Starting Over? 10 Tips to Reboot Your Career

Change is hard, but also inspiring and necessary.

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Annie Favreau
Annie Favreau
January is a classic time to start fresh, start over, or start down a different road. But as anyone who has broken a habit or committed to the latest workout routine will tell you: change is hard. Yet it can also be inspiring, engrossing, and totally necessary to kick-start your life in a new direction.

If you're starting over in 2013, check out these 10 tips to successfully reboot your career.

1. Take a 3,000-foot view of 2012. To get somewhere new, you need to pinpoint where you are now. Make a quick list of what you did in 2012, including projects, accomplishments, or challenges you've overcome. Next, follow blogger and entrepreneur Greg McKeown's suggestion to step back and see the overview: "Think like a journalist and ask yourself: Why does this matter? What are the trends here?" Your goal is to figure out what's already working for you, so you can carry it into the rest of 2013.

2. Wipe the slate clean. Stop agonizing about how things should/could have been, and you've won half the battle for change. As career coach Christine Schaap puts it, "It's easy to beat yourself up and use your failures as an excuse for not picking yourself up and moving on. But as long as you live in the past, you're denying yourself the future that could be yours." Let go to give yourself a real shot at a fresh start.

3. Dream big … No, really. The phrase "dream big" can seem both daunting and pointless—why daydream when I need a practical action plan? But judging options too quickly leads to self-sabotage. If you immediately label career ideas as "impractical" or "impossible" you risk missing out on legitimate opportunities. Give yourself permission to brainstorm without the voice of criticism getting in your way.

4. Do something everyday that your future self will thank you for. Running a marathon doesn't start with a To Do list that says: "No. 1: Run a marathon." It doesn't even start with "No. 1: Run five miles." It starts with "No. 1: Run to the end of the block." If big changes feel overwhelming, focus on small daily actions. Even taking mini-steps—setting up an informational interview, writing a thank-you note, reading an industry blog, etc.—make you feel more in control as you slowly build up to your goal.

5. Give yourself credit. Starting over takes guts. Many people never try to make a major change out of fear and insecurity. Even if you're just starting out, give yourself credit for taking the first steps toward something better.

6. Think ahead to stay on track. Change requires energy. And especially during long-term career transitions, there's bound to be a lag between your initial energy investment and the end results. Find tactics for those moments when you just need to grit your teeth and keep going. For example, schedule monthly re-energizing meeting with friends, or a weekly 20-minute meditation on positive accomplishments. You will have down times. Proactively plan how to push through.

7. Help other people. Networking is a powerful tool for career changers, but it can feel uncomfortable, pushy, and, at worst, selfish. To network in a genuine way, flip the standard formula on its head and asking yourself, "What can I offer this person?" James Clear, founder of Passive Panda, writes, "Networking is a two-way street. And your side of the street is all about helping others, not asking them to help you."

8. Let go of set-in-stone expectations. It's important to establish goals and action plans. But tying yourself to strict expectations for your future can end in disappointment. When you're surprised by an unanticipated shift, allow your plans to organically develop in relation to your new circumstances. You may end up on a path that's beyond what you can currently foresee, or even imagine.

9. Be an FIO worker. In a recent issue of Fast Company, Angela Blanchard, the CEO of Neighborhood Centers, said the most important jobs are what she calls FIO jobs: "Figure it out. That is the job." As more and more careers fall into this category, you've got to adopt a mantra of continual learning: even if I don't know something right now, I'm resourceful enough to figure it out. Embracing fear of the unknown as an opportunity for growth isn't easy, but it's the secret sauce behind turbo-charged career transitions.

10. Get creative. You don't need to check off each tip on the list to be successful. Not every piece of advice will apply to your life, but that's your cue to get creative. Pick out the ideas that most resonate with you and use it as a jumping off point to formulate your own game plan.

How are you planning a fresh start in 2013? Tell us in the comments.

Annie Favreau is the managing editor for Inside Jobs—a site that helps career changers and choosers discover strong career options + find the right education to make it happen. Follow her on Twitter @InsideJobs.