Possible Selves

There’s a book I found helpful when I was in the exploratory phase of my career change. Otherwise known as the time when I read every possible book available on career change/how to decide what you really want to do/how to find your passion etc etc. It taught me about ‘possible selves’.

It’s called Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career, and it’s written by Herminia Ibarra.

“Possible selves are the ideas we all have about who we might want to become. Some are concrete and well-informed by experience; others are vague and fuzzy, nascent and untested. Some are realistic; others are pure fantasy. And, naturally, some appeal more to us than others.”

You’re not searching for The One

I love this idea. Because straight off, it takes the pressure off. You’re not searching for The One. You’re not searching for this one dream job that’s going to change your life, make everything better, make you happy. 

Instead, you’re making a list of all those possible selves you think you might like to be.

There’s the you that carries on in a similar role, but with a different company. Another version of you that retrains as a teacher. A possible self that becomes an artist and lives by the sea. Another you that wants to work for XX company but doesn’t know how to get in the door. The one that stays in your current role but somehow, magically, it gets better and you enjoy working there again. The version that starts up a business selling cheesy snacks that get snapped up by Waitrose and John Lewis. 

You’re having fun, you’re getting it all out of your head. The sensible ideas, the totally out there ideas. The ones you’re not sure about, the ones you’re extremely keen on. 

The main thing is to not hold back. All of these possible selves are representing something in you. Maybe some are hinting at a creative you that’s feeling frustrated and trapped. Maybe there’s a part of you that wants autonomy and freedom. If you push these urges down and ignore them, you’re not going to deal with the feelings of frustration, they’re just going to build.


The next step is to start to explore these possible selves, as many as you can.

It could be that you explore a more creative self, where your main work is creating. You look into the reality of what you’d need to do every day, what you might get paid, how long it might take etc. You speak to someone who’s doing work in this area that you admire or that seems to enjoy it. And you realise that actually you wouldn’t really want to be an artist; trying to make money from it doesn’t sound fun.

But you realise you really do want to be a part of that industry, and that finding a role similar to your current one, but in that industry, just might be an idea. Or you realise instead that starting something artistic as a hobby will bring you a lot of joy and a chance to express yourself in a way you haven’t for a long time. 

On the other hand it could be that you realise this is what you want to be doing. Therefore you need to make a plan. How can you make it happen? What have other people out there done to make it happen? How could you get started? Who could help you?

Nothing’s off limits

It’s important to give credibility to your ideas, don’t just dismiss them as silly. Part of the process is to make it as fun and interesting as possible, like a side project. Explore these ideas, see what you find out. Even if the result is that you definitely do not want to proceed in that direction, at least now you’re clear on that and you have a good idea of the reality. 

It will help you to clarify what you want and sort through the muddle. And new ideas may appear. 

I explored all sorts of possible selves. At first I considered staying in my role but working for another similar company. I tried out working as a tutor, a translator, a teaching assistant. Teaching English abroad, volunteering or working for a charity appealed, and I got close to going ahead. That even led me to do a teaching English as a foreign language (CELTA) qualification. I shadowed someone working in the foreign rights department of a publishing company. I started offering coaching sessions.

And I finally took a full-time role which tied in a lot the areas I’d been exploring. It was in the world of education, using skills I’d used in my former role such as sales and presenting, and for a company whose values mirrored mine.

Importantly, exploring possible selves helped me to shed my previous work identity, something Ibarra also writes about. I shed the constraints I’d been holding onto, this is what a good job looks like, this is what I can do, this is the world I have to work in. It helped me to be open to new opportunities that I previously would have dismissed as not possible, or not right for me.

It’s a journey, and it takes time. But if you’re at that point where you’re feeling stuck and frustrated, you know you need to make a change but you don’t know how, then it’s worth the work.

If you need help with your career change, you can contact me at LinkedIn or email me at joaopoku@gmail.com.

Photo by Charlie Egan on Unsplash

Is it too late?

I read an article where a reader was asking for advice. Is wanting to change career at 30 years old a crazy idea? Basically, is it too late?

Here are my thoughts.

Firstly, you’re probably likely to be working for many more years to come. Do you really want to stay doing what you’re doing for 10 or 20 more years? 5 more years? 1 more year?

Secondly, what are your motivations for wanting to change career? For instance, is it that you don’t get on with your team or manager? 

Do you feel that you’ve grown out of the role, it doesn’t interest you any more or sit with your values?

Are you bored, do you feel you’ve learned all there is to know and you’re not growing?

Maybe you’ve always had a secret desire to do a particular job, become a writer, teach, do social work, and you’re realising it’s now or never?

Or is it something else?

Whatever it is, it’s worth taking the time to uncover what’s really going on. Does it definitely mean a career change is the way forward?

If it’s a team or manager issue, can that be addressed somehow? If you have an HR department could they help? Could a side step into a different role in your company be a possibility? Do you actually need to leave, or if you enjoy the work, could the situation be improved?

If you feel that you’ve grown out of your role or you’re feeling bored, is it something you could speak about with your manager, HR or someone senior in the company? Could you change projects, start something new, move into a new team? 

That restless feeling of boredom, could a more creative or entrepreneurial pursuit or hobby give you the freshness and excitement you need? Could you start something on the side; a blog, creating artwork, learning a language, volunteering, selling something you’ve created or can offer? Would that be enough to satisfy that urge?

Having a steady, slightly boring job can be an asset if you need the energy for writing a novel on the side, or starting your own small business or freelancing project.

