Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time networking and meeting people for informational interviews. A couple of the people I’ve talked to recently have been in similar situations; they’re in careers that they don’t really like and want to do something different, but since they’re so entrenched in their current field, they have no idea how or where to start thinking about what they should be doing instead of what they’re doing now.
“I’m just so done being a lawyer,” one told me. “I think I want to do marketing. Or something. I don’t know.”
This is a conversation that I’m having more and more frequently. People know they can’t stand doing what they’re doing — it’s boring, or it’s draining, or it’s unfulfilling creatively. Basically, other than the paycheck they’re collecting, it’s a negative in their life.
So where do you start when you’re smart, you’re accomplished, but you have no idea what else you could do that would be totally different?
I start by asking these folks a few simple questions:
- What gives you energy?
Is it writing? Is it reading? Is it interviewing people, learning more about them? Is it drawing? Is it being outside? What would you do all day or for hours on end, happily, if you could?
- And, what sucks your energy?
Is it doing the same thing over and over? Is it dealing with petty office politics? Is it commuting?
One lawyer I spoke with started by giving me a list of things that she seemed indifferent at best about: “Well, I guess I’m interested in policy. I went to school for Social Work.”
My response? “Come on, be for real. Don’t tell me what you think you’re supposed to like. What actually gives you energy? No matter how weird, or silly, or uncool.”
When pushed, it turned out that she lit up when she started talking about loving romance novels and learning about new people. She hated having to do the same thing over and over again as a lawyer, and she hated writing legal briefs.
Taking these things together, and we started building an image of what she could be doing that would be energizing and inspiring … something she could do that would make her feel alive and ready to learn new skills. Her crazy idea? Start a podcast of her interviewing romance novelists about their new books.
She started out by saying she wanted to do marketing, but she knew nothing about marketing or what that would even mean professionally. By identifying where her energy — and her passions — lie, we were able to come up with a project that she could work on and start to learn how to market. She’d need to figure out how to tell people about her podcast, and she’d need to get users. She’d need to pitch authors to participate. All of these things are essential skills for any marketer, and in this way, she’d be able to teach herself while having fun doing it.
And, she’d end up with some real experience that she could use to move herself into a different career.