A Starter’s Guide To Change Careers

Picture by: Ross Findon

Changing careers… Just the idea of doing so generates a plethora of different feelings: Fear, envy, uncertainty, relief.

To change careers means leaving the known for the unknown, the certain for the hypothetical, the concrete for the abstract, the real for the projected. It also implies facing the judgment of others.

But the best decision-maker is you, no one knows what you are going through at your work or feels what you feel every day.

Of course, you can listen to the kind advice of your loved ones, but don’t let their opinions influence you too much.

You are the captain of your soul, the master of your destiny

Nelson Mandela

Even those who love you sometimes project their fears and doubts. They don’t do it meanly but rather to protect you.

There’s a tale from a book written by Raphaëlle Giordano, which I find spot-on for the process of changing careers:

Once a year, in the kingdom of frogs, a race was organized. It had a different objective every time. That year, it was to reach the top of an old tower.

All the frogs in the kingdom gathered for the event. The race started.

The spectator frogs, judging the height of the tower, did not think it was possible for the competitors to reach the top. And pessimistic comments started kicking in:

“Impossible, they’ll never make it! They’ll dry up before they’re up there”

Hearing the comments along the way, the competitors began to be discouraged one after the other.

All except a few who valiantly continued to climb.

The spectators kept saying, “Don’t bother! No one can do it. Look, almost everyone has given up!

One of the remaining frogs admitted defeat.

The last one continued to climb against all odds. Alone and with an enormous effort, it reached the top of the tower!

Everyone, amazed, wanted to know how the frog got there. People from the crowd approached it and asked how it had reached the top.

And they discovered that the winner was… deaf!

Your Second Life Begins When You Realize You Only Have One

Moral of the story: You’re better off avoiding the pessimism and skepticism of others.

In my personal experience, if I had listened to people’s opinions, I wouldn’t be writing to you right now 🙂 Others had great professional ambitions for me, but they were not my own.

How do you know it’s time to change careers?

The certainty about the need for a career change comes in different shapes and forms. From general symptoms to specific, more complex outcomes of self-reflection. Here’s how they feel like:

General symptoms

In your daily life

  • Oppressed solar plexus
  • Pain in the abdominal zone
  • Difficulty to sleep
  • General sensitiveness
  • Susceptibleness
  • Irritability
  • When asked about your work, you either don’t wanna talk about it or feel a negative emotion when you do

At work

  • You count the hours to leave
  • You’re obsessively keeping track of weekends and vacations
  • Projects no longer motivate you
  • In a meeting, you are zoning out and asking yourself what you are doing there
  • You find no meaning and no added value

And above all… You are reading this article…!

Specific, more complex outcomes of self-reflection

For a while now you’ve been unhappy with your job, you’ve been trying to silence your inner voice by trying to convince yourself that it’s okay, that there’s worse, that it’s normal, that it’s life, but in reality, you can’t pretend anymore. Self-conviction has had its day.

Be aware that you are not alone. For a long time, I wondered if it was me who had a problem constantly asking myself questions about my work. I smiled on the outside but felt terrible on the inside.

And then I heard about this stat: Over 85% of the people aren’t engaged at work. I wasn’t alone, you’re not alone.

Changing paths is the result of a long journey, a long process of questioning and reconsideration. Even if your desires might lead to some criticism you are in reality a pioneer, a fighter!

In tomorrow’s world, we will have many lives, careers & jobs and it is beautiful and enriching. Change will not be seen as instability but on the contrary valued in a society where adaptability will be a necessity.

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives, it is the one that is the most adaptable to change

Charles Darwin

According to Dell, 85% of jobs in 2030 do not yet exist. The labor market is in constant evolution, so there will no longer be traced roads but a diversity of paths to which it will be necessary to adapt.

Your desire for change today will actually be the norm tomorrow, you are just ahead of the curve 😉

I have changed path several times, changing studies from law school to business school and then from Human Resources in companies to blogging on career advice. There’s no shame in that!

Once you have identified that changing careers is the only way forward, you’ll be ready to implement an action plan.

Starter’s guide to changing careers

1. Get to know yourself: Identify who you are

I have talked about it in this blog. Introspection and self-knowledge are, in my opinion, essential to any change. Sometimes we have a distorted image of ourselves, a biased projection of what we are, or sometimes we just don’t know.

Are you who you claim to be or behind the appearance is hiding a whole other person with completely different desires?  

