Ready for a Change but Not Sure Where to Start? 30 Global Fellows Share Their Best Advice

Alexandra Nemeth

Senior Manager, Content Marketing & Storytelling at MovingWorlds

A historic number of professionals are reevaluating their careers in the wake of the pandemic and return to the office. If you’re one of them and know it’s time for a change, the next question to answer is: Where should you start

One of the best ways to inform your own career plan is to look to others who have made their own successful transitions for advice – research proves it. We could think of no better source of wisdom than our MovingWorlds Institute alumni, who have done what so many others are thinking about doing right now: invested in themselves, stepped outside of their comfort zones, and pursued what really matters to them and the future they want to be part of building. 

To help you start your own transition towards more meaningful work, we asked 30 Global Fellowship alumni the question, “What advice would you give to someone who is ready for a change but not sure where to start?

See the insights they shared, grouped into major themes, below!

Introspect and uncover your core values 

“Get in touch with your values. What is meaningful to you? What do you wake up thinking and caring about? Which values are paramount in your life and which ones do you want to ensure are woven into your next professional experience? Which are non-negotiable? Don’t worry about getting too specific – values need not be the same as “causes.” Kindness, equity, sustainability, connectedness, bridge-building…these are all values that could form the foundation of a meaningful career transition.” –Sonya Rudenstine

“My advice would be to start by looking within, meaning sitting down with a piece of paper and jotting down your values and what you are looking for in your future career. Ultimately, these should align. Then start to overlay your skills and experience. For me, this approach helped me to figure out what I really wanted by looking inside-out, and that allowed me to become more strategic in my networking and job search.” -Amy Danner

“Get a notebook and find the time to do some self-reflection aided by research. What is important to you in a career? What do you like/dis-like about your current job? What scares you about leaving? Can you make a pivot that might not get you to your dream job but gets you closer?” -Kelsey Dickerson

“First, you need to understand who you are, what you value the most in life and in a job, and what combination of strengths make you unique. I remember imagining with lots of details what type of job I wanted: the office, the team, the environment, my level of autonomy, my salary, where I would live … maybe that job does not exist yet, but if you can imagine it, you can create it or attract it.” –Thais Bueno Rodrigues

“Ask yourself 3 questions: What is truly important to you? What would get you excited to be waking up each morning? How will you get there? Also, stay curious and open-minded, you never know which door will be open for you!” –Anna Derinova-Hartmann

“I would suggest entering into a deeper process of self-knowledge to figure out what really matters to you without the fear of external judgment. Take some time to observe your own self-judgments too. Sometimes we get stuck not in the rational things, but in emotions that we created from some tyrannical thoughts.” – Samanta Fonseca

“Start with self exploration – reflect on what your strengths are, what you are passionate about, and what your values system is. Take assessments such as the StrengthsFinder, Imperative Purpose Finder, talk to people you work with, friends and family. The goal is to come out of this with an idea of what you want to do, what you are good at, what you are passionate about, what your financial goals are.” -Chandana Sreerambhatla

“I highly recommend planning a retreat weekend just for yourself, and getting away somewhere where you can think, read, write, brainstorm, research, plan…. Go somewhere that inspires you, somewhere quiet without distractions. And do whatever combination of structured and unstructured activities that will help you to get in touch with your creativity, ideas, goals, and motivation. I really like ‘mind mapping’ — a kind of association exercise where you create a visual diagram that maps out relationships between concepts and things.” –Holly Pearson

“I really believe the MovingWorlds Institute fellowship would be a great place to start. For me, MWI solidified the feeling I had that something needed to change. I understood my strengths better and what type of role would fit my skills and what type of organisation I would prefer to work in. If you believe that you are looking to find purpose in your career but don’t know what purpose means to you MWI will help you figure that out.” -Katerina Msafari

Get clear on your motivation for making a change

“Ask the right questions. Why am I seeking a career change? What exactly do I want to change in my current career? What exactly do I want my new career to include? Is this really what I want or should I dig deeper? Solve a problem or meet a need in the world. The best jobs or careers are the ones that add value to people’s lives.” –Joelle Atallah

“If you are looking for a change in a career, be clear of your motivations behind it. Is it for money, or are you not finding the current stream challenging enough? Are you sick of driving into the office every day because you’d rather not commute, or because you don’t feel you belong there? Once you know exactly why you want that change, you can work towards it. ” -Vriti Jain

