If you’re not happy with your job, you can change jobs. That can be as easy as sending your CV off to a recruiter. But what happens if you’re not happy with your career? Changing careers can be a major challenge. The reason is that once you’ve done something for a while, you get pigeonholed into that thing. Fortunately, there’s one constant no matter how challenging the proposed move: people. People are the ones categorizing you and they’re the ones you have to convince.
So how do you do that? Well, people love stories, so tell them a story. But not just any story. Tell them a personal, heartfelt story. The more honest, the better. If you just say, “Because I think it’s a good career move,” you probably won’t get anywhere because it will sound thin and contrived. People are suspicious of the easy response and they know what big moves don’t come with small answers. They come from deep thought over a period of months—maybe even years. And that sounds like a story to me.
Consider the example of an accountant who has decided to be an architect. That’s a big, bold move. Maybe he went back to school and now he’s in front of a company’s HR person, being interviewed. “I always wanted to be a designer” won’t cut it. It sounds more like an excuse than a reason and it opens up a can of unpleasant questions. Did something happen at their last job? Did they burn out? What really happened to make them want to change their life so drastically?
This is what really happened: “Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be an architect. I considered studying it at school, but one of my dad’s friends was an architect and he told me that there was a lot of competition for jobs. So I chickened out and went for option number two: accountant. While I found it enjoyable and rewarding being an accountant, I always wanted to be an architect in my heart. And last year, I finally decided to do it. I talked things over with my wife—and my kids!—and when I saw how supportive everyone was, I decided to quit my job and go back to school. It wasn’t easy, but I became so passionate about my studies that I had the time of my life and I finished my degree in what felt like no time. Now I’m a recent graduate and I can’t wait to start my new career. I know it won’t be easy, but my career as an accountant taught me to be disciplined, detail oriented and diligent—and I really think those qualities will serve me well as an architect.”
At this point in our story, our new architecture grad whips out his portfolio, which of course, is spectacular. What he did here was he told a story. A real one, an honest once, and ultimately, a convincing one. Like our imaginary accountant, your life is a ongoing story. So why not tell it your way so you can craft your own ending?