The Psychology of Career Change
I attended a presentation this morning on the psychology of career change. The presenter was Tom Boyd, a cognitive psychologist who is also a university business school dean. He was excellent. He is also an experienced career-changer, starting as a swim coach, then product manager, psychology professor and college dean.
You need to discover (1) Why you want to make a career change and (2) why you haven’t already made a change.
The analysis of change begins with a life hierarchy:
Your job occupies a lower level on this life hierarchy. This is an important concept so that your job and career do not determine your life purpose and goals. That is the tail wagging the dog.
A second framework for career change analysis is the “Means-End Chain.” This involves appreciating the relationships among activity attributes, consequences (functional and psycho-social) and values (self).
Career change is a form of personal reinvention. We must understand the level of reinvention (purpose, goals, etc.) before jumping off the career-change cliff. Be sure your desire for change is not rooted in some other personal need.
“Dabbling” in different career-related activities as a career-change precursor makes a lot of sense if done with purpose.
The big three reasons why we don’t make career changes:
- Necessity trumping your life purpose
- Fear of change
Finally, you must develop a personal career change strategy, while being certain that your strategy does not dictate your purpose. Begin your strategy with a serious self-examination of your life purpose and goals.
After the session, I asked Dr. Boyd about this pop psychology assertion: “Pursue your passion and the money will follow.” He responded that this has some but not much merit. The problem, he said, is that too many folks jump from passion to change, without preparation in-between. Can you say failed restaurants?
Lots to think about for baby boomer career-changers. I say go for it.
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