The Biggest Mistake Career-Changers Make

Published: November 16, 2016
By: Faye Hollands

If you’ve ever thought about changing career, or would like to enjoy your chosen path more, there are lots of things you can do to increase your level of career satisfaction and get clear about ‘what next’.  But that list can be quite long, and for a lot of people, confusing and overwhelming.

The good news is that there’s one step – which most people DON’T take – that will alleviate that confusion, and make the path to career clarity way simpler.

The biggest mistake I see people make, time and time again, when they’re reassessing their career options is that they bypass understanding their professional motivators and instead jump straight in to focusing on job titles, industries, money and office locations.

It’s a natural mistake to make because those are the ‘typical’ recruitment drivers that we’re used to talking about, but don’t drive long-term career satisfaction – we need way more than that, and we’re ALL different.

The first thing you must do if you really want to build a career that you find rewarding and satisfying, on a daily basis, is to be 100% clear on what your key career motivators are – and what we’re talking about here are your values.

The vital starting point for anyone who wants to create a career they love is to align their career with their values.  But obviously if you don’t know what your values are then you run a very big risk of basing your career decisions on factors that might not actually be critical to your day to day professional happiness, and that’s like staring a ticking time bomb in the face when it comes to savvy career management.

Frankly, from the years of experience I’ve got in coaching on this topic, I’m happy to generalise that MOST people don’t in fact know what their real values are.  They think they do – so that often say ‘honesty’, ‘integrity’, or ‘trust’ when asked – and of course, we’d all like to be experiencing those values on a daily basis.  But your career values are much, much more complex than that.

Values are what you truly stand for.

They are what you believe are fundamental to your happiness and fulfillment, and they are the emotional states you want to experience on a consistent basis.  So they determine whether you enjoy your job and career choice.  And if you make a decision that goes against your values then that’s when you’ll find you’re not happy professionally, and you’ll be dragging your butt to work, dreading getting up on a Monday morning, and generally feeling pretty unfilled in your job.

The only way to achieve long-term satisfaction and fulfillment in your career is to make key decisions around your critical career motivators, and to do that you must be absolutely clear about what your values are.  Having a rough idea is definitely not enough, and regurgitating what you think you should values also doesn’t cut it.

So to give you an example,  it might be really important for you to feel challenged on a regular basis in your job.  You might love to feel like you’re being stretched, and that you’re learning and developing as you progress through your career.  And when you feel challenged, you enjoy your job more.  Conversely, perhaps you don’t like to be bored or to do the same thing every day so being pushed out of your comfort zone is important to you – but not just once in a blue moon, it’s something you would like to enjoy on a regular basis.  That’s one of my key values, I love to feel like I’m extending myself regularly

So if that’s an important feeling for you, it’s critical that you are able to experience that emotion on a regular basis in your job.  It’s also key that you are clear on exactly what challenged means to you, and what that boils down to is the beliefs you have behind the values that are important to you.

So for me, being challenged means taking on more complex clients, more difficult career changes, and pushing myself to build my business in different ways that are outside of my comfort zone.  For you it might be that you want to take on bigger and more complex projects and by doing that you feel that you’re challenging your skills and abilities.

Now challenged isn’t an emotion that everyone wants to experience, and certainly not on a regular basis – a lot of people don’t want to be pushed out of their comfort zone, so to them the feeling of routine might be important, or stability for example.

The point here is that we all have different beliefs systems about what has to happen in order for us to feel happy in our careers.  But if we base our job-seeking decisions around the usual requirements such as salary, title and location, we are almost always neglecting a key list of factors that are critical to our long-term career satisfaction.  And that’s how you can go from job to job, or career to career, and STILL find yourself dreading going to work.

Trust me, as an ex-recruiter and HR professional, this isn’t an area that you’re going to get asked much about in the recruitment process.  You must make the effort to clearly identify your career motivators BEFORE you set out on your job search or career change, so that you keep yourself aligned with what’s critically important to you in your long-term career.

And lets be clear about this, if you make a decision that goes against your values, you’ll soon know about it.   It might take a few months, but when the  novelty of the new job has worn off, that’s when you’ll feel as though your values aren’t being met and you’ll start to feel despondent again.

So if you want to get clarity around your choice of career and job, it’s vital that your first starting point is to be clear on your values and the beliefs you have behind specifically what has to happen in order for those values to be met.

If you want to feel sure that you’re in the right job or career, or are contemplating changing and don’t know what next, this is the first thing you absolutely MUST do, before anything else career-related.  Missing out on this step is like going on a road trip somewhere completely new without a map or GPS.  Your values are the corner stone to navigating a successful career, and without them you run the risk of making many tricky and time consuming wrong turns.

What I’ve found over and over again is that my clients will view their job and career opportunities completely differently as a result of truly understanding their career values and beliefs.  They approach job interviews and applications with a different mindset because now they’re looking to pinpoint how they can experience their most important values in that job, instead of focusing on elements that aren’t really key drivers to them.

Their values also significantly help to drive their professional development forward as they look to pinpoint things they can do in their current job that will increase the level of satisfaction they are experiencing.  So this is not only powerful stuff if you’re looking to change jobs, but also critical if you want to enjoy your current job more.

So your first foot forward when it comes to clearing career confusion and frustration, should always be to get 100% clear on your values and beliefs.

Need help doing this?  Click here to book a free 15-minute Career Clarity call now.

Faye Hollands

About Faye Hollands

Faye is an accomplished Career Coach, Small Business Coach and Productivity Specialist who has successfully coached countless clients on how to create a career they love, get more done in less time, and achieve personal and professional success. To receive weekly articles to improve your career, business and time management skills click here or book your Free Focus Session here.

You can contact Faye on +61 2 8323 4335 or email

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