5 Tips for Anyone Changing Careers to Discover the One They Will Be Happy and Successful In


The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.” — Amelia Earhart

“How dare you settle for less when the world has made it so easy for you to be remarkable?” — Seth Godin

Are you looking for or needing a career change? Recent studies show that you’re not alone, millions of other Americans are as well.

  • Gallup estimate that about 70% of U.S. workers are not engaged in their jobs.

Some voluntary changes are made to get a better opportunity, but the majority are because people are not happy at work for a variety of reasons. The most frequent reason is that they do not feel appreciated.

Unfortunately, many workers stay at their new jobs for less than a few years. Then they begin the process of change all over again.

The purpose of this article is to provide a pathway for anyone to determine a new career/job that they will be good at and passionate about. This will allow them to:

  • Be highly engaged in their new career.

There are 5 things you can do to discover your best new career.

1. Define Your Goals In Detail

No one can get anywhere unless he knows where he wants to go and what he wants to be or do. — Norman Vincent Peale

If you are unhappy with your current job, your ultimate goal should be to transition into a new career that you will:

  • Be both happy and successful in.

You must establish a goal that is much more specific than simply ‘I want a new job that I will like better than my current situation.’

Instead, you should have clear goals about the characteristics of your next job and know the actions necessary to achieve those goals. For example, your goals should be something like, I want to get a new position:

  • Doing assignments I will be both good at and passionate about.

The actions necessary to achieve these goals should include the following:

1. Determine a career that:

  • Your current skills will reflect related experience in.

2. Doing ‘homework’ of organizations requiring this type of career and that meet the goals criteria.

3. Learning details of the current types of work for any candidate organizations.

4. Establishing a career-related network.

The following sections provide guidance for implementing each of these actions.

2. Discover A Very Good Career for You

Based on research of many career-related articles and books, we can conclude that many adults change jobs and/or careers every 2 to 3 years because they keep striving, by trial and error, to find a situation they will be both good at and happy in.

We strongly recommend that the next time you feel a change is needed, apply the time and effort to actually determine the 1 or 2 careers that would be best for you. Research shows that when people get into the right career, they change jobs much less frequently (and if they do change, it is usually for positive advancements!).

I found these factors very intriguing and decided to incorporate several chapters on the topic of ‘discover your best career’ in a book I was writing, Career Happiness and Success. The chapters explain how students can discover their best career and related major before entering college as well as how adults transitioning into new careers can discover their best next new career.

In doing research for those chapters, I discovered that none of the existing career-selecting ‘tools’ are adequate or reliable for making career decisions. The basis for this conclusion is provided in my Forbes article titled The Danger Of Making Life Decisions From Career Assessments — And How To Make Good Decisions.

Three major problems with the existing career-selecting tools are: 1) they only consider your personality or aptitude characteristics, 2) they provide no guidance for determining important characteristics of candidate careers they identify, and 3) they dump handfuls of careers into your lap without any way for you to narrow it down to your top 1 or 2 careers.

I began working with family and friends to develop a more comprehensive program to overcome these limitations. We discovered that there actually are five key characteristics of ‘you’ that must be considered. These are:

1. Personality: Personality relates to the psychological characteristics that determine an individual’s thoughts, emotions, and behavior. The most popular personality assessment test is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator that tells you which of 16 Personality Types best match you.

2. Your Natural Abilities: What are you naturally good at doing (or not doing)? Are you a hands-on, fix-anything kind of person? Are you a great writer or speaker? Do you excel at math? We decided to use the MAPP Assessment test, which provides you with your Aptitude and Trait characteristics.

3. Areas of Interest: Choosing a career based on topics you enjoy is essential. Do you love problem-solving, counseling, working with computers, etc.? What do you spend your time on?

4. Work Preferences: Do you prefer to work alone or in a group, indoors or outside, at home or in an office, in a competitive or calm atmosphere, in a large or small organization?

5. Inherent Traits: Your traits include your innate desires, such as preferring change and variety as opposed to being comfortable with familiar activities, and choosing managing operations rather than developing strategies.

In addition to these 5 characteristics of you, I determined the following career characteristics to be most important:

  • How much is the career projected to grow for the foreseeable future, including consideration of AI and automation impacts?

With this expanded knowledge, I developed a 4 Step, process of elimination program considering all of these characteristics for anyone to discover their top 2 careers. Details of the program and how it can be purchased in provided in our website PATH2.net.

3. Begin to Build a Career Related Network

“Networking is an investment in your business. It takes time and when done correctly can yield great results for years to come.” — Diane Helbig

There are lots of articles that explain the importance of career networking and different ways to develop meaningful networks. The following highlights about networking are not meant to be all-inclusive. Instead, many networking suggestions can be found in the four references at the end of this section.

The high level of importance of career networking illustrated in the references are:

  • Person-to-person networking is the most effective way of finding a new job. Networking had a 46 percent effectiveness rate while searching for a new job.

