“How Do I Turn My Vague Idea Into A Concrete Plan?”

Meryl wants to do something more meaningful with her career. Through her own research, she's gathered a number of clues about a possible new direction. But a vague idea isn't enough. How do you turn a general gist into a solid, reliable path?

What's your career history and current job?

I've been working in international qualitative market research for 16 years.

I was always interested in social sciences, and discovered international market research during my degree. I worked in well-known boutique agencies for several years, and then about eight years ago, while I was pregnant, I set up on my own.

It was a smooth progression, an easy transition into self-employment, and I loved working for myself. I felt very lucky.

How do you feel about your work?

Frankly, I think that 16 years ago I made one of the best career choices I could have made, in the way it suits my skills and personality.

I loved my work for a long time.

And I've been doing all kinds of tests recently – Myers Briggs and Strengths Finder, the whole gamut – and all my results say that I made the right choice back then!

But over the last couple of years, I've sensed the industry changing, and I'm increasingly uncomfortable with the direction in which it's moving.

For me, it was never about shifting boxes. It was all about understanding the human heart of the issues we were speaking to. That's what got me out of bed wanting to do it, and what kept me loving my work for so long.

Nowadays, I'm seeing the quality of what we're doing being sacrificed for the bottom line; we're seen as a cost rather than an investment, the human element of our work is being pushed to the sidelines, and I'm just not comfortable with it.

In essence, I'm not unhappy in my career. But it is time to evolve and move in a more positive and meaningful direction.

What would you like to be doing instead?

I'd just love to now have a job that has more of a sense of purpose for me.

Over the years I've developed a real interest in self-development and work psychology. It makes me wonder if it's time to put those interests and skills to work.

I did a couple of change management workshops that were very interesting. And, as the classic researcher, I've started researching! Reading, taking notes, starting to email people for a coffee to discuss my options…

I keep thinking about organisational leadership and coaching, but what's my spin, or my angle?

I would hate a radical break from what I had before. It's quite sad, to be honest; it feels almost like the end of a long love affair!

I do want to use everything I've learned. I want this to be an evolution rather than a cut-and-run.

What's the biggest obstacle in your way?

I have a gut feeling that there is a new winning formula for me, if I could just join the dots of everything I've discovered in my research and my experiences, but I haven't quite cracked the code yet.

I know what interests me now; I know what I've learned in the past 16 years.

I want to find an alchemy that pulls all of those things together.

But how on earth do you do that?

How do I translate all my research and the clues I've gathered into concrete results?

Can you help Meryl?

  • Have you been in a similar situation, or are you in the same boat right now?
  • How do you think Meryl could move her shift forwards?
  • Do you know anyone she could talk to?

Share your support and advice in the comments below.

Give Meryl a cheer of encouragement by hitting the thumbs-up button here:

Want help from our audience with your career-change challenge? Tell us about your situation in our short form, which you can complete here.