Are you spending your days doing work you love? Or, are you counting the days until you can retire? Most people will spend an average of 90,000 hours working in their lifetimes. That’s one-third of your life spent at work!
Many smart, high-achieving women suffer from job burnout or feel like something is missing in their career or life. But, deciding to change careers can feel overwhelming, especially after decades of building expertise in their field.
These five strategy steps will help you get started on the path to finding your second-act dream career that makes you feel happy, satisfied, and fulfilled.
STEP 1 – Identify Your Genius Zone
STEP 2 – Define Your Values
STEP 3 – Visualize Your Ideal Career
STEP 4 – Cultivate a Powerful Mindset
STEP 5 – Propel Into Action
Before you start polishing your resume and searching through job boards, it’s important to take the time to uncover who you are and what you truly want in your life and career. These proven strategies will help you build a rock-solid foundation to lead you to your next career chapter.
Step 1: Identify Your Genius Zone
Knowing who you are, what you want, and what you are working towards allows you to cut through the noise and focus on what is truly important. When you are clear on your values and purpose, it is easier to make decisions and take the steps that will propel you forward.
Ask yourself: What am I insanely good at? When do I feel most “in the zone”? What natural talents do I have that I want to build? What activities are energizing and motivating? What doesn’t feel like work (but is)?
In the book “The Big Leap”, author Gay Hendricks says our work activities fall into one of four zones: a zone of incompetence, competence, excellence, or genius.
The Zone of Incompetence: This is made up of all the activities you are not good at. Others can do them a lot better than you can. The best way to handle activities in this zone is to avoid doing them altogether by automating, delegating, or by just not doing them.
The Zone of Competence: You are competent at these activities, but they don’t interest you that much.
The Zone of Excellence: These are activities you do exceptionally well and probably spend most of your time engaged in these activities. Hendricks says this zone can be a “seductive and even dangerous trap”. It is where we are most comfortable but it often prevents us from fully “taking the leap” into our Zone of Genius.
The Zone of Genius: These are activities you are uniquely suited to do, that draw upon your special gifts and strengths. As Hendricks says, “Liberating and expressing your natural genius is our ultimate path to success and life satisfaction…[It] beckons you with an increasingly strong call as you go through your life.”
Your zone of genius is the only state in which you can get into ‘flow’, a concept described by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. When you are in flow you’re drawing on talents that come to you effortlessly. You are completely immersed in your work and don’t notice the time passing. When you are operating in this zone, work is fun, exhilarating, and meaningful.
Find Your Zone of Genius
Write down your answers to the questions below in your notebook or journal. Don’t just answer these questions in your head. Writing down your thoughts improves awareness of your thoughts and feelings and also helps you organize and see things more clearly to make better decisions.
- What do I most love to do? (I love it so much that I can do it for long stretches without getting tired or bored.)
- What work do I do that doesn’t seem like work? (I can do it all day long without ever feeling tired or bored.)
- In my work, what produces the highest ratio of abundance and satisfaction for the amount of time spent?
- What is my unique ability? (This is a special skill I’m gifted with. This unique ability, fully realized and put to work, can provide enormous benefits to me and anyone I serve.)
Step 2: Define Your Values
Values are the principles we choose to live by. Everything we do and the decisions we make are often driven by what we value most in life. Our values are the guideposts of our happiness at work and in life.
Alignment between your career choices and your core values is essential. Not working or living your values causes a disconnect. If one or more of your values are out of alignment at work, you will most likely feel tension, frustration, unhappiness, or drained. When your work and values are in harmony, you’ll experience greater satisfaction and fulfillment.
To Get Started
- Think about the list of values below or create your own.
- Write down your most important values.
- Narrow your list to the top three or five values most important to you.
- Add a sentence or two describing why this value is important to you and what it would mean to live these values.
Values: Accomplishment, Adventure, Authenticity, Balance, Boldness, Compassion, Challenge, Community, Connection, Courage, Creativity, Curiosity, Determination, Entrepreneurial, Faith, Fairness, Family, Freedom, Friendships, Fulfillment, Fun, Generosity, Growth, Happiness, Health, Honesty, Humor, Independence, Influence, Integrity, Justice, Joy, Kindness, Knowledge, Leadership, Learning, Love, Loyalty, Making a Difference, Openness, Optimism, Nature, Partnership, Peace, Power, Professional Growth, Recognition, Reliability, Respect, Responsibility, Risk-Taking, Romance, Safety, Security, Self-Expression, Self-Respect, Service, Spirituality, Stability, Success, Status, Teamwork, Trust, Vision, Vitality, Wealth, Well-being/Wellness, and Wisdom
CLICK HERE for a complete values list.
Step 3: Visualize Your Ideal Career
Creating a crystal clear vision of what you want in your work and your life is the first step to achieving it. Your vision will help keep you focused and inspired as you work towards accomplishing your goals–pulling you closer to your dream.
