How To Figure Out Your Calling When You Want A Career Change

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So you went to uni and plodded along dutifully. But what if you weren’t really feeling it? Maybe the course wasn’t what you expected, or you needed some time off to experience the world and working life.

Don’t stress – there are heaps of options to help guide you in finding your true calling (and yourself) – at any stage in life.

#1 Brainstorm

There are times when increased stress gets in the way of personal reflection, meaning heaps of thinking isn’t actually useful. Instead of being helpful in making decisions, you’ve just got a bunch of thoughts swirling around your mind and an inner monologue that sounds like a fire alarm.

Consider mapping a physical plan for the next five years that includes work, study, and personal goals. Reflect on things you have enjoyed in the past that weren’t strictly related to academia: maybe you loved babysitting or enjoyed helping design a new office space at work? These interests can help guide an alternate pathway using knowledge and abilities you already have. There are some great career planning resources here, and study advice available through Open Universities Australia.

If it all sounds too rigid or a bit overwhelming, get out of your head and move your body for a bit: go for a run or engage in some casual stress-dancing. Then have a cuppa and jot down some ideas on paper. Even if it looks like mad scribbles, it’s helpful to get it out of your head and onto paper.

#2 Working Holiday

We know not everyone has the luxury of being able to fly off to Europe for a year-long journey of soul-searching, but if you’ve always wanted to travel overseas, assess your financial situation and see if a working holiday is possible. Some time away might be just the, ahem, ticket (sorry).

If you’re under 30, many countries – like the United Kingdom – have youth visa agreements with the Australian government. Or maybe teaching English overseas is more your style? Whatever you choose, you’ll learn more about yourself, gain skills, and meet interesting people. Win, win, win.

#3 Getting To Know You

Without getting super existential, we’ve gotta ask, who are you? Take the time to figure yourself out and accept who you are, not who you think you should be – sometimes, a job we are good at isn’t one we would enjoy (or vice versa). As careers counsellors will attest, the sweet spot is where your interests and skills meet.

We also know that personal values are a core driver of personality and behaviour. There are heaps of free values assessments online if you need help figuring out what’s really important to you.

Alternatively, connect to a psychologist (or life coach, if that’s more your deal!) for in-depth reflection. You don’t need a diagnosed mental health condition to benefit from therapy – investing in yourself is an excellent way to set up your future.

#4 (Net)Work It

Your access to super smart, well-connected people doesn’t have to be limited to your office. Become a member of industry groups, develop dialogue through LinkedIn articles and start attending professional events for people in similar roles to you (or those you want to be in). It may surprise you to learn how many skills you already have that are transferable to a range of industries.

Alternatively, if you’re interested in a helping profession, many organisations need volunteers – non-profits and animal rescue agencies, for example. Even if you decide that industry isn’t necessarily your full-time career calling, you have made a difference and possibly obtained some excellent puppy cuddles.

#5 Phone A Friend

It can be unnerving when it feels like your life is at a crossroads, and many people isolate themselves for fear people will cotton on to the fact that they don’t have it all figured out. But every adult has had a “What am I doing?” moment in their lives – some of us have had several. I had one just this morning eating a crumpet. It’s fine.

Reach out to a close friend or family member and discuss your uncertainty. They may have some words of advice or a suggestion you haven’t thought of. You might even find they’re going through the same stresses. Nobody is in this alone, and everything is going to be OK.

(Lead image: 20th Century Fox)

When you’ve got your sights set, Open Universities Australia can help tailor online study to suit your career aspirations. Get access to 150 degrees and 1300 subjects from unis across Australia, and expert advice to help choose your study path. Explore your options all in the one place at or call 13 OPEN today.