Career Change: A Step by Step Guide Exploring Myths, Your Exit Strategy & Your Plan

Jun 14, 2023

Career Change: Some Myths, Your Exit Strategy & A Plan 

Career change is one of those things that most of us have considered at one point in time or another.

But before you make any drastic decisions, even if that feels like the most logical thing to do, pause and consider your options.

Take some time to consider why you want change, and when you understand 'why', begin to craft a career exit strategy. 

But first... 

 Some truths about career change:

  1. There is no quick fix and no eureka moment. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying...
  2. There are no psychometric tests and no single assessments that can tell you who or what you should be, either now or in the future! In fact, many of these assessments are about as reliable as your horoscope. What they do offer is a snapshot in time of what you are thinking and how you are feeling. They have little to no predictive value and are typically unreliable. Yes, even the Myers Briggs! The best one that you can get your hands on is VIA assessment. This offers you a framework with useful language to help you understand your skills, strengths, and challenges.
  3. You are not changing your career; you are developing in your career. The skills, abilities, and competencies that you have built in your career to date are yours; they are transferable skills that travel with you when you make any change. The fact is you are developing or transitioning in your career, and you may need to upskill, reskill, or retrain for the functional qualifications of your future role, but you are not starting from scratch.
  4. You feel uneasy for two reasons. First, you (just like the rest of us, and through no fault of the education system) have never been taught how to manage your career, particularly in the 21st-century workplace. Thankfully, you can learn these skills once you are willing to take a deep dive into your career so far, to better understand what got you to now and why you are making changes. Secondly, you are experiencing a sense of liminality; that is, you are transitioning across an identity boundary, attempting to make decisions about your future without all the information you need. You feel betwixt and between your present and future identity, and that can feel hard. This is a natural reaction to change, and having that knowledge gives you the permission you need to acknowledge how you are feeling and to control what is within your control.
  5. Don't quit unless you have the financial stability to manage for 2 years (this assumes that you are not experiencing workplace bullying or harassment or that your mental/physical health is not impacted) or unless you are willing to work in any job that gives you the financial stability you need as you transition.

Next steps... Your exit strategy.

I know the movies and, more recently, social media would have you believe that the best way to make a career change is to hand in your P45, and as you walk confidently out of your office, telling everyone what you really think about them, you manifest your future best self. Flash forward 2 weeks, and you are sitting on a beach running a multimillion-euro business as you look out at your yacht.

The reality is making a considered and thoughtful career transition, one that you are likely to be happy with (this is not an exact science), during this season of your life, takes time; it does not happen overnight, nor does it always bring success.

The more practical (and dare I say more boring option) is an exit strategy.

An exit strategy is a psychological bridge between where you are now and where you want to go in the future. Through self-reflection and strategic research, it culminates to form a practical plan that supports you as you transition from one part of your career to another. This takes time (maybe 18 to 24 months) – depending on what you decide your next step is...

Career Exit Strategy: Three practical steps.

Step One: The now...

Where am I in my career now?

Pause for 60 and ask yourself this run-of-the-mill question relating to your:

  • Current role, industry, and position
  • Membership of professional bodies, continuous professional development (CPD), and any information about possible future career progression.

This is exclusively a fact-finding exercise, so for now, refrain from including any emotion or feeling.

Qualifications & Education

Pause for 60 and focus on recording your:

  • Educational achievements and qualifications to date.

Again, this is a fact-finding exercise, so be clear and concise.

Roles & Jobs

In this Pause for 60, record all of the roles that you have worked in to date in rough chronological order. This doesn't have to be exact, but do ensure that it is factual.

For example, you may not get all of your dates correct, but you should get the role that you were in correct!

Skills Earned and learned

Pause for 60 and focus on the skills that you have earned and learned across the course of your career in each of the various roles that you have worked in.

Career Likes

Pause for 60 and reflect on:

The things you like or enjoy about your role, level, or industry. Be clear with yourself here, what specifically do you like? Is it the role itself, or the perks, the people, etc.?

Career Dislikes

Pause for 60 and reflect on:

The things you dislike or enjoy about your role, level, or industry.

Again, be clear and honest with yourself, what specifically do you dislike? This might be hard, but be kind to yourself and go with what you are thinking.

Connect the dots

There are no right or wrong ways to answer any of these questions, but what they do help you to do is to understand what got you to here.

Remember, what may be linked to one person's career dislikes may, in fact, be the reason you like your career and vice versa.

The above Pause for 60-second pauses give you the big picture information about you and your career, so far. As you read over this information, consider any connections that you may not have previously seen. Record your observations and any ideas that you have. Now it's time for a little more detail...

Step Two Function or Environment or maybe Function & Environment.

Next, you start to dig a little deeper as you begin to separate the core function of your role from your work environment.


In your next Pause for 60, turn your attention to the core function of your role.

Your core functions speak to the things that you do as a fundamental part of your role. It refers to your day-to-day work or the functional aspects of what you do.It might help to reflect on projects you have completed or daily tasks.

How do you feel about the function of your role?

Give it a score between 1 and 10.

1 = hate. 5 = okay. 10 = love.


During this Pause for 60, your aim is to think about your work environment.

