Changing Careers Is Like Running A Marathon But Less Sweaty

Have you ever watched a marathon and thought, "How do these people do it?" To anyone who has never run before, it seems impossible if not crazy. But each year, more and more people are taking up the challenge and running the 26.2 mile race. In fact, according to the USA Track & Field Organization (USATF) in 2004, 400,000 people ran and completed a marathon.
Well just in the same way, have you ever met someone who has left a career they were unhappy in and successfully reinvented themselves and you thought, "How did they do it? How can they afford to still live in that house, take care of the kids or even go on vacation? I could never do it." Well, as a two-time finisher of the NYC Marathon, and as someone who has made a dramatic career change, I can tell you going through a career change is very much like a training for and running a marathon.
National surveys have shown that 50% of all Americans don't like their jobs. I also did a local survey of my own and found that 45% of people would like to switch careers and only 19% of people feel fulfilled by the work they do. When I asked what keeps them in the job they have, 30% fear not having enough money to pay their bills while 30% don't know what would make them happy in the first place.
So what can we learn from marathoners?
Take it one step at a time.
Most would-be career changers think they need to make a change all at once. This kind of thinking leads to action paralysis--in other words they get scared and do nothing. Yes, making a career change is a big undertaking, but so is running 26.2 miles. Marathoners know that to be able to complete the race they need to build up their mileage over a series of many months prior to the big day. You just don't go from being able to walk around the block to running 26 miles all at once. You start off by building a foundation that often consists of slow and short runs. From there, you build up your mileage to be able to make the 26.2 mile journey.
The same principles apply to changing careers. Just like building up to run a marathon, you need a strong foundation for a career change to be viable. This often means working on the things in your life right now that are keeping you from feeling safe to explore a new career. Here are five tips excerpted from my ebook, 107 Tips for Changing Careers While Still Paying the Bills, on how to build a strong foundation for making a career change:
1. Prioritize how you spend your time. If your schedule is too packed right now, you won't have the time to even consider a career change, let alone to do the necessary work. Eliminate 50% of your projects or commitments to make room for the work ahead of you.
2. Keep your day job. Feelings of desperation because you need the money make you unattractive to the opportunities you are seeking. Your day job is an investment in your transition.
3. Stop procrastinating and finally eliminate the mundane annoyances that you are tolerating. Replace broken appliances, repair ripped clothing, and handle all of the miscellaneous paper that's cluttering your kitchen table. Procrastination and avoidance waste more energy than you can afford to lose during a transition.
4. Create room where you don't have any. Physical clutter represents the lack of room for the new opportunities you are seeking. Look for signs of clutter anytime you have to shove, pack, pull, stuff, jam, or shuffle items in your environment.
5. Handle outstanding financial planning in your life. File your taxes on time, set up a will, create a retirement plan, pay any outstanding parking tickets, as well as anything else you've been meaning to do financially but have not done yet. This will set your mind at ease and give you a sense of peace as you move forward through this transition.
Take baby steps. Changing careers or running a marathon is a lot easier than you think. Rather than worrying about how you will "finish", put your energy into taking the obvious next step. You might even enjoy yourself along the route!
(c) 2007 Segaric Coaching, Inc.
Annemarie Segaric is a respected career change coach, motivational speaker, and author. Does your company, group or association deal with people in transition? Ask about bulk discounts on the career tips booklet "107 Tips For Changing Your Career While Still Paying the Bills" Ready to switch careers and don't know where to begin? Visit and download your own career change toolkit today.

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