Thinking of a Second Act? 5 Ways to Ease into Your Dream Career

Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash

Earlier this year when I was looking for new avenues to talk about writing and promote The Perfect NeighborhoodI joined PodMatch, a platform that connects podcast hosts and guests. 

Since signing up, I've been fortunate to have lots of fun conversations with people across the US and the UK. But one of my absolute favorite chats was hosted by fellow New Jersey native, Shannon Russell, career coach and founder of Second Act Success.  

A former executive producer who's worked for CBS and MTV, Shannon knows first-hand what it's like to pivot to a new career and bravely take on the challenges that enable you to "produce your best life" (Shannon's mantra). 

Shannon went from living in Los Angeles and working in TV to moving back to NJ to be closer to family and start a Snapology franchise, which she grew to one of the top franchises in the country. Empowered by entrepreneurship, the mom of two launched Second Act Success to help women shift to more fulfilling careers and embrace their "second acts" and ultimately achieve greater balance and satisfaction.

I love listening to Shannon's podcast because it's like eavesdropping on really interesting friends who are bold enough to pursue their dreams. Shannon's enthusiasm is infectious but she doesn't sugarcoat all it takes to turn those dreams into realities. She digs deep with her guests, who generously share the behind-the-scenes stories of how they boldly forged new paths for themselves.

Given the abundance of recent layoffs across industries and the new year looming, it felt like the perfect time to ask Shannon to offer her top strategies for cultivating a career you'll love. 

Here are her top five tips for easing into your dream career:

1.  Research, plan, and leap – I love the idea of “learn and leap,” meaning take the time to really think about what you want to do for a second act. Switching careers is not a simple step, so be sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. Make a list of potential ideas and truly vet them. Learn as much as you can about this new venture through online articles, researching companies, and of course GOOGLE. Make sure you have all the information you can, so that you are making the most informed decision possible, before you leap into this new adventure!

2. Talk to the people who know – Who is better to tell you just how incredible or how awful a role is, than someone who sits in that position every day? Informational interviews are a great way to gather more intel on your dream career from an insider. If you know someone who works in the career you are considering, then this step is easy. Simply ask that friend for his or her true take on the role. If it is a close friend, you may be able to really dig deep, asking everything you want to know about salary, benefits, and the nitty gritty details (good or bad.) If you do not know someone directly, either ask for an introduction from a friend, or feel free to find a person on a company’s website or through your LinkedIn network, and send this person a note asking for a few minutes of his or her time. This informational interview is to learn more about what they do day in and day out. You are not asking for a job; you are not asking for an introduction to the hiring manager; you are only asking for advice. It may surprise you how many people are happy to help.

3. Network and spread the word – Bringing an idea to fruition is sometimes scary, but you can ease into your career change by vocalizing it. It’s like manifesting something into your life, but this time you are not only visualizing what you want, but you are going to tell others about it as well. Begin by making a conscious effort to start telling family and friends that you are going to move into a new direction with your career. Verbalizing this dream makes it feel more real and it can be very empowering. So tell those closest to you, and then slowly start telling others too. When you are making small talk with a woman in the Target checkout line and she asks how your day is, you can say, “It’s great! I’m working on starting a new business and today has been very productive.” If you’re at a party or at an event at your child’s school, and an acquaintance asks you what you have been up to, you can say, “Things are hectic, but good. I’m actually in the process of changing jobs and I have been networking a lot lately.” These small conversations, may lead to someone offering to introduce you to someone they know who can help you. You never know what events will unfold until you start telling the universe you are ready for this change. Just beware of any naysayers who may try and talk you out of this change. Stand strong with your goal. Only you can decide what is truly right for you.

4. Set small goals – Once you make a decision on the path you would like to take, then you can start setting small goals for yourself on how to take action. Start by making a list of all of the things you will need to accomplish to actually make this dream career come to life. Start looking at the months ahead and set mini-milestones. If you decide that you want to quit your current job and transition to your new role in six months, then mark that date on your calendar. Now you can work backwards adding smaller goals or milestones to get you there. Start with something small like giving yourself one month to update your resume, polish your LinkedIn profile, or compile a list of contacts in your new field. If you will need to build out a new website, maybe you give yourself two months for that project. If you will need a new certification or training that will take longer, than factor that into your timeline. Keep this calendar visible and give yourself something to work on each week or each month to keep up your momentum. 

5. Know your why – I always tell my career-coaching clients to focus on the “why.” If you are dreaming about a new career, then spend some time asking yourself why? We all dream about quitting our job after a difficult day, but we do not want to quit and start something new just to find out the new role is not a perfect fit either. It is not always greener on the other side, or in that other field you are thinking about. So do your research on the outside, and on the inside. Will this new role fill you up? Will the hours fit with your lifestyle? Will the salary and benefits work for your family? Is there room for growth in this new role? Will you be excited to wake up every morning and start your day? Are you running away from something? Or are you running towards something greater? Be honest with yourself during this self-assessment, and be truthful with why you want to make this career change and how it will better your life. If all signs lead to yes, then you are on your way!

Love Shannon's advice? I do too! If you're interested in learning more, getting personal coaching from Shannon, or enrolling in her Second Act Accelerator course (new session starting in January!), visit her website. If you're not ready to make the "leap" just yet, check out Shannon's podcast to listen in on inspiring conversations. 

Sometimes just pondering the possibilities can provide a bit of hope.  

As always, thanks for reading!

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