“I found people want to make changes to their careers for different reasons; compensation, fulfillment, or flexibility to name a few. The advice I tend to lean towards is understanding WHY you are looking to make a change. I think it’s easy to want something new and define what you don’t want, but it’s harder to articulate what specific changes you’re looking for in a new position. Take time to evaluate what you value in your career and how that matches your experiences so far. Career transitions take time and investment, so look for peers, colleagues, or friends who can serve as a sounding board to help clarify your thought process.” -Joelle Hughley

“Try to define what kind of change you’re ready for. Do you long for a different location? More freedom? Professional acknowledgment? Personal growth? More responsibility? More visibility? More money? It’s hard to change everything all at once, and most of the time it’s not necessary. Most probably one factor is more important than the others, and if and when you realize that you actually only want to change one or two things, it all gets a lot less overwhelming, and easier to plan your next steps. Changing industries requires different actions than looking for a more flexible role within the same landscape.” –Katalin Kaplar

“Start with asking yourself why you have the need to reevaluate your career. What is missing?” – Irit Seligman

“It is all about the vision you have for your life, and finding out how you can use your combination of traits to realize that vision. Thus, it’s important to evaluate yourself and come up with a purpose statement that can serve as a compass to drive future decisions. Mine is all about empowering under-served communities by creating real social impact on the ground in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.” –Serge Claude Eboa Edoube

Reflect on the past for insights to apply to the future

“Reassess your circumstances, and if you can:

  1. Release yourself from your old routine. It could be something like cooking new recipes to quitting your job.
  2. Give time and room to reconnect with yourself first and to explore and experiment.
  3. Your childhood dreams and hobbies could be a great hint to what you really want to do in life.” – Joelle Atallah

“Reflect, reflect, reflect!! If you have the opportunity to spend time really thinking about what you’ve loved to do in previous roles, what skills you want to use in the next, and what passion you want to bring to work, you’ll have some direction for where to start looking.” – Clare Healy

“What is it you wanted to do or lit you up as a child? Use this as your compass.” -Amanda Provenzano

“Reflect on what matters the most to you relative to the work you’ve accomplished. When and where were you most curious to learn, finding new opportunities, stepping out of your comfort zone and going for it? Then ask yourself why and if it was worth it. What were the situations in your career or as a volunteer that gave you the greatest personal pride and fulfillment? When did you feel confident that the work you did made a positive difference in people’s lives and/ or the world?” -Randy Penn

Reach out and talk to people

“Talk to as many people as you can in the industry, role, organization, etc. that you’re interested in. They will give you great insights, tell you things you didn’t know, and maybe point you towards opportunities you otherwise wouldn’t have found.” –Clare Healy

“Talk to others who’ve been on the same path and who’ve made a career change similar to the one you’re considering. Talk through their journey – the wins, the things to watch out for, and challenges they’ve experienced along the way. Not only will that give you a realistic picture of the journey ahead, but it is also super inspiring to talk to people who’ve found passion and purpose in their work!” -Jennifer Archila

“Talk about what you’re thinking and feeling as much as possible. Shop around ideas with friends and family. Repetition and feedback will help you sort through what thoughts are sticking. You’ll also give others a better idea of how to help you in your journey.” -John Cohn

“Spend time talking with people. Sometimes a simple word, idea, or story is enough to inspire you and unlock the insight that you needed. Most importantly, it is never wrong to ask for help or advice.” –Joelle Atallah

“Reach out to those who have taken steps that you are interested in taking. Hear their stories and see if any resonate with you. The more stories you collect from different people, some of whom will be like you and some of whom will be completely different from you, the more you’ll start to see where your heart wants to take you.” -Yui Shapard

“Joining a community that is interested in taking this same path of self-development and self-knowledge helps a lot. Humans are social species, and even the most introverted person gets the benefits of social commitment, conversations, and collective lessons.” –Samanta Fonseca

“Reach out to others in your network to share your thoughts and confusion. It was surprising for me to see that so many people I reached out to were also in the same boat as me. This helped me feel connected and also helped me generate new ideas and leads. If you have mentors in your network, look to them for guidance. I also think it’s a good idea to join a group: it could be a meetup group or if resources permit, a more formal engagement such as a fellowship with MovingWorlds.” -Chandana Sreerambhatla

“Of course, it’s impossible to completely mitigate any risk when making a transition, however you can optimise it by speaking to people from the industry you want to transition into. Look for people beyond your LinkedIn network who have a similar or same professional and industry profile that you are looking to shift towards. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask them about their experiences, their daily job tasks, their growth rate, their professional background, the challenges they face and of course if they can connect you to their colleagues or similar people with a similar profile. While this may seem simple, it sometimes can get a bit daunting as there is some amount of research, time and effort that is required. Not everyone will respond- either they have missed your message, don’t have the time, etc. I follow a 10% rule of conversion, i.e if I have to speak to 5 people- I’ll reach out to at least 50! Even after this you may not have all the answers to your apprehensions, however it will help you make an informed and aware decision.” -Devika Wadhawan