I do recommend that as soon as you determine your best new career (per Section 2) you begin learning as much about organizations that have demand for that career and the most current topics they are interested in. This ‘foundation’ of information will be very useful for establishing meaningful communications in all networking activities or while pursuing specific employment opportunities.

Immediate career information sources are:

  • The U.S. Labor Department’s O*Net OnLine extensive career database. Simply type the career title in the ‘Occupation Quick Search’ box on the site's home page; click on the “Jobs Openings” tab; enter your geographic area of interest; and you will get current job openings by many employers and descriptions of required career activities.

Most Associations have Annual meetings/conventions. A list of general topics and speeches that will be presented will also indicate the most important current topics related to that career.

If the Society or Association has a local chapter, it will be worthwhile to contact its representative to get advice on how to connect with local members.

This type of background information is especially important for a career transition that is aimed at positions well above a beginner. The ability to show extensive knowledge about the career can do a lot to minimize concerns of you not having direct experience.

Networking References:

The Importance of Networking (and How to Do It Well) — Amanda Augustine, TopResume.

7 Ways to Build a Strong Network — Dan Schawbel, American Express.

The Networking Email That Works Every Time — Danny Rubin, TopResume.

The Importance of Career Networking — Alison Doyle, the balancecareers

4. Determine the Best Employer

Choosing the best employer is pretty much dependent on whether you are interested in having: 1) having a steady and secure job you will enjoy and be good at; or 2) a job that has potential for high employee growth.

In the first case, it will probably be best to find a relatively large, stable organization that has the following types of characteristics:

  • High reputation in their market places and in your career area.

Because of its size, it will be difficult to be promoted to management positions, But it will have low risk and a very enjoyable atmosphere to work in.

On the other hand, if you want to have the opportunity to grow rapidly in responsibility, you will want to find a relatively small, high-energy organization in a rapidly growing market. My early career experience illustrates why this is the case.

I went to nine years of night school to get my Bachelor’s degree and had the opportunity to work for a number of organizations before I graduated. Two of these were large, low-growth companies where I was a draftsman. In those cases, it was clear that regardless of how good of a job I did, there was no potential for advancement into a management position.

Another employer of mine was a small, stable specialty contractor where I was a cost estimator. Although I learned a tremendous amount about construction, it became apparent that the owner was comfortable being the size he was. And so again, the potential to grow was nil.

I then got the opportunity to work for a small, rapidly growing Geotechnical Engineering consulting company. Geotechnical engineering was a new segment of Civil Engineering with very little competition.

This situation was completely opposite from the earlier jobs. Everyone, including the owner, was very busy and happy doing this new type of engineering. My managers were more than willing to give me as much work and responsibility as I showed I could handle.

This situation was almost perfect for applying the More, Better, Quicker concept describe in the following section. I continued to work there part-time while I attended graduate school and even got promoted during full-time summer work. After graduation, I continued to work full time with this rapidly growing company and became a Vice President in 3 years and an Executive VP in 6 years.

From these experiences, I conclude that the best opportunity for a career transitioning adult to get hired and grow fast is by joining a relatively small organization:

  • With less than 200 or 300 employees.

A company as large as 500 employees, or a new division of a larger organization, could also be candidates — but only if management is directly involved so that extraordinary performance is visible and decisions will not be “political.”

5. Get the Maximum Out of Your New Opportunity

“Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.” — Bobby Unser

Early in my career, I researched what the differentiator is that separates the few who succeed at an unusually fast pace from the rest. My conclusion was that they were happier in their career and therefore more engaged. They always strived to perform better than expected because they loved their job and were good at it too!

Over time, I adopted and practiced the general concept of ‘always striving to perform better than expected.’ In doing so, I developed an easy-to-implement technique that almost guarantees a successful outcome.

The technique relies on completing every assignment so that the results are “More, Better and Quicker” (MBQ) than anticipated by your supervisor or customer. MBQ means:

More: Always exceeding the supervisor’s or customer’s expectations by providing a deliverable that best fits their objective.

Better: Doing the work in such a way that it’s actually a better fit for — or improves the outcome of — the big picture/goal.

Quicker: Returning the results sooner than requested. This would give your supervisor or customer more time to incorporate them into the big picture. They could also find a way for the entire big picture to be completed earlier than anticipated.

By following this Principle, I was recognized for consistently doing exceptional work that benefited my supervisor or customer. This approach was successful and essentially made me indispensable.

As a result, in the supervisor's case, I was consistently promoted faster and to higher positions than my peers. In the customer case, I frequently was able to get retained as a consultant on a non-competitive basis. This resulted in our company having a faster growth rate than our competitors.

Of course, after you complete the PATH2 program and land a job with an attractive new organization, it will be far easier to apply the MBQ principle because:

  • You are in a career that you are especially good at and passionate about, and

Wishing you happiness and success in your next position.

This article also appears in Dr. Ellison's Medium blog.