Career change success: How to improve the odds


Are you making a career change harder or more out of reach than it needs to be? Are you sabotaging your potential for career change success, or your willingness to even try?

Since 2001 in my Passion Catalyst work, I have had a front row seat on people’s career changes. And one of the biggest things I have seen get in people’s way is the notion that career changes need to happen quickly, with the flip of a switch.

Why does that get in the way? Well, note least because it’s often unrealistic. A more accurate view is that career change typically – though not always – happens over time. It can be a months-long (even years-long) process.

The immediate-change obstacle

There are a couple ways that seeing a career change as a flip of the switch becomes an obstacle to career change success. First, it can lead to a false negative in people’s assessment of their potential to make a change. They look at where they are currently and say, “I’d love to, but I can’t.”

And from the limited perspective of their current here-and-now, they might be right. They might not have the experience, or the network, or the money it would take to jump out of one boat into another. Or they might have obligations that stand in the way. And so they decide not to even try.

The other way the immediate-change perspective creates an obstacle is by directly diminishing people’s potential for success if they do jump ship. While it might be gratifying in the short-term to dive out of one career and into another, it can also be more challenging than necessary if you don’t build a foundation for that change.

Immediate or longer-term change: Which is right for you?

If making an immediate change works for you, great! Far be it from me to discourage that.

But just because you know you want to make a wholesale change right doesn’t necessarily mean you’re ready for it. To explore whether immediate or longer-term change is the better option for you, ask questions like:

  • Could you get hired today in your new career, based on your current knowledge and experience?
  • Do you have the money to fund time in transition? (e.g., the time a job search would take, or the time it takes to build a new business)
  • Does making the change immediately feel doable, or overwhelming?
  • Is your response to the idea of making a change, “I can’t because ______”? (And are any of the reasons you give valid?)
  • What would support the success of this change (e.g., a network, experience in the new path, training)? Is it currently in place?

Take a dual-track approach to change

When people look at their current situation and decide a career change isn’t possible, I encourage them to question that assessment. Often what they really mean is that a career change isn’t possible “right now.”

If they add time as a variable to the equation, they often find possibilities begin to appear where they saw none. What feels impossible from the perspective of the here-and-now might start to feel more doable in the context of, say, two or three years.

But for time to have a beneficial effect, they can’t just sit and wait. If they don’t want to be at the same place, just two or three years later, they have to incorporate action into the mix.

That’s where the dual-track approach to changing careers comes into play. Let’s say you have identified a new career path, but from the vantage point of the here-and-now it doesn’t look doable.

But then you pull out that trusty question, “I can’t now, but could I with time?”

Let’s say the answer is yes. You are now ready for a dual-track career change.

From there, you start asking still more questions, like:

  • What steps will get me from here (my current situation) to there (a new career)?
  • What is getting in my way? What can I do to reduce or eliminate those obstacles?
  • What do I already have that I can build on (skills, knowledge, experience, connections, etc.)
  • What skills and knowledge do I need to build? Where can I get them?
  • Who do I need to know? What relationships do I need to build? What communities do I need to get involved in?
  • How can I start getting experience (e.g., taking a class, volunteering for a non-profit, etc.)?

Action & accountability

The clarity you’ll get from exploring questions like this is vital. But it means nothing if you don’t take action. Without consistent action, you risk finding yourself several years down the road in the exact same situation – waiting for the time to be “right.”

It’s all too easy to let the demands of life get in the way when you’re working toward an important but not immediately urgent goal. One way to counter that is to create some structure and accountability.

Maybe that is as simple as scheduling time for action each week, and holding yourself accountable for doing it. Or maybe that accountability comes another person, someone you can tell “this is what I plan to do in the next week” and set up a check-in about what you did. It might even be working with someone like me.

However you do it, action and accountability are integral parts of a dual-track approach to changing your career.

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide

How to visually reinforce your growth and success

inspiring words

A few years ago I had the good fortune to interview Howard Behar (former President at Starbuck’s) at his home office. Hanging on his wall were several framed quotes.

He kept the quotes there to reinforce their importance and to give him a reminder of the insights they contained as he went about his work. Framed quotes on his wall had played an important role in his career for decades.

collageThat idea stuck in my head. I liked the idea of framing them, rather than just taping quotes to the wall. It made them more aesthetically pleasing and gave them more substance.

Along the way, it cross-pollinated with the idea of making collages. Quotes are great, but as simple text on white paper, they can be flat and one-dimensional. What if I combined them with images in a collage?

That idea evolved, as ideas tend to do, away from the original idea of using quotes and toward using words and concepts. I finally created one last week.

This particular collage is aimed at bringing a greater action orientation and focus to my natural tendencies to dream, visionize, and explore (tendencies which are simultaneously some of my greatest strengths and biggest weaknesses).

Knowing how things like this tend to fade into the background after they’ve been around a while, my plan is to make a whole series of them that I can swap out regularly. I have a collection of 8×10 frames I bought at Goodwill, and will keep the collages I’m not currently using in a three-ring binder in plastic sheathes.

What I love about small, framed collages is that they make it easy to both create visual reinforcement of specific ideas and keep it fresh enough (by swapping the collages out intermittently) to keep having an impact in your mind.

What to collage about?

The potential subject matter of your collages is pretty much limitless. You could collage about, for example:

  • Goals
  • Aspirations of how you want to show up (e.g., love, patience, determination, etc.)
  • Changes you want to make
  • New patterns and habits
  • Quotes that speak to you


There really is no “right way” to do it. These are just some broad ideas.

The collage I made isn’t particularly creative, but it contains some key ideas I want to reinforce. You might want to go more deeply into the creative aspect of it. Play with what works best for you. Is it primarily images? Words? A combination of the two?

How I make them

The easiest way to make your collages is with a simple glue stick. I decided I wanted to make something more long-lasting that wouldn’t fade, so I used acrylic medium both as an adhesive and to coat the whole thing once it was done.

In addition to the frames, I buy the magazines I cut up at Goodwill or other thrift stores (they cost 50 cents apiece at Goodwill). Over the last few months I have gone through a bazillion magazines or so, and keep the images and words in file folders and envelopes in and expanding file.

Having a large store of words and images to draw from allows me to look through them and see what wants to emerge.

So how about it? Up for some collage making?

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide


Ask-0-Rama: Expand what’s possible, guaranteed!

Advice Help Support And Tips Signpost

Want a guaranteed way to blow the doors wide open on what’s possible in your life? Put this one simple word into play on a consistent basis:


It seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? If you want something, asking opens the door to the possibility of getting it. Not asking…well, not so much.

And yet for many (most?) of us, asking is precisely what we don’t do.

The Ask-o-Rama

Much to my chagrin, that includes me. I’m naturally inclined to reach out and offer help. But historically I have pretty much sucked at asking.

Whether that has been asking for help or asking for the sale, that reluctance has had a negative effect on my ability to do what it feels like I’m here to do, to make the difference I feel called to make.

So I guess it was only a matter of time before I would create an opportunity to face that head on.

A couple days ago I decided to contact each of my Facebook friends with a request to share a link to my two series on how to feel more juice in your job and how to make work more meaningful.

It was a simple thing to ask. It was easy for people to do (or not do), and my motivation was wanting to get the insights and ideas of those posts into the hands of the people who need them. And yet doing it made me squirm, taking me headlong into my discomfort zone.

In an exchange with one of the first friends I asked (Patti Digh, author of Life Is a Verb and several other books), my effort to spread the word about the posts turned into something bigger. Rather than an isolated effort to spread the word on some blog posts, it became my first foray into “the year of making the ask.”

Or, as I like to think of it, making my life an Ask-O-Rama!

Turn your life into an Ask-O-Rama

The idea behind turning your life into an Ask-O-Rama is simple. Figure out what you need, then ask for it. Not exactly rocket science.

But the keys to the kingdom don’t come from just knowing what you need. They come from asking for it. Asking puts possibilities in motion. There are no guarantees that you will get what you ask for all the time, but some of the time you will.

And if you don’t, as hockey great Wayne Gretzky noted, “You miss 100% of the shots you never take.”

Here are some thoughts on creating your own Ask-O-Rama.

Brainstorm ask-fodder

Before you ask, you need to know what to ask for. A good place to start is to spend some time brainstorming. Answer questions like:

  • What help do I need?
  • What support do I need?
  • What are my goals? What would help me move toward them?
  • What challenges am I experiencing? What would help me overcome them?
  • How can I ask people to join me?
  • What commitment do I need to ask people to make?
  • What contribution do I need people to make?

Embrace non-attachment

The very act of making the ask sets you up to hear no. Except for the occasional sales-type for whom hearing doesn’t seem to have the slightest effect, that can throw cold water on your commitment to keep going with it.

To counter that, take a non-attachment approach. Throw the requests out there, but do it with the understanding that living in an Ask-O-Rama is really a numbers game. Sometimes you’ll hear yes, and sometimes you’ll hear no.

In fact, the very nature of the Ask-O-Rama life means you’ll hear no more. You might even turn up the volume on hearing no by making a habit of making unreasonable requests.

If you let go of your attachment to hearing yes, and stop giving any meaning to yes and no (“Yes means success. No means failure, or rejection.”) your path is going to be a whole lot easier.

On a related note, when you do hear “no,” don’t make it about you. The more gracefully you can accept a no as simply an indication of what works for that person at that point in time, the more comfortable people will be getting requests from you.

Look at what’s getting in the way

Unless making the ask is easy and natural for you, you’ll probably run into obstacles that get in your way. For some people, that might be about fear of rejection. For me, it’s more about not wanting to impose on people, not wanting to put them in the uncomfortable position of having to say no to me, or feeling obligated to say yes but not really wanting to.

If the idea of making requests brings up any resistance, ask yourself why. The more insight you have into what’s blocking you, the more ability you have to do something about it.

Keep track

Finally, keep track of the yeses you get. Record what came out of it – what you were able to accomplish as a result, what doors opened, what obstacles you over came, etc. Review that on a regular that to reinforce that, even if asking inherently means hearing no more often, it also creates possibilities.

Don’t just ask – offer too!

One last thing to think about as you work to make your life an Ask-O-Rama. Don’t just focus on asking. Look for opportunities to offer as well. You want to create a balanced flow of the energy of giving and receiving.

Try a 30-Day Ask-O-Rama experiment

Let’s face it. Committing to wholesale change for the rest of your life can be a recipe for falling flat in your commitment. Instead of resolving to me the rest of your life an Ask-O-Rama, try making it a 30-Day Experiment. For the next 30 days, turn your life into an Ask-O-Rama. Brainstorm requests, the challenge yourself to make at least one request a day for the next 30 days.

What are you going to ask for first?

Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM

Time for a career change? Start with
The Occupational Adventure Guide