How to Get Unstuck When Making a Career Change, with Julie Sliga

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Find Your Dream Job, Episode 315:

How to Get Unstuck When Making a Career Change, with Julie Sliga

Airdate: September 29, 2021

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life. 

I’m your host, Mac Prichard. I’m also the founder of Mac’s List. It’s a job board in the Pacific Northwest that helps you find a fulfilling career.

Every Wednesday, I talk to a different expert about the tools you need to get the work you want.

Find Your Dream Job is brought to you by TopResume. TopResume has helped more than 400,000 professionals land more interviews and get hired faster. 

Get a free review of your resume today. Go to macslist.org/topresume. 

You decide it’s time to change careers. 

But you struggle to get started. Months go by, and you make little or no progress. 

Julie Sliga is here to talk about how to get unstuck when making a career change.

Julie is a certified career counselor and the owner of Panoramic Counseling. She has helped hundreds of workers make big decisions and workplace transitions.

Julie joins us from Portland, Oregon.

Well, Julie, let’s get started. We’re talking about why people get stuck when making a career change. What are we talking about here when we talk about career change? It’s more than switching jobs, isn’t it, Julie?

Julie Sliga:

Yeah, it sure is, Mac. So I have worked with a lot of employees who are making some pretty big career transitions. My background is in vocational rehabilitation. So a lot of people that I’ve worked with are folks who are not able to go back to their normal line of work for whatever reason. So I’ve really worked with individuals who are doing a pretty major type of transition in their life. 

Mac Prichard:

And what’s the biggest challenge people who are making those big transitions face? 

Julie Sliga:

Yeah, I think that people tend to think about change for a long time before they feel ready to take action. So I really try to work with them following a variety of different steps so that they feel really confident in their decision when they are ready to move forward.

The first thing I would say is, definitely do your research. I talk with people about using a variety of different tools so that they can explore different occupations, different areas of their interests, their values, and things that they might find fulfilling in a workplace setting. So, you know, take notes about your, you know, if you’re doing interest inventories, take notes about that. Just for example, if you’ve always wanted to be a nurse, when you do your research, you’ll basically outline the steps that are required to attaining that profession. So in your research, you’re gonna learn about what a nurse earns, how many jobs there are in your local economy; you’re gonna learn about what the education requirements are to access that occupation. So the first step that I think is very important is to do research.

Mac Prichard:

Okay, so research can help, and you mentioned that sometimes it takes people a long period to make a choice. Is that normal, Julie? Should you expect that if you’re considering a career change, that it will be natural to take some time? 

Julie Sliga:

Yeah, I think it’s absolutely normal. We tend to get comfortable in the current situations that we’re in. Sometimes, people are worried that they’re gonna have to start all over again at the bottom. Or, if they’re employed, maybe they have a flexible work schedule that they don’t want to give up. So people, for any number of different reasons, get really comfortable in the situation that they’re in, and they worry that making a change means losing something or potentially taking a step back. So when you do your research up front, you can either dispel those myths or uphold some of your concerns, or potentially even allow you to see your career from a completely different angle. 

Mac Prichard:

Does it help, Julie, when you’re preparing to do that research, to make a list of those concerns that you have and explore them as you look at your possible new profession?’

Julie Sliga:

Yeah, absolutely. I tend to work with people and help them address internal, external obstacles that they might need to address before proceeding with a career change. I think that fear is a really big factor when somebody’s contemplating a career change or a big transition. So I encourage people to consider the pros and cons of change from a holistic perspective. So if you factor in physical/emotional health, cognitive satisfaction, social aspects of working, family commitments, spiritual fulfillment, and financial factors, all of these things are components that make up our beings as a holistic person. So when you contemplate the pros and cons of each of those areas, do you feel more inclined to move forward with your career transition versus staying where you are?   

Mac Prichard:

You mentioned people get stuck because they feel comfortable, and also, they get stuck because they’re afraid of change and the uncertainty that it can bring. Are there other reasons why you see the clients you work with get stuck when they’re considering a career change?

