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Overcoming Career Paralysis: How to Choose A Career

Achieving Goals, Career Discovery, Career Enrichment, Career Transitions, Self Awareness
05/06/24 - Lisa Allie
woman working and taking notes

Do you find yourself overwhelmed by the prospect of making a career decision? Have you ever felt afraid that the wrong choice might impact your immediate future, long-term happiness, financial stability, and overall lifestyle?

If so, you’re not alone. These feelings are common symptoms of a condition known as career paralysis—a state of feeling stuck due to the fear of making the wrong move.

Career paralysis affects individuals of all ages and professional backgrounds. However, by implementing a comprehensive, thoughtful, and strategic career plan, you can navigate the complexities of your career path with confidence and clarity.

Shifting Priorities: Career Transitions Driven by Work-Life Balance Over Salary

Woman with child looking at each other smiling

According to Clockify.com, the primary motivation when choosing a career is the desire for a better work-life balance, cited by 56% of respondents. This preference outweighs the pursuit of higher salaries, indicating a significant shift in professional priorities.

Flexjob surveyed more than 4600 workers and found compelling career-changing statistics. Professionals who are in the later stages of their careers are leaning into a reevaluation, with 19% considering a career change as a “second act” as they approach retirement. This trend reflects a desire for continued personal growth and contribution beyond traditional retirement age.

A notable portion of respondents (17%) expressed a desire to pursue their passions or hobbies when they choose a career for the next season of their lives. This highlights the increasing importance of aligning one’s professional life with personal interests and values.

These statistics reflect the need for professionals at all stages of their careers to consider new opportunities, continue learning and growing, and be willing to adapt to evolving circumstances.

Career Planning: Laying the Foundation

Choosing a career in a different industry or company does not have to be a one-time event; rather, it should be an ongoing process that evolves throughout your professional life.

The first step when it’s time to choose a career is self-reflection and introspection—understanding your interests, values, personality traits, and long-term goals. Take the time to assess your strengths, weaknesses, and the skills you possess or wish to acquire.

The goal here is to ensure your next job is a good fit and somewhere you will enjoy working, not just a stable job or paycheck.

To dig deeper into career planning, read all about it here.

Developing a Career Action Plan: Mapping Your Journey

Crafting a strategic career action plan is similar to charting a course toward your professional aspirations. It effectively navigates the complex landscape of the job market. It demands meticulous planning and a keen understanding of your goals, strengths, and areas for growth.

One of the initial steps in this process involves conducting a thorough self-assessment to identify your skills, interests, values, and what success means to you.

Career coaches can create a personalized approach to help you identify your goals and aspirations, and support you as you create an action plan.

This introspective exercise serves as the foundation for your career path, enabling you to align your aspirations with actionable steps.

graphic of 6 steps to developing a career action plan

Conducting Research: Gaining Insights

The next step is to seek out new career ideas. Take the time to explore various industries and job titles. You never know what you may discover as you cast a broad net.

As you conduct research, consider data from labor statistics, and informational interviews. You can also find resources provided by career coaches, recruiters, Workforce Development Offices, college alumni job centers, and even AI tools like Perplexity.ai, Chat GPT, and Gemini. Do not shy away from asking friends and family members for ideas as well.

Gain insights into different industries, companies, and work environments to determine where you might thrive.

Use your research to write a short list of ideas you would like to explore further.

Leveraging Soft Skills and Personality Fit

Recognize the importance of soft skills—such as communication, problem-solving, and teamwork—in today’s workplace.

Ensure that your chosen career path aligns with your personality traits and allows you to leverage your strengths effectively.

Consider taking personality and career tests like the 123 Career Aptitude Test, My Next Move Interest Profiler or Career One Stop Skills Matcher to gain further insight into your aptitudes and preferences.

Woman on laptop holding reading glasses to her mouth

Elevating Your Career Strategy: Beyond Practical Steps to Personal Growth

Career fulfillment plays a pivotal role in shaping an individual’s personal growth and overall happiness. A positive career choice often intertwines with one’s sense of purpose, self-worth, and satisfaction in life.

Engaging in work that aligns with identified passions, interests, and values serves as a driving force, motivating one to strive for excellence and personal growth continually.

Unlocking Life’s Potential: The Power of the Passion Principle

Man presenting on a projector in front of large group

According to research cited in the Harvard Business Review, over 70% of college-educated individuals prioritize passion-related factors when making career decisions, with nearly two-thirds valuing passion above considerations such as salary and job security.

The principle of passion has become a significant factor, leading many workers to engage in the phenomenon known as the Great Resignation. Compared to those with stable employment, individuals who faced job instability during the pandemic showed an even greater inclination toward pursuing their passions.

