“How Can I Change My Career, If I Don’t Know What Else I’m Good At?”

With no career plan, Simon fell into jobs he knew he could do.  Now he has the chance to find a career that lights him up, but after years of the same work, he’s struggling to define what that looks like. How do you move into a fulfilling career, when you can’t see past the skills that are keeping you stuck?

What’s your career history and current job?

My family owned a shop when I was younger. I worked there from an early age, selling goods and helping customers.

Because I already knew I was good at sales and customer service, those were the roles I sought out when I started my career.

I’ve been working for a high-end retailer for the past seven years, but was recently made redundant, so I’m not currently employed.

How do you feel about your work?

I’ve never thought about what I wanted to do, or what might make me happy.

When I started working, my goal was just to make the money I needed to buy a house and pay the bills.

I even completed a business management degree, not because the subject fired me up, but to complement my experience and command a higher salary.

After my redundancy, I automatically searched for the same type of work I’ve always done. I quickly found a job selling premium insurance over the telephone, but I left after three months.

I’m a friendly and outgoing person who enjoys face-to-face interaction with people, so sitting behind a desk in a soulless contact centre all day, reading scripted words down the phone, didn’t suit me.

There was a wealth of compliance issues to remember, with reprimands for anyone who forgot, so I was constantly worried about making a mistake. Although there were opportunities for promotion, the people in higher positions seemed so unhappy that I didn’t want to take them.

That experience knocked my confidence, but it’s also made me think seriously about the next stage of my career.

Instead of wasting my life soldiering on in the same roles, I want to find work that feels personally meaningful.

What would you like to be doing instead?

The only thing I’m sure of is that I want to do something completely different.

In terms of things I enjoy, I’ve always been an active person, and I love being outside.

I’ve been a keen cyclist ever since I could ride a bike, and I’ve studied forestry and tree surgery in the past.

What’s the biggest obstacle in your way?

I don’t know how to choose my new career.

The amount of potential options is intimidating. In some ways, I feel like I’m a teenager again, trying to pluck a career out of the air.

It’s harder for me to narrow down those options, because I’ve got no idea what else I could be good at. I’ve been doing the same type of work ever since I left education, which means I’ve never had the opportunity to learn anything new. All I’ve got to go on is my previous experience.

Meanwhile, recruitment agencies take one look at my CV, then suggest options based on everything I’ve done before. 

I’ve spoken to careers advisors, reached out to my contacts for ideas, and I’m constantly reading articles about career change. But their suggestions either don’t appeal to me, or I can’t picture myself doing them, because at the moment, I haven’t got the right skills.

Some people have mentioned turning my love of cycling and the outdoors into a career. But I’m worried about turning something I currently enjoy into a job I might resent later on. I don’t want to work in a bike shop, for example, because then I’d be stuck inside the shop, rather than out enjoying my own bike.

After we were made redundant, I’ve seen some of my colleagues sink unhappily back into the same roles they were doing before.

I’ve got a chance to break free of that, but after so many years of doing the same work, I don’t know where to start.

How do I see past my old career, to find a new one I could love?

Can you help Simon?
  • Have you been in a similar situation, or are you in the same boat right now?
  • How do you think Simon could move his shift forwards?
  • Do you know anyone he could talk to?

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