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Reframing Your Career Decision:
From What to How

By Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D.

Often clients call with the question, "I don't know what I want to do." Within fifteen minutes, we establish that they know exactly what they want to do. What they don't know is, "How?"

Griselda was a frustrated lawyer who wanted a career where she could work cooperatively with people rather than adversarially. She felt she had learned many life lessons and she wanted to share them.

After a few minutes, Griselda confided that she entertained dreams of becoming a life coach. Now she could move.

Griselda began to research her dream. She talked to six coaches to get a well-rounded picture of the coaching life -- negatives as well as positives. As she considered coach schools, I encouraged her to talk to recent graduates to see if they felt their training was worthwhile.

Will Griselda become a coach? Not necessarily! As she investigates the field, she will become more or less drawn to coaching. She will find herself enjoying the people she meets or becoming increasingly turned off.

If Griselda realizes the field is not for her, she can begin exploring other paths coaches choose when they find new careers. And she probably has a second dream tucked away somewhere, ready to explore.

Horatio was a social worker who longed for the business world. Enough of this caring profession, he said: I want to wear a suit and make no bones about making money! This change of direction is not at all uncommon: artists and healers often dream of Wall Street and Madison Avenue, while those who work in skyscrapers for large sums have dreams of packing it all in for a little town in the middle of nowhere -- and a career in arts or healing.

Horatio was drawn to an MBA degree, but his first thought was, "Two years out of my life? With twenty-two-year-olds? I'm almost fifty!" I encouraged him to explore one-year and weekend programs. Non-traditional schools, he found, offered greatest flexibility in taking courses -- but less marketability afterward.

As he visited schools and sat in on classes, he found himself fascinated by the material, the students and even the professors. Feeling a pull toward a field or subject area often -- but not always -- means your intuition is giving you a green light to move forward.

I encouraged Horatio to talk to his employers, who valued him highly. Amazingly, they found a loophole that would let him receive educational benefits to cover part of his tuition, and he entered an intensive weekend-and-evening program in a city within driving distance.

Neither Griselda nor Horatio needed extensive self-analysis. They had already identified their dreams and they were ready to move forward. Sometimes you can uncover your own dream -- and sometimes an objective observer, such as a coach (you knew this was coming!) can help you untangle your own goals and stay focused on your destination. I've found that people get moving fast once they recognize that "what" really means "how."

Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D. Author, Career Coach, Speaker, helps mid-career, midlife professionals who want to get on the fast track to career freedom. Visit her website:
Contact: Phone: 505-534-4294

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