Julie Sliga:

Yeah, for sure. I think that there’s a lot of people who really tie their identity up in their careers. So when somebody’s contemplating a big career pivot, it’s really difficult for them to see themselves in that new light because their identity is so tied in with what they were doing before. I’ve worked with a lot of firefighters who have a lot of social connections in their career and things like that. I’ve worked with artists who, you know, that’s very much a central part of their identity. So when people are considering a career transition, it’s really like an invention of self all over again, or it can be. 

Mac Prichard:

And what inspires people to move forward? Because there’s a reason they’re making the career change. They might be comfortable in their current occupation, and maybe they’re again afraid of the uncertainty, or their identity is wrapped up in the job. But what are the positive reasons that can help people get unstuck and move forward with a career change?  

Julie Sliga:

Yeah, I tend to focus on an individual’s strengths in my work with them. So, you know, there may be potential strengths that are being untapped in their current role. Maybe they’ll have a greater level of job satisfaction if they do make that change. You know, potentially, if I’m working with somebody who hasn’t worked in a little while, they may find more fulfillment and more purpose when they do go back to work doing something that’s, you know, potentially different from what they were doing before. 

Mac Prichard:

How common is it today for someone to change careers during their forty-plus years in the workplace? 

Julie Sliga:

I think it’s really common right now for people to have multiple different careers that they try out throughout their lifetime. We’re in an age of technology. People have access to a lot of information, and we’re just really curious as human beings. So I think it’s not uncommon for people to try out different things throughout the course of their working years, and you know, finding fulfillment in different areas of the labor market.

Mac Prichard:

Do you think it‘s possible to stay with one career throughout your entire working life, or is that becoming impossible, Julie? 

Julie Sliga:

That’s a good question I’m not sure that I’ve considered because I am such a huge advocate for people making some improvements, minor or large ones, if that’s what their goal is. I’ve certainly worked with individuals who have had long-term careers in certain professions, who maybe are no longer able to do those professions. So certainly, it’s not unheard of, but I do think that where we are, we’re just in different times where we’re trying out new things, learning new things, and really finding those a certain type of fulfillment when we’re challenged on a cognitive level. 

Mac Prichard:

Well, let’s talk about how to get unstuck when making a career change. And you had talked about research, and you mentioned looking at different occupations. I’m curious, what are some of the other techniques that you recommend when doing that research? 

Julie Sliga:

Yes, so I tend to start with people’s current skills. So I always kind of try to take the least amount of time or training that may be necessary for somebody to try out a different career. So some of the tools that I use to do that are published by the Department of Labor. I use careeronestop.org, and then I also use O*NET.gov, which are both updated and published by the Department of Labor. They really get into granular-level details about somebody’s skills, knowledge, abilities, and the things that they have done. So I encourage people to look at their past work and see that from a new angle where, “Where would those skills and those strengths fit in with a new employer?”  

Mac Prichard:

Terrific, well, we’re gonna stop and take a break, Julie. When we come back, I want to talk more about research, and particularly when people are considering returning to school. 

So stay with us, and when we return, Julie Sliga will continue to share her advice on how to get unstuck when making a career change. 

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Now, let’s get back to the show.

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio. I’m talking with Julie Sliga. 

She’s a certified career counselor and the owner of Panoramic Counseling. 

Julie has helped hundreds of workers make big decisions and workplace transitions.

She joins us from Portland, Oregon.

Julie, before the break, we were talking about how to get unstuck when making a career change. 

Often people, in making a change in their career, consider going back to school, and you were talking about the importance of research. What kind of research do you recommend doing if you’re considering perhaps getting a new degree, or certification, or license? 

Julie Sliga:

I recommend that people do a lot of different types of research. But one of my favorite tools for, specific to education, is informational interviews. So if somebody’s returning to school and they’re contemplating a specific program, I always encourage that individual to reach out to the academic advisor of that program and get some information from the advisor, and then also ask that advisor if they might put you in contact with some students who have been through that program. 

