If you’re reading this, you’re probably in transition and trying to decide between 2 career paths (or more). When you need to decide between multiple career paths, taking small steps towards each path will make the way forward clear.
People can feel stuck when faced with 2 career paths because:
1. They believe they can think their way to choosing the “right” answer
2. They hesitate to choose because they don’t want to make the “wrong” decision, or give up a path.
For this kind of challenge, you can’t think your way to a solution. You have to experience it. When you try out each path in small ways, you’ll figure out if you want to hold onto all of them (hint: you’ll soon discover that is exhausting), or if you’re OK with letting one or more go.
From 5 Paths to 1
Several years ago, a client was let go unexpectedly from her position as a graphic designer at a well-known company. When we started to work together, she actually had 5 paths she wanted to explore (I’ve changed details to protect her privacy):
Path 1: Be a graphic designer on staff at a company.
Path 2: Open an art store / studio where she’d host workshops.
Path 3: Join a boutique graphic design firm.
Path 4: Be an art therapist.
Path 5: Get a job as a graphic designer on staff at a magazine.
Because her layoff was a surprise, she hadn’t explored any of these ideas before and was under pressure financially to get back to work as soon as possible. Her first homework assignment was to take a small action towards each path:
Path 1: Talk with a friend who works for a big company that might have a job opening
Path 2: Brainstorm store / studio co-owner ideas.
Path 3: Email a colleague who owns a boutique agency.
Path 4: Go to an art therapy certification program’s virtual open house.
Path 5: Email a colleague who works at a magazine.
By the 2nd session, she had eliminated Path 4 and by the 4th session she had transformed her 5 paths into 2:
Path 1: Be a freelance graphic designer
Path 2: Be a staff graphic designer working as part of a team at a company.
By our 5th session, she had received a job offer to be a graphic designer on staff at a company and by our 6th session (after 12 weeks), she had accepted the position — where she still works today.
What helped her find her path so quickly
Taking small steps towards each path that interests you won’t always lead to such quick results — but it might. Several factors helped this client find her new path in three months.
• Was very motivated because of financial family demands.
• Took multiple small steps towards her possible paths each week.
• Did temporary contract graphic design work to relieve some of the financial stress so she would feel less rushed to make a decision.
• Made a concerted effort to balance her dogged pursuit of a new path with resting and doing things she enjoyed, which gave her more resilience during rough patches.
• Was already established in her field (rather than trying to break into a whole new line of work).
• Had support and accountability.
If you feel overwhelmed trying to decide between 2 career paths (or more), take consistent small actions to explore those paths. The fog will lift and your next path will become clear.
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