Whether you know what your ideal job is or not, it probably feels a really long way away right now.
If you’re a Goalfinder (you’re looking for your ‘what’), you feel like you can’t take real action on your career change until you’ve figured out what you want to move into. And you’re so drained by your current job that you rarely have the headspace to give it any meaningful attention.
And if you’re a Pathfinder (looking for your ‘how’), the fact that your dream career feels a million miles away from your current reality is paralyzing. Making a big leap feels too risky, yet you don’t have the resources to take it slow.
If either is true for you, there is a type of role you can move to that will help you move wholeheartedly in the right direction for your career and lifestyle. I call it a stepping-stone role – and it can create that much-needed space to give your career transition the attention it deserves.
What is a stepping-stone role, and who is it for?
A stepping-stone is a shift to a temporary, flexible role. It’s usually freelance, contract or part-time work. It’s a position that provides financial support and creates free time in your week, so that you can focus on the areas you are passionate about in your spare time.
This type of role is not for everyone, but has huge benefits in certain circumstances:
If you are completely unsure what careers would suit you next, a flexible role can provide the time and space in your life for you to wade out into new waters and experiment for a while.
If you have lots of ideas that interest you, this type of position gives you the opportunity to try on lots of positions before you commit to your next major career role.
If you are in a rush to make a change, this pathway will create an immediate change and a lot of motivation for the rest of your career transition.
When you feel emotionally exhausted by your current role, a flexible role is an immediate route out of the stressful environment. By removing the source of stress and creating headspace in your life, you’ll be able to plan your next steps much more calmly.
When you want to start your own business, this type of role enables you to build your business on the side without the unrealistic pressure for it to immediately support you.
When you are aiming to move into a new field, but don’t have the experience or connections you need, this type of role can give you the financing and time freedom for you to volunteer in new arenas and bolster your CV/resume.
While you are in your current position, it can be hard to see all the roles that might suit you. A role that creates freedom in your life to explore wider opportunities can open up avenues that you simply cannot see until you get out of a full-time situation and have time to stretch into new areas and meet new people.
How to find your stepping-stone role
To start looking for a stepping-stone role that is right for you and your situation, you’ll need to loosen the boundaries you’ve set yourself for what your next role looks like.
There are two key features of a stepping-stone role:
First, it should provide the finance you need to support you through the rest of your career change.
And second, it should create free time for you to stretch, volunteer, experiment, try on roles, and make your career change with far less pressure and stress.
An obvious place to start is to consider which part of your current skillset you’d enjoy using in a flexible role, and research the roles that you can do with these skills in a part-time or flexible capacity.
Be sure to reach out during your research. I guarantee that there will be a lot of roles out there you are not aware of. Ask around in your current networks, and with contacts in industries that appeal to you. You may be surprised that your current skillset applies to some flexible roles that had not been on your radar, or to opportunities that are immediately available within your network.
If you’re adventurous and want a bigger change in your life, think about the roles you would love to do. They don’t have to be forever and they don’t have to provide you with ‘status’ or a ‘career path’ in themselves. They can simply be an enjoyable, stress-free way to earn money while you focus elsewhere on the areas you are passionate about.
If you are more risk-averse, you might want to use your current skillset in new role that provides more free time but also guarantees you a secure ongoing contract. Or negotiate flexible hours right where you are. Ask yourself if you would be as eager to leave your current role if it was a temporary means to an end to facilitate your career change, instead of your long-term career plan.
What different ways are there to shift to a stepping-stone role, and who have they worked for?
Let’s take a look at some real-life examples of things you could do.