The successful career changer makes designing their future work into a project. The first step is to look for clues. Become a career detective searching for the best clues about the fit between you and the working world. Since you want a career that fits you instead of one you have to squeeze into, the most powerful clues are about you.

A clue is anything you consider potentially useful in choosing career design components. You may be able to explain why you think it is useful, or you may just have a hunch. Don’t dismiss any clue too quickly in the early stages. It could be an observation, an insight, or a piece of information. In the personal realm, a clue can be about who you are, what you do well, how you behave, what matters to you, and so on. Clues can be information, observations, hunches, or insights. A friend said that at age 20 he didn’t know how to reconcile his great loves: women, drawing, and tying trout flies. He ultimately became a well-known plastic surgeon. If you’re not sure about a clue, you can do some work on it with questions and research to see if it has lasting value. Early in your career design project, the best clues will be about you.

  • Career change ideas you have had
  • How you think
  • How you behave in various situations
  • What you do well or not so well
  • Subjects you enjoy or master easily
  • Passions and interests
  • Your positive or negative reaction to something you learn about a particular career
  • Wants
  • Goals
  • Insights
  • Dreams
  • Fantasies
  • The things you care about
  • Your outlook on life
  • What attracts or repels you
  • Your quirks and idiosyncrasies
  • What other people say about you
  • Your natural talents
  • Tasks you enjoy
  • Limitations

Notice that you are not yet looking for clues about careers themselves. In the early stages of the career design process, looking for clues means paying attention to you and how you function. Until you have fully taken your own measure, it’s premature to try to squeeze yourself into ideas about careers. Your investigation ultimately will focus on clues related to externals such as the workplace, the economy and other practical pieces of the puzzle. But first you need to investigate the you that you want a career to fit.

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