January 21, 2006 | Episode 3

Surgical cap, chef's hat, police officer's hat
Ready to make a career change?
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Want to Change Careers?

Blaze a new path by completing these four exercises

1. Ask 10 to 20 people who know you in different contexts (friends, family, coworkers) to answer the following questions about you:
• What are my gifts?
• How could I best use these gifts?
• What situations should I avoid?
“The first question allows people to shower you with affirmation during a time when self-doubt can run high,” says Amy Hannes, who learned this exercise from career counselor Leona Vogt, when Hannes was changing careers from lawyer to personal chef. The second question, she says, will give you new perspectives on your abilities, from other people’s points of view. And the final question allows people to point out what they see as your big challenges, without being directly critical.

2. Think of five accomplishments in your life, and answer the following questions about them.
• What were you trying to achieve?
• What problems did you experience?
• What were the results?
• What specifically did you do to make a difference?
• What qualities or abilities did you demonstrate?
Hannes counted among her achievements: running an after-school program in the inner-city prior to law school, doing triathlons, teaching legal writing in law school, putting together dinner parties, and helping her brother and sister-in-law plan their wedding. “The qualities and abilities I demonstrated to achieve each accomplishment taught me a lot about what I have to offer others,” she says, “and helped me understand what makes me feel good.”

3. Think of how your presence or contribution makes a difference to those closest to you. These are your natural gifts — not what you learned in school or have been trained or socialized to do. See if you can find a way to turn these attributes into a career. “For me it was my food,” Hannes says. “I always make my family and friends happy by cooking for them and nourishing them with healthy, delicious things to eat.”

4. Ask people from different areas of your life and of different ages to use six words to describe you. “We tend to be very shy about admitting to what we can do,” says career counselor Jan Cannon, author of Now What Do I Do? The Woman’s Guide to a New Career. “But this exercise wakes you up to what you might not be aware of. It tends to be very positive and affirming — and all those words can then be used in your résumé.”

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