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5 Tips for Making a Career Change

Business expert Jon Acuff shares his advice on starting over

5 Tips for Making a Career Change
Credit: Delpixart

Gone are the days when people would work 30 years in one company, let alone one career.  In this fast-changing world, it’s important to explore and navigate new career opportunities with as much knowledge and preparation as you can. Business expert Jon Acuff’s new book, Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck explains how you can better handle career changes.

Acuff has written 5 books and feels that enriching the business community is God’s calling on his life. He says he wrote Do Over to generate hope as well as give people practical career advice.

The most basic of his advice is his concept of having a Career Savings Account to draw on. The CSA consists of your relationships, skills, character and hustle.

He defines relationships as people you know, skills as what you do, character as who you are, and hustle as how you work. “All four are equally important. They temper each other,” Acuff tells Guideposts.org. “You need to have all four of these things in balance in order to make a career change. If you are missing one, you will not reach your full potential. “

When your CSA is in order, you’ll be able to know when to leave a bad work situation, and more important, when to leave a good one, as too much comfort in a good job might actually placate you from pursuing your true calling.

Acuff shared with Guideposts.org his top 5 tips for making a career change:

1) Be honest about your expectations.

Ask yourself: Why do I want to make a career change? What am I expecting the new job to offer me? What are my expectations about my current job? Acuff says that you sometimes have a fantasy version of what you think a dream job is, and when your current job doesn’t meet that, you think it’s time to go. However,  you should be realistic. Every job will have things that you don’t want to do – that’s part of working. He says sometimes people get stuck in wanting the new job to be the perfect job. But if you are currently unemployed, it is about finding the next job and not the best job.

2) Do research.

Thanks to the internet, you can no longer say “I don’t know.” You can find the answer to just about anything.  So if you’re going to make a career change, Acuff says you should find people who are doing what you want to do and ask them a question about it. Or ask them what books they would recommend to read. Acuff says that you make impulsive career jumps when you don’t take the time to do research. But if you do the research, and talk to people who are doing what you want to do, you’ll have the most information and will therefore be able to make the best decision.

3) Build your team.

Now is the time to build the team that’s going to help you make the career change. You weren’t meant to do life alone, Acuff says, and that includes changing where you work. You need everything from casual friendships who can expose us to people and places outside our circle, to advocates or mentors who can tell us the truth about ourselves. You also need to ask people for help. After all, relationships often get you the first gig.

4) Sharpen old skills and learn new ones. 

Be honest with yourself. Identify what skills you have, and figure out what skills you need to make a career change. Relationships may get you the first gig, but skills will get you the second. Even if you love your best friend, Acuff says, if she can’t cut hair well, you won’t go back a second time. The best way to become “stuck proof” is to learn new skills. If you are not sure what your skills are, Acuff has an exercise in Do Over for how to identify them.

5) Hustle.

If relationships get you the first gig and skills get you the second, every other gig you will get will be based on hustle. Hustle may have a negative connotation these days, Acuff says, describing it as sounding like an Axe body spray scent–but it is important. Hustle is an act of focus, not frenzy. Part of why people get stuck is because they don’t put in valuable time against a valuable decision; instead, they spend too much time on time-wasters like fantasy football. With hustle, you put in the time, and are brave about the decisions you are making. Don’t put valuable time into things that don’t matter, Acuff says.

“Sometimes I am afraid to make the wrong decision when I feel stuck,” he says. “But I have to remember that God’s ability to do what He wants to do in my life isn’t limited by my ability to make the right decision.” 

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