Be Patient

“Don’t expect the big change to happen right away. Once you take a leap of faith, be prepared and open to take baby steps that will guide you to the big one. Those baby steps will allow you to assess the market/industry, discover new possibilities, connect with lots of different people and maybe show you a brand new alternative you weren’t even considering in the first place. They´re bridges you build along the way to help you get where you want to.” –Fernanda Oliveira

“I can attest that figuring out what you want to do next in your career takes time. Patience, grit and courage are all key. But it’s important that you continue moving forward. Make decisions, try new things and when a situation goes sour for whatever reason, take corrective action to keep moving forward. Just as important is realizing that a career change isn’t an easy process. Most likely you will have more downs and then ups. But the hack to avoiding becoming demoralized is finding the good in the bad and leaning on that good stuff to help you press on.” -Lukasz Czerwinski

“Give yourself time to figure things out. These answers will not come overnight.” –Joelle Atallah

Experiment and test assumptions as you go

“Test your assumptions! If you think maybe you’d like to be a teacher, become a substitute or observe some classes. If you think you’d like to work in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, set up multiple informational interviews with professionals working in the space to understand the “day in the life.” Find small ways to get a taste of what you think you’d like to do before diving in head-first. You may be surprised by what you find.” -Justine Jenné

“Experiment – experteering through MovingWorlds is a great way to do this. If joining a fellowship is not an option, look for other resources such as skills based volunteering, conversations with mentors to validate your assumptions (strengths, interests etc.) and challenge yourself. From there, chart a course for yourself – even if making a change right at this moment isn’t possible, you’ll have a plan for when the time is right. Bounce it by others, mentors – as you share and reflect, you increasingly become this new version of yourself, the version who is on this new journey.” – Chandana Sreerambhatla

“While the number of people considering a change is historic, the yearning for change and the ambiguity that comes with it is common and normal. In fact, an average person will change their career 5-7 times over the course of their professional experience. When you’re ready for a change, know that it’s ok to ask for help because everyone has gone through it, or is going through with you. Whether that’s starting with a conversation with a new connection or sitting in on meetings to get a feel of the culture, dip your toe in the water and see if you like it. And, even if you don’t, it’s ok because you can always change again.” – Ivy Teng Lei

Have a bias towards action

“When you’re exploring making a career shift it may not seem like it’s ever “the right time” especially if the leap would involve a reduction in salary, a geographic move or something else that could feel destabilizing. I recommend immersing yourself in learning while preparing to make the change.” -Natosha Safo

“Keep taking inspired action — especially when it makes you slightly uncomfortable — learn from the result, let it inform your next action, and repeat! A balance of action and reflection has been crucial in making progress and charting new territory for myself. Reach out to people for conversations from a place of curiosity. Be kind to yourself and know that it’s a process and there are no mistakes, only learning – practice self-care. Be open to the possibility that you might go somewhere you’ve never thought of, and that it might be even better than anything you could’ve imagined for yourself. ” -Jing Han

“I often hear that people pivoting say that they “don’t know what to do”, when they usually already have an idea but are afraid to make the next step because of the perceived risks; loss of expertise, social status and salary. To this – be courageous and remember that meaningful change comes with risks. Keep the upside in mind, be it purpose at work, work-life balance, autonomy or other things you are looking for. I mean, isn’t this why you’re considering a change in the first place?” –Reuben Gan

“If you have already thought of it, then take the leap of faith, don’t be afraid of the unknown. Some of the best outcomes arrive when you go with the flow- that is how I began my journey 3 years back when I co-founded The Strategists, an integrated brand & marketing consultancy based out of New Delhi. The agency was started as a quick freelance project, however we stuck to working hard without focusing much on the outcome. Today we have served over 40 clients across industries- both in the domestic and international market. While I’d urge you to focus on the journey rather than the outcome, it’s also important to remember that everyone has their own unique experience that is customized to their circumstances, environment etc. Lastly, all I’d say is go with your heart- as they say when one door shuts, the other opens- you have already won half the battle by intending to make a shift towards something that you believe in, so now just have take the step :)” -Devika Wadhawan

Ready to take the leap and start taking action towards a values-aligned career that makes a difference in the world? Apply to the MovingWorlds Institute for the confidence, connections, and hands-on experience to launch or grow your social impact career.