I was talking to my friend and colleague Brian McIvor [about whom big news soon!] the other day and mentioned that I had been taking a client through a preliminary discussion on a career change and had doodled Porot’s Magic Boxes on a scrap of paper as I was explaining the process to her.
“Small world,” said Mr Mac, “I was talking to Daniel only today.”

It is a particularly topical subject in the present climate because we are meeting so many clients who are having to consider transitioning into a new line of work – operative words “having to.” Times are very tricky and if you are in the buggy whip business and Henry Ford has just opened next door, you will have to consider your ongoing viability. Here, in a nutshell, is Daniel Porot’s elegant summary of the delicate matter of breaking out of your pigeonhole.

There you are, in your comfortable little box. Or rather, two boxes. The top bit of the box is your skillset and the bottom bit is the sector that you know and in which you are, in turn, known.

In this example, you are providing Accounting services within the television industry. But what if that doesn’t float your boat any more? What if you want to spread your wings and recapture the dizzying joy you felt as a reporter in your College magazine? You’d be great at it – you just know it. You have several old friends who are in that arena and you have gained a real understanding of the realities of working in the reporting game. Plus, your hobby is the scientific and medical field. You hoover up magazines and scholarly journals and your eyes are forever popping at the latest landmark study. So, you have a pretty clear picture of your heart’s desire, of where you want to be next:

The problem is, that despite your obvious passion and knowledge, you are asking employers in your chosen field to take a big fat RISK in hiring you. You are a total unknown, with zero track record in this arena, and not even a single reference who can stand up and speak on your behalf. The one-step approach into a new skillset box and new sectoral box is a huge leap of faith – for the employer. And employers don’t seem to be too keen on leaps of faith these days. So tedious! So risk averse! What’s a person to do?

Monsieur Porot proposes taking a stepped approach to your ultimate destination. With a clear eye on your goal, take an interim role that gets you significantly closer to your heart’s desire. This can involve bringing your existing skillset into the new sector:

In the interview for this job, you should have an advantage over a lot of other accountants, given your passion for all matters medical and scientific. You may not be able to persuade the employer that you can hit the ground sprinting, but you certainly won’t be crawling …

Alternatively, you could stick in the field you are in now and look for an opportunity to try the new skillset:

If you work for a large organisation, you can even look to effect this change within your current employment – and they are more likely to take that risk on you, given that you are a known quantity or that you can position it as a secondment while you learn the ropes.

Either way, once you are bedded down in the new role, you can start casting about to make the final jump into the perfect job. And every step you take, every decision you make along the way, is informed by that big heart picture in the bottom right hand corner. Your “Yes / No” decision tree for any opportunity you see is almost a no-brainer given that you get to ask yourself the magic question, “Hmmm. Will this project / task / move bring me close to my ultimate, heartfelt goal?” It’s worth remembering Jim Rohn’s great quote:

“If you don’t design you own life, chances are you’ll fall into somone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you?”

It pleases me when life fits into neat little boxes like this, with minimal risk for all parties concerned. The big unspoken problem with this approach is, what if you don’t know what your heart’s desire truly is? And that’s when the fun really begins …

More to come.

Related Posts:
Career change – thinking outside your little box
Career planning – 10, 100, 1000 days
Daniel Porot’s excellent site can be found