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Characteristics of Successful Career Changers…and Career Breakers

Written By: Peggy Ingram

Posted On: May 5th, 2010

Note: Today´s guest post comes to you from my personal career coach and friend, Dr. Peggy Ingram.

Taking a Career BreakA priest who became a best-selling author and a career guru. A family counselor from Texas who now runs an art gallery in Nantucket, Massachusetts. A boat builder who bought a sporting goods store. As a career counselor, I have listened as my clients poured out their longings, dreams, and fears about work, and about their challenges ahead for finding a new job. My clients and research subjects taught me a thing or two about career change, and the characteristics of those who dared to dream about making a move…and then succeeding. The stories told to me by these folks over the course of my study were inspirational, and their innate characteristics stood out clearly as I listened, recorded, analyzed, chronicled and coached.  Some of their traits are undoubtedly shared by those taking career breaks, whether a short break for renewal or a longer break for a new viewpoint on work/life.

A change on the horizon caused different reactions in those facing inevitable transition. Some exhibited shock and dread, while others rushed right into the process of change. So, as I approached the dissertation phase of my Ph.D. program, I was interested in studying the traits of people who were fulfilled by change. I analyzed the paths of many who made a successful mid-life career change, and those who successfully transformed their lives as a result. Specifically, what were their traits? What was intrinsic to their personality that made them what I call, Career Change Stars?

Characteristics of Career Change Stars

  1. Are Brutally Self-Aware and Self-Analytical. My Career Change Stars tell themselves the “tough truths” about their situations, their strengths, their weaknesses, and chances for improvement. Therefore, their progression toward career change was realistic.  Their gravitation was toward honest possibility, not “pie in the sky” outcomes.
  1. Have Optimistic Outlooks.  Having made a realistic plan for change, Career Change Stars anticipate a successful outcome. They are self-described as confident and courageous. They do not see negative situations as permanent or personal, and they believe that they can change things in their life for the better.
  1. Are Risk-TakersCareer Change Stars are comfortable with risk-taking: risk was an integral part of their lives. They are not afraid of failure; they are challenged by it, and take it as a matter of course, not a catastrophe.  Remember, as stated above, to them no situation is permanent.
  1. Accept the Inevitability of Setbacks.  In today’s ever-changing working world, it is known that no situation is permanent. Career Change Stars accept that there will be setbacks along the way and that no situation is permanent. They have what I call “an inner gyroscope” that resets them on the right path when they veer into bleak situations. They stay focused on their long-range goals, working their way back on track.

Career Break AdviceLessons Learned for Your Career Break

So, what about you career breakers? People like you face a myriad of career issues, and seek a career break to sort out your work/life issues. Some of you know your job is no longer a fit; you need time away from the workplace to plan their next career move. Some of you are looking for inspiration and fulfillment outside of work and want time for humanitarian projects. Many of you are dealing with the negative results of burnout, and want to see if a career break might re-energize you. Others of you are in a personal crisis, and simply need time away. So, how do the characteristics of my Career Change Stars apply to you to make sure you get the most out of your career break?

  1. Be honest about yourself and your situation. This is an imperative for any successful change whether temporary or permanent. A realistic self-appraisal is the beginning to any change plan. The concept of self-analysis and “tough truths” is essential for anyone requiring time for contemplation.  Don’t expect to become a new and better version of yourself during a break, but use the time to figure out what will be best in the future for you and your personality preferences and skills set. Perhaps you are facing a personal change in your life, and you have a need to evaluate how your job must support you, financially and creatively.
  1. Have courage of conviction.  Travel requires courage for the challenges of the road. This is true whether you are on your own or with a group heading into a crisis to offer aid. Taking a break, whether a trip with a specific purpose and a clear beginning and end, or an open-ended, personal investigative adventure, requires resilience. Initiating change is risky, but it is far riskier to ignore your dreams.
  1. Think Through What Could Go Wrong, Plan Accordingly…Then Act. Make a plan, tell yourself the tough truths about yourself, dare to dream big. Most of all, cultivate optimism. All the Career Change Stars know that at some point past planning, action is required. Act with vision toward the future, there is no other path to change.

Peggy IngramDr. Ingram (pictured at left) is a retired career counselor, motivational speaker and adjunct professor living in Houston, Texas.

The first two images´ copyrights belong to Image one is Graur Razvan Ionut. Image two is from Salvatore Vuono.

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2 Responses to “Characteristics of Successful Career Changers…and Career Breakers”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jeff Jung. Jeff Jung said: Guest Post: What U Can Learn From #Career Changers About A Successful #CareerBreak #travel #gapyear #sabbatical [...]

  2. Sherry Ott says:

    I’ve never considered myself an optimist – however I do feel like I have control of my life and can change things for the better…so I guess that is key!
    Nice article! I think I’m still in the midst of my career change – but it’s been going on for 3 yrs now!

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