The Only Career Change Question You Need To Ask Right Now

Image of staircase

Image: Max van den Oetelaar

Big, scary thoughts swirling around in your head? Paralysed by too many 'what if's? Natasha shares the one question that will quieten those doom-filled voices and help you make more certain progress toward the work you love.

Picture the scene: You haven't seen your friend in weeks. You're sitting outside your favourite café in the sunshine, eager to catch up, when she sits down beside you at the table, coffee cup in hand.

She takes a mournful sip, shakes her head, and sighs.

"He's asked me on a date. A DATE. I don't know what to do… How am I ever going to afford the wedding?"

Wait... what? Sounds a little premature, right?

In fact, it's totally unrealistic. Who thinks like that?

And yet… there's a good chance it also sounds a bit like your own internal dialogue when it comes to your career change.

You're probably way ahead of your own game

You have no idea what you want to do next in your career, and yet... you're still catastrophising about how to finance the change (regardless of the fact that it might cost nothing).

Or, you have a few options for areas you might like to explore and you're already despairing over the time it will take retraining (not that you're anywhere near the point where you're ready to look at education providers, and not that you're even sure you'll have to retrain at all).

Or, you know the area you want to move into, but you're panicking that nobody will take you seriously without experience behind you (never mind the fact you haven't asked anyone yet).

Or, you want to make a shift, but it feels like such a huge undertaking that you're frozen – worrying and beating yourself up and chasing your tail – instead of focusing on the next, single thing you could do to move yourself forward.

There comes a point where 'planning for the future' becomes 'avoiding dealing with the present'

Planning ahead is a great idea. Preparing for the worst is a smart move.

And yet, the best-laid plans fall apart in a second, and the worst that you planned for is radically unlikely to happen.

Challenges will come up that you could never have foreseen.

Others that you're sure you'll have to fight against will melt away into nothingness at the slightest touch.

Some of the problems you're most worried about will turn out to be entirely fictional.

And unless they're causing you a major problem right now, they don't deserve to be taking up so much of your attention.

Why would you spend your time worrying about a problem you haven't got to yet?

Could it be because worrying about the far-off future is a convenient distraction from the slightly uncomfortable here and now?

There is a question that is always worthy of your time and effort

What's the smallest thing I can do right now that will make the biggest positive impact on my situation (as it is right now)?

Write it down, stick it on your fridge, set it as your phone background, train your parrot to shout it out. It's the only question you need to ask right now.

And (seeing as it is 'right now' right now), try asking it right now:

What's the simplest, most pressing next step in your career change?

What's the one thing that, if it were addressed right now, would allow you to move forward in the most exciting or powerful way? What do you need to do (note: 'do', not 'think about') to address it?

What's the smallest thing you could do in the next hour (or day, or even week) that would have the greatest practical impact on your shift?

Dogged, committed, step-by-step action.

Small wins.

Dealing with reality as it is right now, rather than how you're worried it might be.

Be where you're at. Deal with where you get to when you get there.

These are the things that will get you to where you want to be.

What's the smallest thing you could do right now to move your shift forward? Let me know in the comments below.

Natasha Stanley's picture

Natasha Stanley is head coach, writer, and experience designer for Careershifters. When she's not working, you'll find her listening to neuroscience podcasts, learning pottery, and dreaming up her next adventure.