Get to know yourself, read your reality, understand your strengths, your qualities, what motivates you, what you hate. Do deep work on yourself. You can do so through tests, coaches, psychologists.

Identify who you are before identifying what you want to do.

Once you know yourself better, the idea is to identify what you want to do, to find a job in line with yourself, your aspirations, interests, skills, personality, values. In short, a whole program!

2. Identify what you like to do

You will never find what you are not looking for.


You know what you no longer like, but you don’t necessarily know what motivates you, which professions to go into. It is time to make competency assessments in order to define where you want to go. Here’s how you can do it.

Try out online tests

Before getting any deeper, let’s talk about a word you’ve often heard: Passion.

Also, the famous sentence someone must’ve already told you: You don’t know what you want to do? It’s easy, you just have to identify and follow your passion.

Sure, but no it’s not that simple. We are rushing to try to find one, to say to ourselves that if we don’t find it we will never be happy. This question haunts us: How will I succeed in my professional life, grow and find my way if I don’t have a passion?

Be assured you will find your way without having found any passion, trust me 😉  

However, it is important to listen to yourself. Be attentive to your inner voice and note the moments when you feel good, when you are absorbed, or when you lose track of time driven by a feeling of pleasure. This listening to your “inner self” is fundamental to finding your way.

Beyond your inner voice, tools can help you highlight jobs that are in line with your desires and skills.

I have tried many tests and selected those that are most relevant to me and most affordable (or free).

Of course, these tests must be taken with a grain of salt. They are often developed by psychologists and highly competent people, but not all of them are scientifically proven. They help us see more clearly and give us some ideas.

123 Career Test

The 123 Career Test will help you learn what kind of work environments and occupations suit you best.

In this test, they show you different pictures of people doing different work and you have to choose the one you like the most and the one you dislike the most.

It takes around 10 min, it is easy and free. They only ask for your age and education level.

I was skeptical at first as it looks too easy and too simple, but it turns out that the result was interesting and close to what I like and I am.

At the end of the test, a graph appears showing your match-ability among 6 types of Personalities: Social, Enterprising, Conventional, Artistic, Investigative and Realistic.

Also, you’ll get a list of jobs that could fit you based on your personality. Here are my results:

123 Career Test, suggested occupations for career change
My Next Move

I invite you to combine the previous test with this one to validate the consistency of the results.

For this test, you have 60 questions to answer. It takes about 10 minutes to complete and it is free.

In addition to the test, My Next Move provides definitions, information and details on different professions out there.

Both tests showed me the same two profiles: Social and Artistic. It was therefore consistent and the results were confirmed.

Results of 123 Career Test
123 career test results. A useful tool if you want to change careers
Results of My Next Move
Results of My Next Move, a great tool to assist you in your career-changing process
CareerExplorer by Sokanu

CarrerExplorer collects a wide range of information by questioning you on a variety of aspects: Your interests, personality, work style. Through these questions, they gather more than 140 traits of who you are and the data is used to match you with over 800 careers.

This test lasts about 30 min, the results of the career match are free but if you want to have more details on your strengths, weaknesses, intrinsic talents, etc., then you must buy a premium account for $35.

I found the results relevant and close from reality.

Change careers through CareerExplorer
I got “Career counselor and author“. It speaks to me! 😉

But the real bonus for me is that besides the recommended professions they go further and guide you on the studies to do this profession, on the groups of people who do this profession on their daily lives, etc. These details allow for a real projection of the profession.

CareerExplorer results
Keep this in mind when thinking about online tests

Online tests can be useful to shed some light on major patterns of your life.

But the results are not set in stone and aren’t a life-changing experience. 

They just allow us to deepen our thinking and open up new perspectives. For example, I always denied my “artistic” side but these tests were useful for me to start digging further into this facet of my life.

The main goal of these exercises is to better understand yourself, rather than try and determine a specific job you should be doing.

According to the OECD, the under-30s will have at least 13 different occupations throughout their lives.

It is therefore imperative to know yourself well because this awareness is what will allow you to best know the direction you should be heading towards. 

Forget about the “perfect job” myth. There is not such a thing! A career is a succession of different experiences. That’s truer than ever in today’s world.

It’s all about finding a path that meets your deepest aspirations, desires, and the impact you want to have on the world (your “why”). 

What matters is not to find the perfect job but to identify your “why”.

Be curious!

Learn about the existing professions out there, watch videos and go to conferences.

