I am often asked for the very first step in making a big career change, such as the leap into entrepreneurship that this reader aspires to:
I work as a saleslady but I have a vision of starting my own business one day – Bongi
The specific action steps that are best for you will be customized to you – where you are starting from, what your goal is, what resources (time, money, expertise) you have. That said, the very first step that is applicable to anyone who aspires to make a change is to get started with doing something, anything right away.
When you have a notion that you want something different, getting active reinforces that notion . That action builds excitement and momentum, and you get a snowball effect which helps keep you going. Even if the action you choose ultimately points you in a different direction (maybe that first step wasn’t quite right or the goal itself needs to be tweaked) by doing something you actually realize you need to course-correct.
When you’re starting from scratch, a small action seems more doable. Even better, starting small is also a smart move. You don’t want to plunk down thousands of dollars to buy into a franchise or commit to a long-term class when you’re not 100% certain what you need and want. You do not need a lot of time or money to get started, if you start with small action steps.
Here are five small action steps to get started on your dream career right now:
1 – Get physical
If it’s been a while that you have made a change, career or otherwise, you’ll be battling inertia and potentially bad habits, like decompressing with some mindless Internet or TV and then suddenly your after-work time is gone. Practice getting active by getting physically active – take a walk, do an exercise video, or pick something that doesn’t require a lot of set up or planning. You’ll get some energy from the physical movement, and you’ll also build in active time into your free time, which you can then switch out for a specific career activity once you’re clearer on what you need to do.
2 – Journal your ideas
You can also earmark your down time for writing in a dream journal the ideas for your new career. Each idea will likely require research and additional action steps. If you pursue each idea as it comes to you, you may get bogged down in the process and lose momentum. Instead, make it easy on yourself and set aside your first week or two for just the idea generation. This keeps you focused on the big dream and the excitement of it.
3 – Get visual
In addition to writing about your dream and the ideas that follow, you can create a vision board to give you more tangible inspiration. You can collect images off the Internet and create a Pinterest board or other electronic vision board that you refer to regularly. Or if you’re more tactile, take a stack of magazines and create a live board.
4 – Get inspired – find success stories
If you’re like Bongi and going from a traditional job to entrepreneurship, you’re probably surrounded by more traditional employees than business owners. It may be tempting to fall into old patterns of thought and behavior. Instead, start saving articles and other mentions of people living the dream career you envision. Once you start looking for real-life examples of career change, you’ll notice more and more. You’ll get a steady stream of inspiration, and your own career change will seem that much more doable.
5 – Get educated – find resources
Once you’re all charged up with ideas and inspiration, you’ll want to get more hands-on with your new career. Still, you don’t need to spend a lot of time and money to start. Hold of on deciding to go to graduate school, or some other big investment. There are plenty of blogs that cover career and business. Or you can stock up on free books from the library – this book on solo-person businesses that generate millions is both inspirational and informative. Make it a game to learn one new thing about your dream career each day.
Whatever small action step you pick to get started, at the early stage, it’s most important that you just get started . I have changed careers multiple times over the last 25+ years of professional work. Most recently, my career malaise turned into a new business in Costa Rica. I’m a native New Yorker, so a business abroad seems like a radical shift. However, I started small (jotting down ideas, reading inspiring case studies), built from there (diving deeper with relevant publications and memberships), and then made a bigger leap when I felt more sure of the direction I really wanted to go.
How about you? How can you start small, so you can start right your dream career right away?