8 ways to find the Career Spark

8 Ways to find the career spark from XOSarah.com

Theresa said,

Hi there! I was wondering about “making the escape.” I am currently a teacher and while I love my students, I am just not passionate about what I do. I’ve always had some sort of passion in my life, but lately I feel like nothing really moves me. I am actually going to try aerial silks and getting back into ballroom dancing, but I was wondering if you had any advice on how to go about finding that “thing” that gets us excited. Thanks!

Great question Theresa! I really struggled with this a few years ago. After only three years at my job and started to worry that I didn’t love designing anymore. I distinctly remember sitting in my cube, talking to a friend via AIM, telling them I was starting to panic that I would have to find an entirely different career. Design and coding had been my path for a long time and if I wasn’t going to keep going in that direction, what the heck was I gonna do??

It can be really scary to realize you want a career change and even more scary to have no idea what in direction you want to head. Most of us are brought up believe we should go to college, figure out a career path, and then stay on that same road the rest of our lives. But what happens when that road starts to wear on you and you look around to find there are no obvious exits?

Try everything and anything that interests you

Sit down and make a list of every job that sounds kind of interesting. Then do your research – take a class, attend a seminar, look up websites and videos on Youtube. Picture your life doing that thing every day for 10 years. A few jobs might drop off the list and a few might look even more promising.

What did you love as a kid?

So cliche, but so true! When I was a kid I spent hours forcing my sister, cousins and friends to rehearse dance routines with me in the backyard. I would drill them over and over until the kicks and spins were perfect and performance ready. And what is little miss bossypants doing now – yelling at people to straighten their legs and point their toes :)

Ask questions

Not sure if a certain career will fit your lifestyle? Talk to someone already doing the work. People love to talk about themselves and will probably be happy to give you the low-down on their day.

Let go of the things and people that are not working to make space for something new

This is not a prompt to up and quit your job, but it’s a good idea to de-clutter and de-stress your life when you’re looking to make a change. It’s cheesy, but maybe that new career is just waiting for a little space to open up so it can sneak in.

What does your job look like?

Do you want to work with adults, kids, animals, alone? In an office or outside? Travel or stay close to home? Long-term projects or daily goals? Big corporation, small company, self-employed? Making mega money or just enough to be comfortable? Figuring out these details can narrow down your choices quite a bit.

Do something that brings you joy

I truly believe that positive breeds positive, so if you’re stuck in the muck of a job you dislike, find something that makes you happy at the end of the day. A hobby, a pet, a dude/lady, a daily/weekly ritual, a good friend. Anything that sends you to sleep with a light heart and a smile on your face.

Does your current job need a makeover?

Before you completely dive into a new career consider switching where you work or who you work with. After leaving the corporate lifeĀ I ended up with essentially the same job description, but now I work on my own terms and build sites that are creative and interesting. Didn’t have to completely change careers, I just make a few adjustments.

Have patience!

It took me another two years after having a mild panic over hating my job to realize I actually did enjoy designing (just not boring TV station sites), fall head over heels for the circus, and decide to make them into my full-time job.

And remember (not just Theresa, but all of you whose brains currently filling up with excuses), you’re not too old, too broke, too busy or too engrained in your current job. Those are roadblocks that YOU put in your own way because switching careers is a big, scary challenge. If you really want to find a job that lights you up every damn day YOU CAN DO IT.

Do any of you have advice to help Theresa find that thing that makes her excited to work again?



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  1. says

    Agreed. Great post, thank you for writing that. I’m in this boat, myself. Definitely starting to consider, and plan, an alternative professional lifestyle. :)

  2. says

    I love the tip to take a look at the things that you loved as a child or when you were younger. As adults, the money factor can really get in the way of us doing the things that we love… so it’s a great idea to look for those things that we got lost in when money wasn’t a thang. Just discovered your blog, btw, and I’m in love! See you around.

  3. says

    I think it’s really great advice about meeting people already doing the work.. it wasn’t until I met another local clothing designer (in a fabric store, of course!) that I really started to think I could be a designer, too. 18 months later, and I just gave my official quitting notice yesterday! I still have butterflies.

    Oh and read “the artist’s way” and do those darn morning pages.

  4. says

    Just wanted to leave a comment for Therese. I was a school teacher for a few years when I started ballroom dancing, then made the escape and became a full time dance instructor! If you like teaching and dancing this night be a winning combo for you! You get the same fuzzy feeling of helping people learn and accomplish things with the added benefits of working with adults and a smaller student to teacher ratio. Good luck!

    • Theresa says

      Thanks so much for your comment! I actually just had an interview at a ballroom studio yesterday and it looks promising! It’s been an uplifting week! And thank you Sarah for posting this blog! I have a ton of new ideas now and can’t wait to see what happens. :)

  5. says

    I definitely agree w/ all this advice. For me it really helped when I stopped to picture my perfect working environment in my head (alone, w/ my cat, designing stuff, in a Manhattan apartment). Now, two years later, I’ve gone through graphic design school and am interviewing for my first design job. Being that my goal is to eventually be a freelancer making enough to living in Manhattan, I only plan on staying in a “real” job long enough to gain the experience and confidence to work on my own, so that helps me know what next steps I need to take in order to help make that dream a reality!

    • says

      Also yes, you’re never too old to make a change for the positive (I’m in my mid-30’s). Back when I was looking to make a change, I figured in five years I could be 35 and on my way to an awesome career or 35 and stuck there in the same dull job that I hated. Either way, I’ll still be 35.

  6. JenniferR says

    I went from communication positions (marketing, pr, etc.) to studying Chinese medicine. I found my path after realizing that people were coming to me for advice about specific things, like nutrition. What do your friends and colleagues turn to you for? It took me a little time to come to terms with what I could actually be doing, if I just believed in myself.

  7. says

    Thanks so much for asking the question Teresa, and Sarah for your amazing reply! I’m in exactly the same position – thought I was going to spend the rest on my life in luxury fashion, made it to my dream job, and then was so miserable that all I wanted was to stick my head back under the covers every morning I had work. Now just searching for that elusive lifestyle! It’s great to know that there are those out there who understand these uncertain feelings but managed to pin their dreams down anyway x