To have better insight you can check out the following online resources:


PathSource is an app that provides detailed information about jobs, careers, and universities. It gives you an insider’s view on a given profession, which I find highly valuable.

However, I will be critical on the other aspects of this app, which aims at advising your future career based on your financial needs. I understand that the salary is important but making decisions based on prospect financial gain is a MISTAKE!

My Job Glasses

My Job Glasses is a platform that connects professionals with students. You have identified a job that interests you, but you want to know the concrete and daily reality of the job? Well, you can contact a professional who will talk to you about their daily life.

Other online resources

In addition to the above, you can contact professionals on LinkedIn and chat with people who have been through the same questions, and changed careers.

In addition, if you have the chance, go to conferences about changing careers.

Take this TED talk, for instance:

So now that you know better and have identified what you like, it’s time to identify your fears and blockages.

3. Identify your fears and blockages

Before you overcome your fears and blockages, you have to identify and act upon them.

You must let your fear express itself first. It’s like the metaphor of the lake and the stream.

The water of the lake is soft and calm because it has the space to exist while the water of the stream is lively and even violent because it has a very narrow space to express itself.

A lake vs a stream. Don't let your fear be like a stream!

With fear and emotions, it’s the same. You must give them space. Do not hide your fears or doubts. Look them in the eye, welcome them, make peace and move forward.

In this sense, Tim Ferris, entrepreneur, blogger, lecturer, author of the book The 4-Hour Workweek, explains that before we can overcome our fears, we must first define it.

So he invites us to make a list of all our fears and their impact, should they become reality

I invite you to see his video about the subject. Here’s his “Fear Setting” methodology when you’re considering a major change in your life:

  1. Make a list of the worst things that can happen to you if you act, note your fears and the worst possible outcomes.
  2. Note what action to take if these worst scenarios do happen, how to prevent them and how to fix them.
  3. Make a list of the benefits you will get if you act. Imagine all the benefits in the short, medium and long term. Change the “what if I fail?” for the “what if it works?”
  4. Finally, write the emotional, financial and physical costs you’d have if you do not act. Make a list of the impact in the short, medium and long terms.

By answering these questions, we realize that inaction is more risky than change.

We suffer more often in imagination than in reality


4. Identify your flow

Learn to recognize your optimal experiences. 

Listen to what thrills you and makes you want to get up in the morning. Identify your “flow”.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a Hungarian psychologist, associates happiness with what he calls “the optimal experience, the flow”.

These are the moments when you know you belong. You are in harmony, in sync with what you do. You’re focused, disconnected from the outside world. You are perfectly committed to your tasks and what you are doing, and you don’t feel the time going by. 

What you experience in these moments is what he calls your “flow”.  You are at the height of your involvement, commitment, and satisfaction. 

By analyzing these moments you will discern what fires you up and that will be a new step towards the path of your development.

However, this does not mean that you have to pursue something solely associated with your flow. Your flow is an indicator, a map, a compass. 

To go further in the exercise I invite you to:

  • Look for 5 to 10 moments of flow in your life as a child, teenager, or adult. It can be professional or personal. 
  • For each of these moments ask yourself these questions:
    • What was the context? Was I alone, in a small group, in a large group? In what kind of place / setting / atmosphere? Was I inside or outside? 
    • What was I doing concretely, what was my role? 
    • Why did I like this moment? What did I get out of it?
    • From there, analyze if there are recurring patterns in between. 

For example, you love cooking, it’s your flow, but being a chef may not attract you at all… 

Well, It doesn’t matter!  What is important is to analyze the skills you are using and describe what you like about cooking and why you like cooking. 

What environment are you in? Do you interact with people?

And what qualities stand out when you cook? You are meticulous, precise, conscientious, imaginative, creative?

This analysis is an additional insight into yourself and what you like to do, which is a great asset to build a meaningful life.

5. Determine your own definition of success

Often we define our success through the lens of what society expects, or what our surroundings expect.

But there is no uniform and universal model of success. 

My definition of success is not the same as my neighbor’s, or my family’s definition of success. This is why we must identify what comes from societal and family injunctions in order to dissociate ourselves from them. 

We must take a step back from what we have been taught and repeated since our childhood to identify what success means for us and not for our parents, grandparents, friends, society!

6. Put guilt aside

We live in a guilt society. Social media creates a regime of perfection where our whole life, our body, our work, our family, etc. must be “instagramable“.

