Career change advice from Michelle Obama’s Becoming

I‘m currently reading Michelle Obama’s book Becoming. It’s taken me several attempts to get into it but now that I’m at the point where she’s finished her studies, entered the world of work and has met Barack – I’m loving it. And I’m pleased to discover that during Michelle’s pre-politics life she went through a major career change. We learn how she felt about it and how she went about making it happen.

She starts off her working life as a hot-shot lawyer, flourishing and doing really well. But over time she begins to wonder if it’s really right for her. She realises that community work might be more her thing.

“I was feeling another twinge, a quiet nudge toward what might be a whole different future from the one I’d planned for.” – Michelle Obama, Becoming

It’s amazing to see that someone like Michelle Obama might have gone through the same issues with career and identity that I and many, many others have done too. That feeling that the path you’ve chosen isn’t actually quite right for you. Wanting to do work that feels more you. In her case, work that would directly help people rather than working in some far away office doing work for work’s sake. 

She talks about how she went about finding her next career. It’s solid career change advice; rather than seeking out the next job immediately, she tries to broaden her view of what is out there. She puts herself in front of people who might be able to help her, talking to them, taking advice, gathering information:

“The point was less to find a job than to widen my understanding of what was possible and how others had gone about it. I was realizing that the next phase of my journey would not simply unfold on its own, that my fancy academic degrees weren’t going to automatically lead me to fulfilling work.” – Michelle Obama, Becoming

She spoke to people who were out there doing interesting things and enjoying their work. She asked about opportunities, asked what a lawyer could do if they didn’t want to continue with legal work. Eventually, through meeting with acquaintances and seeking and learning from them, she is offered and accepts a job at Chicago city hall, as assistant to the mayor. 

You can take career transition inspiration from anywhere. Knowing that someone else has been through a similar situation to you is comforting and can be motivating. It’s not just you. It’s not because there’s something wrong with you or that you just aren’t cut out to work. You just haven’t found the right thing yet. 

Things change, your values change, your situation changes. And so your work needs to change. 

Take inspiration from Michelle O – start talking to people, find out what they do, who they know, ask questions. You never know where it might lead you. 

If you’d like help with career change coaching, you can book a 1-hour session here: Or get in touch if you’d like to learn more. Find me on LinkedIn or email at

Photo by Nicola Styles on Unsplash


Lots of things have come up this week (thing’s I’ve read, conversations, social media posts) which make me more and more convinced that having a healthy dollop of self-belief is pretty much all you need to accomplish anything you want in life.

The people who are out there doing what they want – people I know, people I see from afar – all believe in their capabilities and are just getting on and doing it.

I’m also aware that so many of us are holding ourselves back – feeling under confident, confused, stuck, scared. And we could all be out there doing amazing things.

But something’s stopping us. Most likely it’s that little voice in our heads telling us that ‘we’re not enough’. Not experienced enough, not knowledgeable enough, not brave enough, not clever enough, not strong enough.

Because really – we’re all equipped to find a really great new job, we’re all equipped to start a small business. If you can read you can follow a guide, use Google, read a book, do a course, do whatever it takes. Work out what you need to do. The tools are there. It’s just the doing it that’s the hard part. Getting things moving.

How to you gain self-belief? How do you ‘improve’ it? I don’t really have the answer. But I have a sneaky suspicion it’s a muscle that you need to work. It’s something you can practise.

Read a book about confidence/self-belief/resilience and actually do the tasks they set. Listen to empowering speeches. Read the autobiography of someone you admire and learn from them. Practise getting better at making decisions – start small. Trust that you’ll make the right decision without asking everyone you know what they think first.

So start taking small steps towards whatever it is that you want to do. Tell yourself that if someone else has done it before, then you can do it too.

If you’d like help with career change coaching, you can book a 1-hour session here: Or get in touch if you’d like to learn more. Find me on LinkedIn or email at

Photo by Alena Jarrett on Unsplash

Career change burnout

So, you’re going through a career change.

You’re on it. You’re updating your cv, applying for jobs, contacting people, asking for advice. You’re full of energy, full of enthusiasm, full of motivation, you’re going to do it. You feel amazing.

But then, out of nowhere, a sort of burnout hits you.

You just cannot look at another job spec. You can’t bear to look at your cv again. You’re done with looking at the computer screen.

You feel dejected. You’ve put so much into it and yet you haven’t had any positive responses to job applications. Not one. And suddenly these dream jobs that seemed so close and so perfect for you now seem impossible.

The motivation has drained out of you, you’re feeling negative, defeated, and the self-doubt is kicking in. It all just seems so hard, so much work.

I think of this as a sort of career change burnout. You put all your energy and thinking into your career change, and it really does take a huge amount of energy and motivation. You have to psyche yourself up, big yourself up, do things that are a bit scary or make you uncomfortable, such as talking about how great you are. The adrenalin is pumping. And then when you don’t get the results you want, after all your efforts, it just blows up in your face. It’s the comedown.

