Don't let your day job kill your dream career
Do you desire to someday enter a more passionate, more fun career? One of the biggest blocks I see to such a career goal is a draining day job that depletes you so much that you have no energy left to spend on paving your longer term path. If you’re in this struggle and want practical advice that sets you up to transition to your dream career within the next year, this blog is for you! Read on for my powerful prevention strategy so your day job doesn't kill your dream career.
The Winning Strategy: A "Transition Role"
The first thing to know is that career change toward more meaningful work takes time and does not happen overnight. That means you need to be thinking ahead and taking calculated action to pave the path to where you ultimately want to go. You first need reflective time and space to explore what type of work you’d love and is within your genius zone. Then, when you identify a new line of work you’re interested in, a great way to prepare for making that change is to test and play in that area to build up confidence and clarity before actually starting in this new line of work as your full time employment or business.
What I’ve experienced and advise my clients who want career change toward more meaningful work but are starting out in a high-pressure work situation is to consider what I call a “transition role.” Most simply put, a transition role involves strategically taking on a new role that feels lighter and gives you the time and space to explore what’s next in your career path. It is not your dream job. It is temporary. It is a bridge between your high pressure dissatisfying work and creating the career you love and where your work feels like play. Inside your transition role, you use the extra time you have from the lesser demands to either explore your genius and learn the work you’d love to do or you begin testing and exploring the new area of work you know you want to ultimately move into.
I know this strategy well and have personally proven it effective. As a rising star lawyer, I held the desire in my heart to discover work that more aligned with my true self, yet I needed time and space to discover my passions and who I was. The biggest block I faced was that law firm life did not allow me free time or space for self-discovery. I felt stuck and needed a strategy. In an "aha moment," I realized I could quit my firm and instead work as a freelance legal writer as a temporary way to make money while I figured out my next career move.
In this consulting (vs. employee) role, I knew I could make my own schedule and choose projects I wanted to work on. This meant I was no longer a slave to someone else’s demands and I could make time for self-discovery and testing my ideas around alternative career paths. I felt confidence that I could easily get work because in law school I had done freelance legal writing and I knew my former clients would be happy to hire me again, and I also suspected my law firm would be happy keep me on my current writing projects as a freelancer.
The strategy worked! I worked as a freelancer/consultant for one year, and during that time I tested out career ideas that all led me to my next big career move. I interviewed for and was hired as the founding managing director of an emerging nonprofit advancing women and girls professionally - Step Up Women's Network - which was a perfect fit for my passions and talents at that time. (Read and be inspired by my full career transition story HERE).
The 4-Part Formula for Your Perfect Transition Role
If you now realize that your day job is killing your dream career, a transition role might be your perfect bridge. To begin your move into a transition role, your first step is to create a vision for it. And so, I have developed a 4-part formula to help you do just that. Fun enough, the 4 elements spell L-O-V-E, and so you can use that to remember the formula. Your perfect transition role will help you do these 4 things:
1. Live comfortable
A good transition role earns you the minimum amount of money you need per month or more. You want to spend some time before seeking out a transition role figuring out the minimum earnings you need to support your household, and write that amount into your career transition vision. If you are the sole breadwinner, this only includes what you will earn. If you are sharing expenses with a partner, you want to determine the total you must earn during your transition period to contribute to the household. It may be ok for you and your partner to live on less than the salary of your current highly demanding day job - and that helps take a whole lot of pressure off.
2. Own your schedule
A key factor to a transition role helping you move on to a new career is that it allows you to own your own time. Before seeking out a role, you want to set your specifications on what owning your schedule means for you. For example, you might be happy with a 9-5 schedule rather than your current role where you are on call 24/7. Or you might want to be a freelancer that works during your own set schedule at about 30 hours per week. Bottom line, in an effective transition role, you will create more space, energy, and flexibility to pursue your longer term career dream. You have the power without restriction of someone else's demands on you!
