I recently attended a Women in Business presentation by Caroline Dowd-Higgins who spoke on her thought provoking book, “This is not the career I ordered.  Opera to Orator.”

With an ever increasing number of different career choices on offer, about 1/3 of the total workforce will now change jobs every 12 months. By the age of 42 you will probably already have had about ten jobs.


How did we arrive at those figures? Only thirty-“ish” years ago, my grandfather was appalled when my father moved to his second company, “Why leave, they have looked after you, don’t be disrespectful!”

That mentality is long gone. However, unless you have “done it”, you cannot even imagine what a challenge that career switch can be. People shift careers for a multitude of reasons, from and to a multitude of positions.  Nearly as many people suffer consistently, as Caroline Dowd Higgins suggested, with the “Sunday Night Blues”. Dreading “work” on Monday morning, but incapable of making the change.

Change, while potentially scary, is unlikely to be life threatening. What separates the doers from the status quo dwellers? In life, the “I have to” or “I should do” people find it hard to grasp the notion that we have choices, and that making a choice always has a consequence. Imagine this dialogue. “I have to go to my in laws for Thanksgiving, although it means traveling at the busiest time of year.” That is a misrepresentation. They do not have to, however, the inevitable pain resulting from not visiting; hurt feelings, guilt trips, spouse sulking, the resulting argument ammunition,  endless repercussions, is a much greater issue, ergo the choice is to make the trip……..under huge sufferance and self-sacrifice.

In the same way we are in charge of our own career development, we are our own leaders and we are responsible for the choices we make. Society appears to be running at full speed in a hamster wheel, people are skimming across the surface of everything they do. We need to pause, think and evaluate where our strengths lie, what we enjoy, what is our passion. Our “boss” is not our career coach, neither are they clairvoyant. If we do not know what we want, or what we enjoy, how can we ask for it in our current work environment or find it in a new one? Some introspection and honesty can result in a self-preserving attempt to identify where our passion coincides with a career opportunity or a company’s needs and subsequent efforts to marry the two.

Fear can be inhibitive, like a ball and chain tethering us to what we know. Too often we fear the unknown and we fear failure, however, the last three or four keynote speakers I have heard endorse failure as a tool to learn. We should “expect to fail”, we should “fail, forward and fast“. Failing is an opportunity to learn.

Life gives us transferable skills, recognize the ones you have as strengths, find ways to develop others. Make choices and follow your dreams. Think about Caroline Dowd-Higgins who switched from Opera singer to author, career coach, and public speaker.

Identify what you want and have the courage to pursue it. It is the actions we do not take in life that become a source of anguish, not the actions we do take, even when unwise; we can reconcile ourselves to those over time.

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear – Nelson Mandela