My advise is, step away for a while. Stop checking job alerts, stop randomly scrolling. Just leave it for a while. Instead read some inspiring career change stories, or listen to a podcast or talk with someone who loves their job. Seek out tips and advice. Search out new ideas. Get yourself inspired again. Then when you’re ready for it, launch into it again with renewed enthusiasm.

Don’t try and push through career change burnout. It’s emotionally draining and it takes a lot out of you. Look after yourself. Keep taking action, but some days you need big action, other days small action.

The aim is to make the process as enjoyable as possible, not drive yourself to despair.

If you’d like help with career change coaching, you can book a 1-hour session here: Or get in touch if you’d like to learn more. Find me on LinkedIn or email at

Photo by Sven on Unsplash

Ask for help

It can be really daunting looking for a new job or trying to change career. Don’t be scared to ask for help – chances are you’ll have so many people around you who will be keen to help.

Take writing your cv for example. At the time it seems a monumental task. Put all your skills, experience, education, qualifications, interests, volunteering, into one document, two pages or shorter? Also making sure that each word you write is entirely relevant to the job you want to apply for? Only including the skills the that appear on the job spec, and that the recruiter wants to see?

You don’t have to include everything little thing you’ve ever done – but miss out something which could be important, at your peril.

Most of us would rather do anything but.

Here’s where learning to ask for help comes into its own. Chances are you have someone within your network who is a whizz at cvs, who has the eye of an eagle, who is skilled at synthesising what a job spec is asking for and what you can offer. And they can help you out.

Maybe it’s a friend, a family member, a trusted colleague? An ex-colleague? A university or school friend? Someone you do sports with, or a class with?

It’s a breeze

Most people are busy and have their own things to be getting on with. But – when people are good at something, they usually jump at the chance to do what they excel at. For them it’s a breeze, fun even. And won’t take too long.

And it is massively helpful. Another pair of eyes, another perspective, someone who can see the whole picture and isn’t dismissing your achievements as inconsequential or lame – is a great asset. They even help you to look at your experience afresh, and realise how much you have achieved. That not everyone can do what you can do, you’re just so used to it it seems boring, but for others it’s a great skill.

They may also be a bit more up to date with the world of job applications, and be able to give you some tips on how to format the cv, and make it all a bit more readable and appealing.

Go for someone you trust, who knows a thing or two about cvs, or the industry you are interested in.

And if you really don’t have someone you feel you can ask, there are a ton of online support articles to help you out. Just find the one with the right tone of voice for you, that will make you feel buoyed up rather than depressed.

If you’d like help with career change coaching, you can book a 1-hour session here: Or get in touch if you’d like to learn more. Find me on LinkedIn or email at

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Find what works for you

I love to read stuff about doing things in your own way. Weeding out and selecting and finding what works for you, and you only. 

It’s so easy to consume other people’s opinions. Someone tells you they did something a certain way, and that if you do exactly the same it’ll work out for you too. 

Another person giving their opinion based on what they’ve heard other people saying over the years.

Then there’s collective thinking. Things we see in the media or online, things it seems everyone knows; what constitutes a good job, a successful relationship, the only way to live a good life.

Thing is, there’s always an exception to the rule. 

I read a piece by writer Ruby Tandoh about quitting. Generally we’re advised not to quit things. It’s seen as failure, as being lazy, as giving up, as not putting enough effort in.

Her take on it is – there’s amazing liberation to be found in quitting when you feel like it. You have a choice, and you can make it. You can quit something that isn’t working for you, that isn’t feeling good.

(Obviously this is dependant on circumstance, and being in a privileged position in the first place). 

Only later in life does the penny slowly drop and you realise that quitting isn’t just about wimping out or a can’t-be-bothered attitude. It’s about taking control of the situations, people and relationships that can forge – or damage – the meandering path of your life.

Ruby Tandoh article in WePresent

I loved hearing a different take on quitting. I quit my job four years ago. I’d stayed for years believing you could only leave a job when you had another great one sorted. Ideally with a pay rise. That thinking kept me stuck for years.

Because I had no idea what my next step would be. And as it wasn’t clear, and I didn’t know how to go about exploring what was out there, I just stayed put.

When I finally did leap – with savings, some potential freelance work and temp work on the cards, a bed at my parents should things get desperate – it felt like the best thing I’d ever done. 

The only thing more thrilling than quitting something is starting something new. In the vacuum that quitting creates, countless new maybes rush in.

Ruby Tandoh article in WePresent

It felt like the first time I’d really made a big decision for myself, that I was actually taking control of my life, and the direction in which it would go. 

I read a ton of books beforehand about career change, finding your passion, going freelance, being an entrepreneur. I’d read enough to convince me that I could be one of those people. That it is possible to quit a job and not only survive, but maybe go on to bigger and better things. 

I’m not necessarily suggesting you quit your job, it’s not a decision to take lightly. But I’m saying that you have to work things out your way, find what works for you.

Take on advice, take on different ideas about how to do things, and try them out for yourself. Keep what works, chuck anything that doesn’t.

Make decisions based on you and your life, not solely on what others think.

If you’d like to try a coaching session with me, send me a message on LinkedIn or at for more info and details.

Written during Writers’ Hour. Join me on the next one.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash