I say this is the big secret because in my dozen years teaching thousands of people about how to rethink changing or choosing their careers and work lives, I’ve found that so few people know this that it might as well be a secret. But it’s not a secret in that you should hide it—quite the opposite. In fact, I’d like you to spread the word.

So what’s the secret?

If you are looking for new career ideas or planning a career -- start fresh.

Am I kidding? Is that it? It sounds so simple and trite. After all most people looking for a career change are looking for a fresh start. Nothing secret there, right?

As usual, the details are what counts. Most people think they are starting fresh when they are actually carrying a lot of baggage about who they are and what they can’t do.

Here’s what starting fresh means:

For the first steps of your career search process, forget:
• Forget about whether you’ve demonstrated the skills you need for a job
• Forget about what everyone has ever told you about what work suits you best.
• Forget about what you’ve been good at doing at work
• Forget about what you haven’t been good at doing
• Forget about whether you’ve heard a career is on the upswing or downswing.
• Forget about dollars, euros, or other compensation or benefit issues

These are all important factors, so why should you forget about them until much later in your career planning?

Because you probably have thought about all these things a lot and are still not in the career you want. That thinking isn’t getting you to your lifework or the best career for you. You need a fresh way of thinking about yourself.

To get out of that same way of thinking, it’s necessary to lift the blinders (which we all have)—namely the assumptions we make about ourselves and the job market. That way you can see new opportunities and possibilities. Only then can you truly start fresh.

You’re probably wondering what you do think about if you’re forgetting about all those other things at first. The answer is—start with your passions. What do you love doing? Don’t just think of work things and don’t include things you don’t mind so much. Just think about and list or mindmap work and nonwork things you love to do. Look at those passions in detail—not just travel, but also the elements of travel you love such as researching places to go or learning new languages.

The reason we start with passions in detail is to make sure you have at the core of your work life something that can sustain you, something that can motivate you and energize you. If you have that, it becomes so much easier to
• Learn new skills to do a new job
• Enjoy what you are doing even during stressful periods
• Stick with a career path
• Be creative about finding work or clients
• Be creative and appreciated at work
• Inspire confidence in yourself at a job interview

Often my clients are confused about what to do and it turns out that it’s because they’ve given up on their passions and are wading through a lot of unsatisfying choices based on pay, and education and current skill levels. After some coaching questions, they discover they’ve often given up on dreams and that’s what’s leaving them unhappy and confused.

For instance, when asked one client almost mumbled what she’d like to do—be a chef—and immediately in a louder voice went to say but what she’d probably wind up doing might be, and listed some careers that she was lukewarm about. We went back and examined what was holding her back from her real passion and wound up with solutions to all the limits she had assumed were there. She got a partner, shifted from chef to catering service, and everything started to get clear.

Of course, looking at your passions is just the start. But if you start somewhere else—such as what jobs pay well that need the skills I currently have—you may find a job. You may even need to take that job as a temporary measure. But you’re not likely to find a career that will get you up every day excited to go to work.

© 2009 by Leonard Lang

Author's Bio: 

Through workshops, motivational talks and coaching, Leonard Lang, Ph.D., has helped thousands of people get unstuck, find purpose, and land their dream jobs.

You can get a free career and creativity newsletter and obtain Leonard's step by step book on finding your dream career, Guide to Lifework: Working with Integrity and Heart, at beardavenue.com. You can also follow Leonard's latest articles and recommendations on his career blog at choosingacareerblog.com as well as on Twitter (Leonard_Lang).