I work with many people who are ambivalent about their careers. They say they want to leave their careers but don’t have a clue about how to take the next step. It can be hard to know how to get to your second act.

There are people who picked the wrong field altogether, but could they stay in a related part of the field and find happiness? There are people who would not like any kind of work and probably need to keep that Nike ad in mind – “Just Do It,” or the popular saying: “That’s why they call it work and pay you to do it.”

Like a tangled ball of yarn, it can be very hard to untangle the confusion we experience when we do not like what we are doing for a living. How to start to untangle the yarn?

14202199100_c1d8c57e35Every person’s situation is unique and needs to be assessed carefully. However, I have learned over the years that there are two important predictors that will tell me if clients are likely to leave their current career and move on to something else. These predictors are: 1) the motivators and 2) the obstacles.

Motivation includes something you could call a “carrot” or even more than one “carrot.”  People who are strongly drawn to something else because they are very interested, excited, or even passionate about the topic or the activity are more likely to take the steps that will get them out the door of the old and into something new. They often have the drive to try to break with the status quo and achieve something different in their lives.  The act of going towards something that offers rewards and promises enjoyment can be powerful. For example, people who really enjoy thinking about fashion or love to design restaurants or want to figure out how to code are excited about the prospect of spending time doing what they love. People may be excited about a particular mission, such as remedying homelessness or improving the education system or putting a stop to human trafficking, and that eagerness to support a mission propels them forward. Another motivator can be economic. If you need to make more money because you have a new baby in your family, you are going to look for something that will get you what you need and that will improve your sense of security.

Motivation also includes something you could call “sticks.” What you hate about your current work situation can motivate you to work hard to get away from whatever you cannot stand. A bad boss, a lack of aptitude or interest in the work itself, insufficient challenge, inadequate pay, long hours, and a lack of work-life balance are just a few of the negatives that can motivate people to dig in and push to get to their next act. One of the biggest sticks can be a lack of interest in the content area you think about or activities you do at the current job/career.

And then there are the obstacles. Even when motivation exists, if the obstacles are too great, my clients are unlikely to achieve success. Obstacles are like weights and the more weight you have piled on you, the harder it is to move. Weights such as student debt, lack of energy to stay the course, fearfulness and second guessing yourself, unsupportive parents or spouses, as well as other obstacles can multiply the difficulty of a career move and will inhibit change.

Getting to your next act can be a challenge, but if you are motivated and do not have too many obstacles, you can get there.

photo credit: Smiling businessman via photopin (license)