Mac Prichard:

What kinds of questions do you recommend asking both the academic advisor and the students who’ve graduated from the program?

Julie Sliga:

I think it’s good to know what you’re getting into. So I like to ask questions that maybe aren’t published on the school’s website. So, you know, I do like to ask the advisor about time and duration. I’d like to ask the advisor whether there are going to be any opportunities for student work or graduate assistant work, that type of thing. I also like to talk to the advisor about what types of works you would be qualified for once you get through the program. You might also ask if the school has any assistance with job placement once you’re completed with that degree. 

So the nice thing about informational interviews is they’re meant to be somewhat informal. You’re gathering information and can ask any number of questions that you might be curious about. I always recommend you read the information on the school’s site so that you’re coming in with some information and are informed so that you can formulate some strategic questions. 

Mac Prichard:

What about student loan debt? What questions do you recommend someone ask just to get a sense of the amount of investment they might have to make to get a degree, or whatever the credential might be, and whether it’s worth it or not?  

Julie Sliga:

Yeah, I actually think that this is a good question to ask the students as well. If an advisor could put you in contact with any students who have been through the program, they might give you a better sense of, you know, maybe they’ll give you some information on salary and that type of thing once they’re completed in the program. So definitely advise people that when they’re considering taking on, potentially, a large amount of student debt, definitely asking questions of multiple sources. That information again is going to be available on the school’s website, but you may not have all of the information to factor in supplies, books, things like that. So maybe talking to the students will give you a better sense of the financial landscape once you’re done with that program. 

Mac Prichard:

I know another point you make with your clients is you encourage them to recognize that changing careers is hard. Why is it so hard to change careers, and why is it important to recognize this when you’re going through that transition, Julie? 

Julie Sliga:

Yeah, I do think it’s a really hard transition for people to make. You know, there’s some pretty big transitions that happen in our lives, and career change is one of them. So definitely encourage people to remember that and maybe show themselves a little bit of grace while they’re contending with a few different options that they’re considering. 

I think that a lot of things are tied up in our career. We have our health insurance. We have, you know, some social networks that we get involved in. We have cognitive fulfillment. It’s so many things, and it really does make a big portion of us as humans. So I do encourage people that, when they’re considering these big changes, they’re really thinking about changing an entire lifestyle, potentially. So go easy on yourself and give yourself the time to make that decision, and allow yourself to feel really confident when you do so. 

Mac Prichard:

How do you see your clients who go through career changes maintain connections, relationships in a field that they might have left professionally, but they still want to keep those ties going? 

Julie Sliga:

Yeah, this is a great question because I always tell my clients that when you go through – just because you go through one door doesn’t mean that you’re closing the other door. So I do tell people to keep those connections with folks. Maybe use LinkedIn, you know, maybe talk to your manager about your long-term vision. There may even be potential for your current company to support you in your long-term vision. So I definitely encourage people to pull those people into them and keep them close because just because you go down one path doesn’t necessarily mean you’re closing the other door.  

Mac Prichard:

Another way you recommend people get unstuck when switching careers is to work with a career coach like you. How do you know you’re ready to work with a career coach if you’re considering a career change? 

Julie Sliga:

Yeah, that’s actually a really big step that people take, in and of itself, and I want to acknowledge that. I think that people reach out when they feel just really frustrated with indecision or maybe feeling stuck. A counseling partnership can definitely help individuals with accountability and momentum. A counselor can help those individuals explore internal or external obstacles that need to be addressed in order to proceed with the change that they want. So, you know, if you’ve been contemplating a career change for a long time and maybe haven’t found your next calling, perhaps it’s time to reach out to somebody for help.    

Mac Prichard:

What are your recommendations about how to find a coach? Should you try to engage someone who’s in private practice? Work with a career service center, at perhaps your school where you went to college? What are some options, Julie?  