This society of the “perfect picture” is exhausting and above all far from reality. There is a permanent and insidious pressure to be at the top. But at the top of what? Filtered images and a reality that’s often truncated?

Focus on yourself and your truth, the important thing is not to be at the height of what society dictates but to be at the height of your objectives, your life, your development. Create your own unit of measurement.  

We are led to believe that everything is only a matter of willingness. That it’s easy and perfect.

“Don’t talk, just act. Don’t say, just do it”.

As a result of this, we feel guilt. Not only for daring to listen to ourselves but also for the fact that not everything is so simple.

It’s not you!  Don’t feel guilty anymore!!  Beware of stories that look easy and perfect in appearance because deep down, I assure you, everyone doubts, everyone is afraid. Your apprehensions are normal and reassuring!

It is your reptilian brain trying to protect you. If you had no fears, then I’d be worried for you. Your fears are your security and, therefore (paradoxically), a source of tranquility.

7. Change your views about failure

Fear of failure can be a barrier to change. Popular wisdom says that it is better to live with remorse than with regret. I think it is more enjoyable to aim for a summit and stop at the base camp than not even going to the base camp.

The word failure is associated with so many negative emotions, it seems so consequential: “If I fail in changing careers, what will I think of myself? Of my abilities? Of my qualities? What will others think?

Fear is necessary but the fear of failure is dreadful.

In your desire to change, regardless of the outcome you will have grown and learned a lot. You’ll be able to be proud of the journey you have made.

Rather than telling yourself that you have failed, ask yourself for a moment about everything that it has allowed you to discover. And don’t forget that most of the time, the people who judge are unhappy or embittered beings who will never have the courage to do ¼ of what you have done!

8. Take action (cautiously)

A journey of a thousand miles always begins with a first step.

Lao Tzu

Before you jump off the 10-meter diving board, you’ll start with the 3-meter one, right? Well, for your career change it’s the same thing. Before taking the big leap it’s better to start with small steps.

In his book One Small Step Can Change Your Life, Dr. Maurer explains that a successful change is made gradually, progressively. He relies on the Kaizen method whose goal is to take small steps to accomplish a large goal. A small step for you, a big step for your future!

According to Dr. Maurer, our brains need a certain amount of time to understand change. An overly abrupt change can lead to paralyzing fear, destroying any action for change.

So it is better to do small actions every day to get your brain used to the change. Here’s a podcast talking about his method.

This does not mean that we should not be bold. You will inevitably leave your comfort zone, but slowly and with concrete, accessible, rewarding objectives that will take you step-by-step to your destination. For example, if you are interested in a profession, you can start by working as a volunteer in that field. You will gain experience and make sure you actually like the job before quitting everything for it.

What matters is not the size of the step but the attention you put into it.

9. Breathe along the way

Finally and perhaps most importantly, breathe, meditate, refocus on yourself and the present moment.

Your brain is boiling and you may have trouble sleeping. Find 10 minutes a day in the morning or evening to land and reconnect with your body. You can try out this methodology for that purpose.

And don’t feel guilty thinking it’s a waste of time. Focusing on your breathing will revitalize your brain by emptying it of its anxious thoughts.

Doing something else will allow your subconscious creativity to work. At first, I would force myself to stay in front of a screen even when I was saturated. Believe me, it was not the right solution.

I noticed that it was when I was doing something to distract myself that my creativity grew and my ideas emerged. Your brain is like a human, it needs to breathe to recharge its batteries and remain efficient.

Moreover, if you want to go far, you must preserve yourself, otherwise you may lose your breath and stop.

You’re on a marathon, not on a sprint! Results happen over time not over a night.

Persistence matters more than the speed.

Long term consistency trumps short term intensity.

Bruce Lee

I hope this post helps you find some guidance to support your career change process. I wrote about it because I know how difficult it is and how lost we can be.

You should be proud of yourself as you already took the first step by reading this article! What is gonna be your next step tomorrow?

Let me know in the comments below if you’re going through a major career change or would like to, and what actions you’re taking to get there!

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3 years ago

Hello, I have read your post about chaging carreers on The Audencia Alumni Together website. I must say that it was a pleasure to read your lines because it gave me more vision about the steps I am gexperiencing for few months as I am thinking about changing carreer. It helped me behaving more patient and more benevolent towards myself! thanks a lot for your infliuence and support in my path to change carreer!