At first, it may seem challenging to separate the function of what you do from the environment that you do your work in, as both are intertwined.

Your work environment is the places and spaces that you do your work in, and, importantly, the people who share those places and spaces with you.

How do you feel about the environment of your role?

Give it a score between 1 and 10.

1 = hate 5 = okay, 10 = love.

Function or Environment, or maybe both?

As you consider your function and environment, you may begin to see dots connect between pieces of information that were previously disconnected. Separating the function of your career from the environmental aspects of your career is very important.

Figuring out if it is one or the other or potentially both helps you decide if it is what you do or where you do it or indeed that both need your attention.

As you unravel the strands of your now, it should gradually become clearer which areas require your attention. For some, it will be the function of what you do, for others, it is the environment that you do it in, and for others, it is a combination of function and environment.

Step Three: What's next…

As you begin to understand your career story so far, figuring out what's next is important. As you do, begin to use the information that you have collated to craft your profile.

This involves networking, but don't worry, it's not all about meeting people over lukewarm coffee and pastries at 7 am! This is about networking in a way that works of you, let that be online, in person or at events. 


  • This involves updating your LinkedIn profile. As you do, ensure to turn off your notifications. You don't want your entire network knowing that change is coming until you are ready.
  • Arrange coffee or lunch with an ex-colleague, somebody from college, or a member of your professional network to chat about the possibility of change.
  • Prep your CV and cover letter, but don't spend time refining it to the point of perfection. You will need to adjust your CV depending on job adverts, etc., so get the big information down and then be ready to adjust.
  • Attend in person networking events with your professional body or alumni groups if that works for you. 

Logical, Big & Dream Steps…

There is no way of predicting the future; we can only decide based on the information before us.

Logical Step:

Pause for 60 as you answer this question:

If you were to stay where you are and take the next logical step in your career, what would that look like?

Write down exactly what you would do, what it would look like, and how you think you would feel about it.

Give your overall reaction a score between 1 and 10.

1 = hate, 5 = okay, 10 = love.

As you begin to think about your next Big and Dream Step, please do not let practicalities get in the way. There is time for that in the next part. This is about getting unfiltered ideas about what's next on paper.

Big Step:

The next big step involves thinking about a stretch or a challenge. One that is possible to do but will require some change and effort.

Pause for 60 and answer this question.

What does the next big step in your career look like?

As you do, write down exactly what you are doing, what it looks like, and how you think you would feel about it.

Give your overall reaction a score between 1 and 10.

1 = hate, 5 = okay, 10 = love.

Dream Step:

Your dream step is just that – the dream.

Pause for 60 and as you answer these questions, give as much detail as possible.

If nothing stood in your way, what would you choose?

What would it look like?

How would you feel?

And where would you be? 

Give your overall reaction a score between 1 and 10.

1 = hate, 5 = okay, 10 = love.

As you look at each of these options, which one sits most comfortably with you? Which one lights you up? Which one leaves you feeling disengaged? Begin to identify (and this is where you may need professional help) any possible connections and pathways between the three options. What are your skills gaps? Do you need to upskill, reskill, or retrain?

The decision to upskill, reskill, or retrain?

Now for the practicalities. Do not sign up for the first course you see and part with your cash. Take your time and engage in risk-free change. The best thing you can do at this point is to engage in some risk-free learning. This involves considering your options.

Risk-free upskilling, reskilling, or retraining:

Think big and act small. While the answer to what you should do next, and the possibility of getting it 100% right, is an almost impossible task, there are certain things you can do. Remember, there are over 12,000 job families out there, and that number is growing every single day as technology advances. So finding something that you enjoy 80% of the time during this season of your life is a feat in itself!

Online learning:

There are plenty of dedicated online platforms where you can learn for free or for a small fee. These are risk-free ways to decide if the area you are considering is for you. The following are some that you might like to explore:

Future Learn



LinkedIn Learning

Digital Garage Google

From an Irish perspective, the following portals offer mainly free access to courses in areas identified as future skills shortages in Ireland:

Digital Skillsnet


Your Plan:

As I mentioned, you have most of the information you need to make a choice about what's next. Putting it all together and deciding based on what you have learned about your career so far is your plan. As you do this, use your Pause for 60 strategically.

You may decide to Pause for 60 each day for 4 weeks (which is what I recommend), each day choosing a different aspect of this exit strategy to focus on. As the weeks pass, you will begin to collate and digest the information, helping you make an informed decision. This process then provides you with the information you need to plan in more detail.

As you begin to navigate the next step in your career, and as your shift your perspective about your career self-reflection, and strategic planning become your best friends. Using the Pause for 60 Method, and by following the steps outlined in this article, it is possible to develop a solid exit strategy. This is not an overnight process, it takes time, effort, and a willingness to learn the skills of career management.

Best of luck and as you design your own version of success, remember if you don’t someone else will and you may not like their version…

S x

If you would like some more help on managing career transitions join Total Career Reset - an online course that guides you step by step through the above process.

The course is €29 at the moment, but if you can pay more you are free to pay as much as you think the course is worth.

20% of any payment over €29 goes towards the design and development of an online careers education platform for children in primary school.

Whatever you choose to pay gives you lifetime access to the course.  

Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.