Start At The Beginning

When you’re considering a career change the very best starting point I can suggest is for you to begin to capture all your career ideas in one place. Let’s call it an Ideas Bank. One possibility is a folder which you just keep everything in. You may prefer a ring binder or a box, a drawer, or you may prefer to make a collage of your ideas. A collage works really well, especially if you’re a “visual” kind of person.

What goes into the Ideas Bank? Anything from fully formed ideas (I think I might like to be a wildlife photographer), to a concept (I’d like to help people) or an environment (I’d like to work in a more creative atmosphere), a skill you’d like to use (I want to write), a dream (I’ve always wanted to design fashion).…. It can be a single word or a job ad clipped from a magazine. It could be a photograph of someone enjoying an activity. Be creative and get involved, as it’s really vital to the effectiveness of the process.

The key thing is that every idea is stored in one place. You’re aiming to pack it full of possibilities. This is a “blue sky” process – you’re not looking for logical, rational, realistic job possibilities – or not only. The Ideas Bank is the place for any passing thought, concept, dream, wish, desire relevant to your working life. So try not to “edit” yourself at this stage.
Kickstart Your Ideas Bank

Open the jobs section of a broadsheet newspaper and give yourself ten minutes to go through it quickly, skimming the job ads. You can pick out “whole jobs” or just words and phrases which appeal to you. Look for at least 15 words, phrases or jobs. Highlight anything which evokes some kind of gut response in you. Don’t censor yourself. (“Ah but that job is in Singapore….”) and don’t analyze the reasons behind your responses. Tear out all the ads or parts of ads you have highlighted and add them to your Ideas Bank. It is best to do this with a general jobs supplement so you get plenty of variety.

You can print out stuff you find on internet sites or tear out of other newspapers, together with articles, jottings from conversations with friends, images and thoughts you have.

Draw On Past Dreams

Revisit all those careers you dreamed you might do when you were 6, 11, 15, 18 years old: Train driver, fashion model, astronaut, brain surgeon…. Put a note in your Ideas Bank and just keep an open mind at this stage. I often call this being in a mode of “Constant Enquiry” – for example you might see someone doing a job; let’s take a window cleaner; the job itself might not appeal, but are there any elements of the job that appeal? – working for yourself, working outdoors, meeting new people, deciding your own hours – get the idea? When you’re seriously planning a career change all of this activity helps no end, and weaves into part of a programme that I work through with my clients.

Window on the world

From now on, as you go through your daily life, keep an eye out for the jobs that people around you are doing. What you’re looking for is aspects or factors of people’s jobs that appeal to you. So, you see a window cleaner up a ladder, you know you don’t want to be a window cleaner (probably!) but ask yourself what does appeal to you about that job, the answer may be “working for myself, working in the outdoors, working the hours I fancy, meeting lots of different kinds of people”. Get it? Capture everything, and put the ideas that appeal to you in your Ideas Bank. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to engage with this idea, if you’re to truly explore your career change options to the fullest.


So you’ve generated a heap of ideas using this process over perhaps 4 or 6 weeks. What next? Lay everything out in front of you and look for themes (not jobs); e.g. working with people, helping, IT, animals, teaching, selling… This list (and by now it will probably be a big list!) has to be mainly* your own interpretation (*part of my role is to help people to “see” themes). What you’re looking to do is get three main themes to choose from. After you have got three themes, you eventually need to decide on one theme that you want to seriously pursue further.

This whole process is a small part of an entire career change programme covering values, skills and lots of other background exploration, so is not an isolated activity, but I hope it provides you with a means to start generating ideas to help you towards that rewarding new career!