Bad Career Change Advice

Did you know that most career transitions take about three years? 

I didn’t know that. I thought there was something wrong with me.

It’s been about three years since I left my career as a nonprofit fundraiser, but it’s only the last few months that I feel like I’m truly coming into my new identity.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve accomplished a lot over the past three years—launched the Women’s Changemaker Mentorship, helped numerous clients start businesses and new careers, wrote and published a bestselling book. 

On a personal level, I reconnected with myself and reframed how I want to live my life, including sitting quietly with a cup of coffee in the morning, opening our home to exchange students and managing our household while my wife scales the corporate ladder.  

Recently, I came across an article published in the Harvard Business Review that perfectly summarizes so much of what I’ve learned over the past three years.

How to Stay Stuck in the Wrong Career was written by Herminia Ibarra, an organizational behaviour professor at London Business School.

Over the next three weeks, I’m going to unpack some of the ideas that Professor Ibarra presents in her article for you.

Let’s start with the "BIG AHA" of Professor Ibarra’s study of 39 career changers:

Conventional career change methods lead to no result. People end up back in jobs similar to the ones they left.

Ugh. No one wants to hear that. But, don’t get discouraged—there is hope!

Professor Ibarra identified three career change approaches that don’t seem to work. Let's go through them. 

#1 Self-Discovery Paralysis


It’s no secret that we change over our lifetime. Who we are at 21 is probably not the same as who we are at 45. But, often, we lack the perspective of who we’ve become because we are so busy living and working. 

Self-discovery, or re-discovery, is an important part of career reinvention. The problem is when that discovery takes place too much in our heads and not enough in our actions. If you sit around waiting for inspiration to hit you, you’ll probably get stuck or disillusioned. You’ve got to get out there and try some things out.

#2 Seeking Advice from the Wrong People

Often, the people who know us best have a hard time seeing us in a different light. Change is scary, and when someone we care about wants to change, our brain wants to put that person right back where they were.This includes trusted mentors and colleagues.

In seeking advice from people in your current environment about a career change, you might find that they’ll discourage you from making a major change or they will suggest a change that is not significant enough for you. Instead of seeking advice from trusted advisors, try reaching outside your current networks and communities to get new perspectives and ideas.

#3 Rushing It

Finding your next act takes time. And it’s often not a linear path. Exploration through action is key to a successful career reinvention. You don’t have to have it figured out within one month. In fact, rushing to fill the space with a new career will probably lead to bad decisions. Take your time.

Like I said in the beginning of this post, most career transitions take three years. Now, that doesn’t have to mean you aren’t making money for three years! And, if you’ve already started down a new path and feel like it’s not right, Congratulations! You’re normal! It’s part of the process. There is no shame in course correcting.
Now that you’ve learned what not to do, next week I’m going to share with you some of Professor Ibarra’s suggestions for creating a new career that will stick.

P.S. Click here to read the original article, How to Stay Stuck in the Wrong Career.

Kirsten Bunch