This post was originally published in March of 2014, but was updated in August 2014.
I remember when I first heard the whisper in the back of my mind that told me I no longer wanted to pursue acting as my career.
I ignored it for as long as I could, but when it got louder and louder I knew I couldn’t keep willing it to go away.
I needed help figuring out what career I could be passionate about as a grown-up that could support me.
For 20 years, all I wanted was to be on Broadway – and without that dream, I didn’t even know who I was, nevertheless what I could do professionally.
I started with a copy of What Color is Your Parachute? Not only had it been the career change bible for decades, but it had helped my friend find a very small niche in the advertising world that seemed to be a perfect fit for her education, experience and skill set.
I had less luck with it, and ended up throwing it across the room in exasperation after the third exercise.
Then, I found a social worker who I was told helped creative types through their career changes. I spent $500 of my Mom’s money (she knew how important it was to me and gave it to me as a gift) to be told at the end of our second session that, if I got a nose job, maybe I’d get more acting jobs.
No, I didn’t bring up my nose at all (I actually think I have a fine nose).
And no, I wasn’t there to discover how I could get more acting jobs.
I was there to try to find my passionate, grown-up career – and again, I wound up despondent.
Writing this now, I guess it shouldn’t have been such a surprise that I chucked the stability I was craving, became a certified life coach (of all unstable things!), and became the career coach I needed at the time.
Here are the 10 things that I recommend to practically everyone who talks to me about this stuff, and what I’ve created to help other creatives not be so despondent themselves:
The Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions To Pick Just One. This is the book I’ve been mentioning over and over again to anyone who I sense can resonate with the subtitle. It’s one of a half-dozen books I purchased when I was writing my research paper for my coaching certification, but the only one that I read cover to cover and kept coming back to. It doesn’t specifically talk about career change, per se, but simply knowing that us creatives aren’t flaky, ADD, or bound to not follow through is the ultimate peace of mind. Once we can embrace it instead of deny it, it makes all the difference. A good counterpoint to this is The Renaissance Business, for those who know they want to be entrepreneurs and are looking to build a successful business as a multipotentialite.
10 Ways to Discover Work That Feels Like Play. I created these videos last summer and still remain so proud of them. They’re offered as a daily email to those on my VIP List, and takes the viewer through my top 10 tips to holistically and authentically find your passionate career. Here’s the first one:
Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type. On its own, I don’t think the book can deliver on what the subtitle promises. There’s so much more that goes into discovering your perfect career, like your values, skill set, interests, etc. That said, though, I give my career change clients an exercise that helps them easily discover their Myers-Briggs personality type and then point them towards this book, and it’s been the client favorite by a landslide. Just like there’s validation in knowing you’re not alone as a Renaissance Soul, there’s validation in seeing on paper your personality traits and the wide variety of careers that can supplement it. The book is very thorough and I love how it offers not only a huge number of careers for each type, but common threads, case studies, and how to make your personality type strengths work for you.
Growin’ Up Goods. I’ve been working one-on-one with clients since 2008, and in those 6 years I feel strongest knowing that I can offer my peeps the most help here. It’s also the most favorite part of my biz, walking alongside a client who doesn’t know what they wanna do when they grow up and being with them for 4 months while they experiment, get clarity, and take action. In our sessions, there’s a mix of worksheets, journaling, and personalized homework assignments based on where they are and what they’re working on in real time.
The Recession is Bullhonkey. I’ve been running this blog series on and off for years now, and I never get tired of reading the stories from those who have gotten hired and/or started their own businesses (or sometimes both!) since 2008. They’re full of vulnerable moments, total inspiration, and practical advice. I’d be surprised if I didn’t try to publish ’em at some point, but until then, we’ll have the archives and the posts to come!
Grown Up Gigs. It all boils down to the power of stories. I wanted a way to bring to the forefront the people who are following their dreams and making it happen in their passionate career while being able to pay their bills and live as grown-ups. It started as blog posts profiling “crazy” companies I’ve found, then evolved into a 5 question interview series on my blog, and then a live monthly interview series, and now a 3 week long mega-event for free. I can’t wait to get these lessons learned and stories shared out into the world, for the viewers to find their own clarity and inspiration!
Body of Work: Finding the Thread that Ties Your Story Together. Again, not a career change book per se, but such an important one for those of us navigating the new world of work. I’m with Pam in that, in the 21st century, we all have to view our careers as if we’re self-employed, with special attention paid to our entire body of work over our lifetimes – professional projects, hobbies, volunteer work, etc. This book shows lots of case studies and asks many juicy questions to help the reader be able to not only find the thread that ties it all together, but explain it to others, too. I just finished reading this book last month, but I have a feeling I’ll be recommending it lots.
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles. Man oh man, this is the bible for anyone who wants/needs to pursue a creative project or career. It can be read in under 2 hours and then needs to be picked up again and again to learn how to fight Resistance, do the work, rinse and repeat.
Create Your Dream Career. I was through the moon when I realized I could bring the entirety of my work – what I’ve been coaching clients on and through for the past 6 years – to the Internets on such a high quality level with such a low price tag thanks to CreativeLive. 3 days of dreaming, exploring and playing – and connecting those concepts to helping you discover your dream career – along with immediate access to my 50+ page, illustrated, rhyming (!) career change workbook? No brainer! And I miiiiiiiiiighta went overboard and wrote a 120+ page workbook to go along with the course, for those who choose to purchase it. Seriously, if you don’t know where to start with the career change work, this is the place.
Career Camp. This was the way for me to “bottle” the career change work I do one-on-one and be able to help more people at once, for a lower price point. I worked on it for about a year before I ran the first Career Camp from Sept-Dec 2013, and now I’m over-the-moon to see the results pour in: Campers launching jewelry lines, taking on event planning clients, quitting jobs, getting ready to bike across the country, enrolling in restaurant management programs, and making a go at being an illustrator + artist + surface designer. And that’s just 2 months after we officially wrapped up!
At the end of the day, discovering what you wanna do when you grow up takes sufficient dreaming, time, exploration, research, planning, trust, uncomfortability, and action. As my current client Molly wrote,
“When I started trying to “follow the bliss” that Joseph Campbell speaks of, I could not do it.
I started reading everything I could on finding your purpose, manifesting your destiny, but nothing was becoming apparent.(…)
I hired a creative coach named Michelle Ward who I never met.(…)
I cannot begin to tell you how much I have blossomed since I started working with her.
I feel I can take a seat and focus on myself and my dreams with
a security net to catch me
and a voice to egg me on!
Why did I not do this sooner? I keep asking myself.(…)
Listen to that one nagging thing in the back of your brain that keeps pestering you
and just take some time to let it breathe.
It’s scary…no doubt about that.
And worrisome…what if it doesn’t work, blah, blah, blah.
But, what if it does?
And even if it doesn’t, I think I have learned by now
It will bring me to the next thing I am supposed to do.“
Anything you have questions on, or that has helped you discover your grown-up, passionate career that I haven’t mentioned? What’s your personality type (I’m an ENFJ!)? Leave it below in the comments!