When contemplating a change in your professional life there are many ways of achieving your desired outcomes. These outcomes are usually what prompt your desire for change. For example, you may want to feel differently, to have more time to pursue hobbies or spend with loved ones, or to simply spend your days doing something that is more or less challenging than your current work.
However, the process of getting to those desired outcomes is usually less certain and linear than we would like it to be. The uncertainty of a professional change can be unsettling if it seems completely serendipitous and disorganized. However, if you think of the change process in scientific terms it may give you comfort in the process of achieving your desired outcomes. In other words, think about tackling a professional change much like a scientist would tackle an empirical question.
Scientists ask questions, theorize about the answer, craft experiments to test their theory, and then evaluate their theory in light of the data. Depending on the conclusions, a scientist may have follow-up questions, which are then approached in the same way as the original question. Similarly, you may find yourself testing your theory that a different job would help you achieve your desired outcomes (feeling differently, having more free time, etc.). These tests are rarely occur in the form of large, one-time changes. Rather, these tests are small side projects and weekend activities and volunteer events. You may find yourself wondering if you could somehow find an opportunity for a more substantial position doing one of these activities (or working for one of the organizations or collaborating with someone you meet while doing these projects). If so, test out the possibility and evaluate the outcomes. Many times your initial experiment will only lead to more questions as you begin to explore a real possibility of a career change.
In her book on reinventing your career, Herminia Ibarra argues that career changes need not be confined to our traditional “reflect then act” mentality. Rather, she supports this notion of experimenting with many possibilities then reflecting on the changes. In other words, “act then reflect;” test out new alternatives and then evaluate their viability for you. This mentality challenges the notion that there is one perfect job or position for you, but rather that there are many possibilities to achieve your desire outcome at different points in your life. Thus, the experimental method can be used to test out which options are real possibilities for you.
(Reposted with permission from http://www.drmelissaaiello.com/blog.html.)
Ibarra, Herminia (2003). Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.