Five ways to stop drifting
and find a new career direction

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Not sure what you want to do in your career? Read this article for some valuable tips on how to figure it out.

Five ways to stop drifting and find a new career direction

Q. After several months of feeling terribly uncomfortable with my profession, I left my job and gave myself time to review my options.

But now I do not have clear goals. I drift from one idea to the next. How can I define my personal life goals?

A. We've all read about people who took time off to wrestle with a knotty question.

They become desert hermits, go on long quests or just take long walks with or without their dogs.

Some report getting flashes of vision and insight. Others return home, tired, hungry and cold, with visions of hot chocolate far more vivid than visions of life purpose.

So how do people really figure out what they want to do?

First: Prepare to live with chaos for awhile.
In Finding Your Own North Star, Martha Beck warns us not to take our early ideas too seriously. And Rick Jarow, in Creating the Work You Love, makes the same point.

One week, we want to go on pilgrimage to the east; the following week, we're considering returning to school for a law degree. This confusion seems to be an essential aspect of change, not a reason.

Second: Forget about chasing your goals the way a cat chases a mouse.
Instead, listen to your surroundings and you'll get an invitation. Does this idea seem too woo-wooish and magical?

Believe it or not, serious career researchers, following respected mainstream methods, find that serendipity plays a role in almost everyone's career change.

Third: Stay active.
Most people find their purpose (and their careers) by a zig-zag process, not a straight line.

You investigate one option. Then you consider another. It's two steps forward, one step back, and a job to the side. But if nothing's happening, you won't have a zig to use as a base for your next zag.

Fourth: Take care of the basics.
A few people find their life purpose when they're experiencing painful pressure. But most of the time, you need the leisure to explore options thoughtfully.

Panic can be the enemy of insight. Find a less-than-ideal income source to keep afloat during the journey.

Fifth: Partner with mentors and experts, but hang on to your power.
Books, counselors and coaches should help you discover processes you can use to uncover your own inner compass.

Talking to others can rekindle a fire that's gone out or overcome discouragement. But ultimately you find your new direction, which should emerge from your own actions and ideas.



Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D., is an author, speaker and career/business consultant, helping midlife professionals gain and re-gain career power.

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