A career vision is a clear mental picture of who you want to be, how you want to feel, and what you want to do in the future.
Creating a clear vision for your future is the secret sauce to getting the results you want in your career and your life. However, many career changers often bypass this crucial step.
When you have a clear understanding of your desired direction and destination, you’ll have more motivation to keep moving forwards even when life circumstances and other people are pulling you in the opposite direction.
If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there. – Lewis Carroll
Don’t skip this step! I promise it will be worth doing. Your vision statement doesn’t have to be perfectly formed or well written. There’s no “right” way to create your vision. Just let go and have fun with it. Dream BIG! Don’t limit yourself to what you think is possible or not. Give yourself permission to create and play with your bold future vision.
Ready to get started? Grab your notebook and a pen and find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted. Get outside in the fresh air or go to your favorite coffee shop.
In a comfortable seated position, close your eyes for a few moments, and take a few deep breaths. Let go of any remaining tension as you relax and settle in.
Now, imagine your life in the future fully living your dream and fulfilling your purpose. What is your wildest and most amazing dream for your future? What does an ideal day look like for you? Breathe deeply and engage all of your senses. Describe what you experience as you move through your day. Ask yourself…
- What are you doing?
- Where are you, inside or outside?
- What does the space around you look like? What colors and objects do you see?
- Who are you with?
- What skills and talents are you using?
- What type of problems are you solving?
- Who are you serving?
- What impact are you making in the world?
- How much money are you earning?
Reflect on your vision. Write down with as much detail and clarity as you can recall of your future vision. Create a vivid picture in your mind using all of your senses and intuition. What did you see, hear, smell, and feel?
Put it all together. Summarize your career vision into a short paragraph or two. Write it down in the present tense and keep it positive. Describe it as if it has already happened.
Get clear on what YOU truly want. This is YOUR vision for your life. This is not what you think you should want or what other people might want for you. Try not to get caught up thinking about how to make your dreams a reality or, watering your dreams down to be more practical or achievable.
Post your future career vision where you can read and reflect on it often.
Step 4: Cultivate A Powerful Mindset
Your thoughts are incredibly powerful. Your thoughts can either inspire and propel you forward to accomplish your dreams or they can leave you paralyzed in a sea of self-doubt, worry, and fear.
When you feel confident and clear on where you are heading, you will feel energized and you will take steps towards your goals which will lead you to the results you want. Conversely, when you feel worried, confused, or fearful you stay stuck like a tire spinning its wheels in the mud–never gaining any traction or taking any action.
But here’s the good news! We get to choose our thoughts!
Instead of thinking “It’s too late to change my career”, “I don’t know what I should do with my career”, “This will never work”, “I can’t do what I love and be paid well”, I’m not…(fill in the blank).
Your words have power and energy behind them. Start to notice how often you use words like (should, need to, have to, can’t, always, and never). Change your words to be more empowering and inspiring. Use words like (choose, desire, want, sometimes, intend, aim, I will or I won’t).
Example: I need to find a new job or career vs. It’s important to me to find a rewarding job/career.
It’s a subtle difference but it makes a powerful impact that builds you up instead of wearing you down. Your thoughts drive your actions. If you think you will find a job you love, your actions will help move you closer to that reality. You’ll take the next step, buy a book, enroll in a course, connect with people in your network, and do the things that will move you towards your goals.
Step 5: Propel Into Action
For the final step, you’ll design your one-page action plan that maps where you are going and the steps that will lead you there.
Review your inspiring career/life vision you created in Step 3-Visualize Your Ideal Career. Where would you like to be one year from now? Write it as if it has already happened.
One year from now I will…
Describe in vivid detail what you’re doing (what kind of work are you doing, who are you working with, what does your ideal day look like, etc.)
Next, break down your one-year vision into smaller actionable steps:
- What do you need to accomplish by the end of six months to achieve your 1-year goal?
- What do you need to accomplish by the end of three months to achieve your 6-month goal, in three months, two months, 1 week, tomorrow, and today?
What is one thing you can do today that points you in the direction you want to go?
Imagine what you could achieve if you consistently put these powerful strategies to work. You can reinvent your career now regardless of your age or stage in life. It’s not too late. You can find the work you were meant to do that fills you with happiness, meaning, and satisfaction.
You have everything you need to start your journey to find a rewarding second-act career that brings your passion, purpose, and profit. Just take one small action, and see where it leads you.
Want more help to successfully pivot to a rewarding second-act career?
CLICK HERE for your free guide: 5 Strategies to a Rewarding Second Act Career.
Gena Anderson, CPC, SPHR, ELI-MP, is a Certified Career and Leadership Coach. After two decades in Human Resources Technology, Gena revolutionized her career and her life by becoming a certified career and leadership coach. She earned her professional coaching certification from iPEC (Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching), a nationally-renowned coaching school.
Gena’s mission is to help high-achieving women over 40 connect to their purpose and confidently pivot to a more rewarding and satisfying second-act career they love.
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