Julie Sliga:

Those are all great options. So there are people who are in private practice and can offer one-on-one or maybe group coaching. There’s college career centers. I always plug the free resources that are listed on careeronestop.org, again that’s the site that’s published by the U.S Department of Labor, and they have a place where you can find your local career one-stop center. So I do encourage people to do what’s gonna fit within their means, and there is assistance no matter what those are.

Mac Prichard:

And what kinds of results should you expect from an engagement like that, and how long should it take? Are we talking about several meetings, and suddenly a light bulb goes off, and you get clarity about whether you want to make a change? Or does it take more time and perhaps is more subtle than that? 

Julie Sliga:

Yeah, you know, so many years in this field, I am still surprised by people. Sometimes people are really quick to make a change and potentially just needed the encouragement, or needed to gather the resources, or maybe needed a couple of sessions just to kind of get their bearings and collect that information. Then once they did, the path writes itself. On the other hand, there are other people that I’ve worked with, for, you know, maybe a year or more, who are contemplating more obstacles, whether those are internal or external obstacles, that it may, you know, take them longer to make that change, which is why I always encourage the grace. Show yourself some grace. It’s a really big thing that you’re undertaking, and the benefit of working with a counselor is that you’re going to still be accountable, and you’re going to be working towards that, you know, on a weekly or maybe every other week basis.   

Mac Prichard:

Well, it’s been a terrific conversation, Julie. Now, tell us what’s next for you? 

Julie Sliga:

Yeah, thank you for asking. I actually just walked the walk myself and made my own career transition. This January, I opened up Panoramic Counseling, which is a Portland, Oregon-based private practice, and I offer individual and small group career counseling and mental health counseling services. I also offer small group career counseling using a job club model for people who are interested in career transitions. And I offer a stand-alone salary assessment and salary negotiation coaching for people who are in negotiations with a potential employer. 

Mac Prichard:

Well, I know people can learn more about you and your services by visiting your website panoramicpdx.com.

Now, Julie, given all the great advice you’ve shared today, what’s the one thing you want a listener to remember about how to get unstuck when making a career change?  

Julie Sliga:

I always tell my clients to do their research. You’re in the business of you, and knowledge is power. So that research is really gonna get you from point A to point B. 

Mac Prichard:

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Next week, our guest will be Kate Dixon. 

She’s the founder of Dixon Consulting and the author of Pay Up! Unlocking Insider Secrets of Salary Negotiation. 

Many people are uncomfortable asking for more money after getting a job offer. But Kate says a salary negotiation is like any business discussion. And to be successful, you need a plan before you start the conversation. 

Join us next week when Kate Dixon and I talk about how to negotiate your salary with confidence. 

Until next time, thanks for letting us help you find your dream job. 

This show is produced by Mac’s List. 

Susan Thornton-Hough schedules our guests. Lisa Kislingbury Anderson writes our social media posts. 

Our sound engineer is Will Watts. Ryan Morrison at Podfly Productions edits the show. 

Dawn Mole creates our transcripts. And our music is by Freddy Trujillo.

This is Mac Prichard. See you next week. 

Maybe you’ve been thinking about making a career change for a while now but you don’t know where to begin. Taking action toward a new career doesn’t have to be overwhelming, says Find Your Dream Job guest Julie Sliga. Julie recommends starting with research, both of your fears and the potential of the field you’re considering. She also advises taking advantage of informational interviews and maintaining your current network. And if you still feel stuck, maybe it’s time to hire a career coach to help you through the process. 

About Our Guest:

Julie Sliga is a certified career counselor and the owner of Panoramic Counseling. She has helped hundreds of workers make big decisions and workplace transitions.

Resources in This Episode:

  • Is it time for you to get some help with a career transition? Find out more about how Julie can help you at panoramicpdx.com.
  • From our Sponsor: Find Your Dream Job is brought to you by TopResume. TopResume has helped more than 400,000 professionals land more interviews and get hired faster. Get a free review of your resume today from one of TopResume’s expert writers.