Notebook, glasses and a cappuccino

5 exercises I wish I’d done before making a career change

More than 12 years ago, I made a career pivot. I ended up in a completely new field of work which was Human Resources. Although worth it in the end, the journey wasn’t easy. I was unsure of a lot of things.

Looking back, I could have made the process much less stressful than it was. I wish I had thought things through more clearly. I wish I’d considered ALL the alternatives available to me and what the change would mean in my life.

If you are thinking of taking the plunge, you will first need to work out if you’re really ready for a career change. Explore thoroughly what it is you want to change and why. Once you’ve worked that out, plan and prepare for the move because it will require your time, effort and commitment.

Get inspired

These 5 exercises are going to help you understand yourself and discover what could make a great career move for you. After doing these exercises you should be inspired and excited about the future, with a clearer idea of what your career transition will look like.

Enjoy the process!

Exercise 1: Reveal your passions

The things you love to do must play a key role in your career if you’re to be happy. But in addition to that, to keep yourself from boredom and stagnation, you’ll need to find out what your driving forces are. So ask yourself these important questions:

  • Which activities (at home or work) do you get most satisfaction from?
  • When have you enjoyed your work the most?
  • What talents do you enjoy using the most?
  • When have you been the most sure of yourself and your decisions?
  • When do you use your creative side?
  • What do you strongly stand for?
  • When have you been most committed, passionate and enthusiastic?
  • What impact do you want to make in this world?
  • What tasks do you like to do at work when you have a  choice?

Exercise 2: Timeline

Sometimes we overlook the significant events in our lives and how they impacted us, whether positively or negatively. By doing this timeline exercise you’ll reflect on the past and develop insights to help you create a better future career.

  • Draw a horizontal line across the middle of an A4 piece of paper.
  • Plot your age along the line starting with your current age on right-hand side, and work backwards to the left.
  • Then put a ‘plus’ (+) above the horizontal line to signify times you look back on as being positive and enjoyable. Put a ‘minus’ (-) below the line to signify times you look back on when things were not going well.
  • Think of the significant events from your past. For example, starting school, early career decisions, job roles, and any other important events in your personal life, eg moving home, starting a family etc. 
  • Write each of these above or below the line to represent whether you experienced it as being a positive or negative time. 
  • When you are happy that you have enough of the key points on your chart you can connect them with a line.

Here is an example of how it looks:

 When you are ready you can share your line with a trusted partner. Discuss what impacted you, how, and why.

What insights do you have for your next career move?

Exercise 3: Strengths stocktake

When making a career or job change, it is important to know your top strengths. It’s not necessarily obvious either. This exercise is always worth doing thoroughly.

Look for the evidence of your strengths using these sources…

Look in your CV

Go over your CV to remind you of past job roles. 

  • What did you do in each role that you really excelled at? 
  • What did you do better than anyone else?
  • Which of your achievements are you most proud of?
  • What advantages do you have that others don’t have (for example, skills, certifications, education, or connections)?

Your timeline exercise

Use your timeline exercise to jog your memory as well. Were there events in your life when your talents really sparkled?

Ask others

What do other people (your boss, peers, and clients) see as your strengths?

Exercise 4: GROW into action

To get from point A to point B you need a clear set of steps. I didn’t have that when I made my career pivot, which meant I wasted a lot of time and energy.

Here is a powerful simple framework used in coaching, mentoring and problem solving called The GROW Model.

It will help you:

  • get clarity on what you want
  • gain awareness of your current situation
  • explore options and generate solutions, 
  • establish a clear action plan and ultimately reach your end goals.

G is for GOAL

Ask yourself:  Where do I want to be?

R is for Reality

Ask yourself “What does my current situation look like?”

O is for Options

List ALL of the options available to you, whether easy or difficult.

W is for Way forward

Decide what actions or steps you will take.

Exercise 5: Job satisfaction criteria

There are three factors to job satisfaction: What gives you meaning, what gives you pleasure and using your strengths.

When you combine these elements in a job role, you are much more likely to be happy and satisfied at work. 

Start by asking yourself 3 questions:

  1. “What gives me meaning?”
  2. “What gives me pleasure?” 
  3. “What are my strengths?”

Spend some time thinking before writing your answers in a separate list for each question.


Changing people’s lives.Listening to people’s concerns.Problem solving.

Look over your lists. Imagine how each of the three elements could be combined in a job role.

Do the work

By doing these exercises, you’ll be more likely to make a successful career transition. Companies hire people who know themselves and what they want. But it’s not easy. If you’d like a guiding hand, call me for a consultation to find out how we can work together to make your career transition a success.

Sylvia Nicolas

Sylvia Nicolas
Verified Coach
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Sylvia is a career transition coach. With one-to-one online coaching she helps people discover a new career path and make the practical steps towards it. Email to find out more or book a free consultation with Sylvia right now.


  • I totally agree with Sylvia about being able to enjoy the work you’re doing. However, I realize that it might be very scary to change a career, especially when a person has a family. Thus, I would add a suggestion to young job seekers: be open to different opportunities and jump to those that you feel might be a good fit, and if that does not work out – you know what you do not like and still have a whole life to find and build the perfect career.

    • Really good points Sergey! I do agree that it is scary to take the jump when you have a family, hence you need to think carefully about the pros and cons, and also seek advice from your relatives and talk about your plans.

      And yes young job seekers, and anyone actually can try if they are a good fit. Life is about having experiences, and learning from those experiences, so we can be stronger and happier. Thanks for your insight.

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