This secret desire you’ve been pushing down for a particular job or career, what does the reality look like? Do you know anyone doing the work, or could you be put in contact with someone? Is there anybody you can speak to and get a realistic view of what the job entails? How do they really spend their time, what training did they need, how do they get started? Does the reality fit with the image you have? 

Can you break down the steps you’d need to take to get there? Does it fire you up or seem like too much hard work?

Wanting to change career at any age isn’t crazy, in fact it’s pretty common. But not everyone goes ahead and does it. Because it seems daunting, scary, risky. But, for most people, a huge amount of your time is spent at work. In my opinion, the crazy thing to do would be to put up with a job that makes you miserable, depleted, frustrated – if you have the means and the opportunity to change.

Most importantly, get help – read books on career change, listen to podcasts, listen to talks. Find out how other people have gone about a career change and use their tips to guide you, you’ll always find someone in a similar situation to you. Talk to someone who’s been through a career change, maybe get help from a coach who can help you upick what’s going on in your head and make a plan. 

If you are seriously considering a career change, it’s not crazy and it’s not too late. Something has obviously sparked this feeling. You just need to figure out what’s motivating you, what are your options, and go for it, small steps at a time. Good luck.

If you need help with your career change, you can contact me at LinkedIn or email me at joaopoku@gmail.com.

Photo by Sam Moqadam on Unsplash

I feel stuck!

Here are some of the things clients have written to me when they’ve reached the point of desperation in their career situation.

 “I feel stuck!!!”

“I am totally lost with what I actually want to do with my life and career.”

“I’ve been stuck for some time in figuring out what I’d like to do in my career.”

“I’m at a major cross roads!!”

It’s common to feel stuck. You don’t want to move forwards with your current career as it no longer feels right. You don’t want to carry on what you’re doing. You’ve lost any joy or interest in what you’re doing.

But – it offers a regular salary, certain security, you’re comfortable, you know what you’re doing. You can just cruise along. It isn’t enough for you, but it’s not exactly scary.

And the unknown, is scary.

A new job, new colleagues, a new set-up, possibly a new industry. A steep learning curve, the possibility that you won’t like it or won’t fit in. It’s all quite daunting.

Add in cvs, applications, cover letters, interviews, it all seems such a lot of work.

So you stay stuck.

You don’t do anything, you dream, you worry, you procrastinate. You lose confidence and you stay small.

I’ve worked with enough clients in this situation to know that although career change can seem daunting and scary, the scariest thing is actually doing nothing. Staying stuck, feeling crap, kicking yourself for not sorting your life out.

The best way to start feeling good again, to feel a bit motivated, a bit energetic, is to start on your career change journey.

It’s like a side project, your little secret – where it’s all about working out what you want, how you want your life to be, and how you can get there. Sorting out your values so that you find a job that actually matches what you want to achieve. Looking not only at what you’ve done in the past, but at what you really want to be doing, and could be doing, in the future.

Career change can actually be fun if you look at it as a discovery project. You can do the research, get inspiration, read about people who enjoy their work. Get ideas about what might interest you. Contact or talk to people within your wider circle of acquaintances, start finding opportunities.

Most importantly, you start DOING. Feel inspired to apply for that job. Be feel brave enough to ask that acquaintance about their work and find out if there are any openings. Say yes to finding out more about an opportunity that has presented itself.

If you need guidance with your career change, I help people come up with their own personal plan of action. We break down where it is they want to get to, and what are the steps to get there. Then we work on each step, starting small. If you’d like my help, you can contact me at LinkedIn or email me at joaopoku@gmail.com.

Photo by Lachlan Donald on Unsplash

Slow down again

First week of January. It’s a tiring week for everyone even in normal times. Likely back to work after a bit of a break, suddenly having to get up to an alarm clock, remember passwords and what you actually do in your job. An onslaught of news, catching up, things that need to be done. Add in the fact that it’s January 2021 and there’s just so much to take in. Covid, sinister new strains, lockdowns, issues with the vaccine, Brexit, Trump, doom and gloom, cold, rain, darkness. So overwhelming

Suddenly we have to deal with a million thoughts other than ‘what leftover bit of dessert am I going to eat next and what are we going to watch on Netflix tonight?’

It’s absolutely overwhelming, a total gear shift. 

I know I’m finding things overwhelming when I can’t even bring myself to deal with Whatsapp messages from lovely friends – at the end of a busy day it feels like just another screen to look at, more thinking to be done, more energy to be expended. 

All I can think to do is try and slow down again. So here are a few things I’m going to try to do these early weeks of January. 

  • Get away from the computer when I need a break, instead of desperately searching for feel good articles or torturing myself with another news update, or simply ploughing on. Step away from the computer and read a book for 5 minutes.
  • Stick to checking the news once or twice a day, tops.
  • Get up and stretch or walk around. Rather than just thinking about the fact that I should get up every hour, do it instead of staying welded to my seat.
  • Walk – walk in the morning, at lunch, in the evening, any other time I can. It always makes me feel better.
  • Call a friend and have a chat – don’t hide away.
  • Listening to a short Headspace meditation can make all the difference, forcing me to slow down, breathe deeply, close my eyes, rest.

This is my own little checklist anyway, a few things to remind myself of during the day.

Reading the news doesn’t make me feel good, being at the computer all day doesn’t make me feel good, sitting all day doesn’t make me feel good.

Regular breaks to move and change my focus help.


One good thing about January is starting to work with new clients on their career change! If you’d like some career coaching with me, you can find out more about me on LinkedIn and send me a message. Or email me at joaopoku@gmail.com.

Photo by Jan Canty on Unsplash