3. Validate your new path
A bonus feature of a great transition role is that it helps you grow to explore and prepare for your next career. For example, what you do in your transition role can help you strengthen skills, develop new skills, or gain experience in a new industry that helps you prove that your dream career path is right for you. For example, if you are moving from an executive management role and are curious to create a business in the field of health and wellness, you might take a consulting role using existing skills in a wellness company. Or when I was a lawyer and curious about doing charity work, I took on a project to organize a charity fundraiser. These opportunities in your new areas of interest give you the chance to test out and validate that the new path is right for you.
4. Experience ease
Most important of all, your transition role moves you out of high stress and into ease. When you are experiencing ease in your day job, you have head space and physical energy to give toward exploring or pursuing your dream career. Basically, this means that the work you do in your transition role will feel easy. You apply skills that you already have and that energize you to share. A transition role is not the time to aim for the next higher role. Instead it is sideways step or even a step backwards. As you set your specific vision for a transition role, identify up front what skills you want to apply in this job that will be a fun and easy expression for you.
Creating Your Vision + Assessing Opportunity
As it worked for me, I have since coached several clients in demanding positions to use this strategy to shift toward a dream career. Using my formula, the first step is to write out your career transition vision following the 4 part-formula. Your vision will basically lay out:
- The minimum money you want to earn
- Your schedule specifications
- The new areas or skills you are interested to explore
- The skills you want to focus on in your role
With this written vision, you now want to clarify where there is opportunity for you in what you want to do. Here are a few transition role fast facts to help you:
A transition role can be in your current company. This may make your work even easier because you are not trying to learn a new company.
A transition role can be working under a new person. Sometimes a job is stressful just because of the people you are working with, and so a change in leadership you work under can make a new role feel much less demanding.
A transition role might feel like a step back in pay or experience, and that is ok! The big idea is to create extra space for whatever is needed to make your shift. This transition role is a bridge to loving your work!
A transition role can be in freelancing or consulting work like I did. To consider this route, look around you - do you know people who would hire you for your strongest skill set in the industry you are already in?
A transition role can involve multiple jobs that help you meet all 4 parts of the formula. You might for example have one high paying role using skills you have developed over many years, and then you might take a lesser paying role where you explore your new areas of interest.
With your clear vision and a plan for action, you will begin to see opportunity. To assess an opportunity, simply run it through the vision you created from the 4-part formula to determine if it is a right transition role for you. Also consider this: you want a potential transition role to pass the "easy" test. In other words, never try to force yourself into a role. When something comes with ease, it is right for you. To pass the easy test, you want to examine: Does this door open with ease and feel in flow? Does moving here feel more aligned than the work I am doing and the environment I am in now? If the opportunity fits your vision and you answer "yes" to these questions - go for it!
A Few Final Thoughts
Before deciding to apply the strategy of a transition role, you want to first get clear as a threshold inquiry that you are ready to leave the job you are in and possibly let go of a long time career path. When it is the right time to quit, you know it without a doubt. If you are feeling doubt, most likely that means you’re not ready and there are still things to work out before you will feel at peace with making change. Don’t be discouraged if you don't feel ready to leave your current role, whatever you are meant to learn there will prepare you for your dream career.
Also a consideration, some of you might think that rather than a transition role you might take some extended time off of work. A sabbatical is great if that is what you truly need. However, for someone in the active pursuit of creating a new career you love, I find a transition role is better than no role. Checking out of work and disengaging from service altogether might seem like an effective strategy, but I've seen that a life with no structure can lead to no progress. So, I recommend you engage somehow in your new path, even if that is simply doing volunteer work. (Read my article HERE on volunteer work leading to a dream career).
And finally, remember the point of your transition role is to create time and space for exploring and planning your new path, so be sure to put that into your plan somehow. Indeed, you might consider the work of exploring and planning like your new part-time job. Give it focus and watch the magic unfold!
About the Author: Gina Marotta loves work and wants you to as well! She writes, speaks, and coaches on career change toward loving your work. Gina is a two-time career changer herself, and she understands the plight of modern professionals as a former criminal defense lawyer, former executive nonprofit leader, and now as an entrepreneur and social justice activist. Gina has been featured in media outlets like: The Huffington Post, WGN Radio, and CBS Chicago News. She has also been recognized among 50 under 50 by Diversity MBA Magazine and one of 100 Women Making a Difference by Today's Chicago Woman Magazine.