Pandemic Spurs Pursuit of Passion: Flexible Job Market and Existential Urgency Drive Workers Towards Meaningful Careers

The combination of a more flexible job market and a heightened sense of existential urgency, prompted by the uncertainties of the pandemic, has made the pursuit of passion seem both more rational and more feasible for a considerable number of workers.

The principle of passion encourages us to live authentically and pursue a meaningful career, thus leading to a more enriching, purposeful life.

Exploring Career Options: Broadening Horizons

Stay informed about the current job market trends in growing, stagnating, or declining industries. You can do this by looking at current job openings and researching industry data.

Also, be sure to consider your own short-term goals—like acquiring specific training or education—and your long-term aspirations, like professional advancement and financial stability.

Making Informed Decisions: Weighing the Options

Ultimately, you need to evaluate professional options based on your own criteria.

Consider whether a job aligns with your priorities, offers opportunities for growth and development, and provides a work environment conducive to your success and well-being.

Look beyond salary considerations and prioritize factors like work-life balance and job satisfaction. The goal here is to find the right career fit for you, where you can succeed.

Executing Your Plan: Project Management for Your Career

Woman in next to whiteboard holding whiteboard marker and smiling

Approach your career journey with a project management mindset:

  1. Break down your goals into manageable tasks, set deadlines, establish milestones and stay organized.
  2. Establish deadlines that enable you to prioritize tasks, ensuring that you allocate sufficient time and effort to make progress.
  3. Create milestones as checkpoints that will ensure that you are moving in the right direction of your long-term goal.

To stay on course toward your objectives, remain adaptable to changes, track your progress, and adjust your plan as needed.

Charting Your Course: Achieving Aspirations with SMART Goals

Once you have picked a certain career path, the next phase is career planning. To get started, set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals.

These goals serve as milestones that mark your progress and keep you focused and motivated throughout your journey. Whether you aim to move into a leadership position, transition to a new industry, or start your own business, delineating clear objectives provides a roadmap to success.

You can read more about goal setting here.

The Entrepreneurial Dream: Choosing A Career That Turns Passion into Profit

Entrepreneurship has emerged as an increasingly attractive career choice, offering individuals the promise of greater flexibility, autonomy, and control over their work-life balance. Forbes stated that recent statistics reveal a significant surge in business ownership where professionals can control work-life balance and income while enjoying greater flexibility. Nearly a fifth of working-age U.S. adults are either in the process of starting a business or have embarked on entrepreneurship in the past three and a half years. This trend, reaching its highest point since 1999 according to Babson College’s annual entrepreneurship figures, underscores the enduring appeal of entrepreneurship as a pathway to professional fulfillment and independence.

Embracing Evolution: Recognizing the Dynamic Nature of Career Satisfaction

It’s important to recognize that satisfaction in your working life is dynamic. It’s natural for interests, values, and goals to evolve over time.

If you find yourself unhappy in your current career, remember that you have the power to change course and pursue new opportunities.

As you evolve, so do your professional aspirations. Changes such as starting a family, relocating to a new city, or caring for aging parents can prompt a reevaluation of your priorities and goals.

Balancing the demands of work with personal responsibilities becomes increasingly important, and you may decide that your current career no longer aligns with what matters to you in this new phase.

Pursuing Career Diversity: A Personal Journey to Coaching Success

You may choose a few career paths throughout your professional journey. For example, before I became a career coach, I embarked on diverse career paths, each contributing valuable insights and experiences to my professional development.

I started my journey as a dental hygienist and then transitioned to owning a staffing and recruiting firm. Subsequently, I worked in fundraising and served as the interim Executive Director of a homeless youth organization.

These varied career choices gave me a broad perspective and a deep understanding of the opportunities that arise from embracing different career paths. As a career coach, I bring a wealth of personal experience, having navigated various industries and roles.

I understand firsthand the challenges and rewards of career transitions and am committed to guiding others on their paths to fulfillment.

Empowerment Through Change: Transforming Your Career Path with Purpose

If you find yourself feeling dissatisfied or unfulfilled at work, remember that you have the power to make a change.

Utilize the tactics outlined in this article to explore new opportunities and find a career that aligns with your passions, values, and aspirations.

Embrace the journey of self-discovery and growth, knowing that where you start in your career is rarely where you’ll end up.

As the old adage goes, the only constant in life is change—embrace it and let it propel you toward new and exciting opportunities.

To learn more about making a strategic career transition, download our free Career Method Guide:

Images from The ALV Career Method Guide
ALV Method Downloadable Guide

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