years before shifting towards the financial industry. As someone who experienced that type of catharsis, I always say that reinventing myself and my career was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.
So how do you plan your second act? How did I do mine? Here are some of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned from my career shift.
Know the honest reason why you’re making the shift.
Changing careers is often a life-altering decision. It will affect not just you, but also the people around you. So, it’s essential to know the honest reason why you’re doing it. And most importantly, to realize if it is what you truly want.
Furthermore, your family and friends will certainly ask you about your decision. How would you answer them? If you can come up with a sincere and convincing reply, then that’s a good sign that you’re well on your way towards a successful second act.
Assess yourself and take inventory of your resources.
It’s impossible to go to a destination if you don’t know where you’re starting. For this reason, it’s essential to become self-aware and do a critical assessment of your knowledge, skills, and talents. Know which of these would help you on your new path, and check which ones you’ll need to improve on or acquire to succeed.
Moreover, take an inventory of your available resources, particularly with your finances. Changing careers will often entail taking a significant pay cut, so make sure that you can survive at least a year on a smaller salary. Or at the very least, have other sources of income that can augment your cash flow.
Make a plan and create your ideal path to success.
Now that you know where you’re starting, it’s time to lay down the blueprint that will take you to your destination. What is your ultimate goal? In an ideal world, how would you achieve it?
Mapping out your best-case scenario will help you pinpoint the minimum required steps you’ll need to do, as well as the most essential skills and resources you’ll need, to succeed. Of course, this is just the first draft of your plan.
Your next step is to ask what could go wrong along the way, and what your provisions would be if they happen. You can never predict the future with certainty, but it’s always helpful to prepare for what could happen.
Lastly, it will immensely help if you can create a timeline for your plan. Set up personal milestones to help measure and assess your progress once you start your journey.
Get feedback from trusted and knowledgeable people.
This is an important step that many don’t realize. Asking for the thoughts of other people will shed light on your blind areas and help you further develop your plan. Keep in mind that you’re not asking permission from them, but rather, you’re trying to see if there’s a point or perspective that you missed or are not seeing.
Talk to people who can give you an honest opinion–be it positive reinforcement or constructive criticism of your plans. If you think it’s necessary to find a coach or a mentor, then do that to increase your chances of success.
Start building your network and make connections.
Your network is your net worth. Run through your list and note the people whom you can ask for help if needed. Take advantage of social media and ask to be introduced. Remember that opportunities are always attached to people. So, it’s good to establish professional relationships whenever you can.
However, as you expand your social circle, it’s important to always be giving. Because networking does not start with asking people to help you, but rather in sharing your value and asking what you can offer that will benefit them.
Take that leap and follow your plan.
Most people reach as far as this stage, but then they hold back and return to their status quo. It can be out of fear, doubts about their plan, lack of self-belief, or sometimes, they simply lose their momentum.
Realize that there’s never going to be the right moment and you’ll never be perfectly ready to take that leap. So, jump off the cliff and trust that you’ve done enough to prepare. At this point, there’s really only one thing you need to do” and that’s to start.
Remember that you will fail and make mistakes along the way, it’s guaranteed. But don’t readily quit when that happens because it’s all a normal part of the second act, and your story continues. March forward and focus on your progress; because success also includes the journey, and not just about reaching a destination.
This article also appeared in MoneySense Magazine.