By Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

When I graduated from college, I wanted to be a lawyer. I wanted to become one because I used to watch the old tv show, “Perry Mason,” and was able to figure out the murderer every week for years on end. I also noticed that Mason only took two checks — one was from a little old lady who he saved from a death sentence and she paid him something like $25. The other check he took made his eyes light up when he read it. “Thank you very much,” he proclaimed. That was why I was interested in being a lawyer.

I never spoke to a lawyer about what it was like to be one. I didn’t research the schools where I could get my degree. I wanted to be Raymond Burr in “Perry Mason.”

As I speak to career changers, I find many have their version of my immature reasons for wanting to change to their new profession. One recently told me they were interested because of a movie they saw. Like I said, not very different than my thinking.

So here are a few of the mistakes career changers make when they proclaim their desire to change careers.

  1. Like me, you have never spoken with anyone about what it is like to work in their new field. They don’t know what the day-to-day work will be like. They have a romantic notion about what to expect. What to do instead? Like changing jobs to something related, informational interviews are a golden way to do it.
  2. They have magical thinking about what their new salary will be. “I make $120000 and I cannot work for anything less, “one career changer told me. Unfortunately, very few beginners are able to command their current salaries in their new positions. What can you do instead? Get clear about what compensation you can really afford to make this change. You may have golden handcuffs.
  3. You don’t make time? “I work a full day. I don’t have time to (take training, talk to people, start a side business, learn what it is like to work in this field, etc.). They act like big babies who want everything and aren’t willing to make sacrifices. What can you do instead? Turn off the tv for 1 hour per day and stop zoning out. 1 hour per workday yields approximately 10.5 days of your life to dedicate to training, research, or starting a side hustle that helps you transition into something new.
  4. You start chasing the dollars (or ignoring the dollars). Money can be hypnotic. It distracts many of us (including me) and makes us forget the importance of other things. I consulted to a search firm for more than a decade despite growing to loathe the work and many of my colleagues, as well as how the firm was run? Why? The money. I
  5. ignored the frequent back pain, headaches, and overeating I used to distract myself and focused solely on the money. People sometimes chase money and forget that they have to like the work and their colleagues. Conversely, people ignore the money and find themselves with 5 roommates and living on Happy Hour meals and bars.


No coach. No mentor. No adviser. No help. They are roaming the prairie in the dark. No Bill Gates story is complete without including Warren Buffett. Lebron James, Michael Jordan, Stevie Wonder . . . great athletes and entertainers all have coaches. Why? Because the coach can see things they can’t. And you are doing it by yourself because . . . A mentor is also someone who has been in your shoes and may be able to guide you. Gift them. What’s in it for them to help you except they are being “nice” and they feel good afterward. Do you work for free? Why do you expect coaches and mentors to work for minimum wage and be on call for you?

The skills needed to find a job are different than those needed to do a job. A career changer needs allies to guide them into their new role. It takes time to get there and, often, someone who can push you instead of letting you use your typical excuses to get away with a half-hearted effort.

Whichever of these you are falling prey to, the easiest one to change s getting a coach and/or mentor to guide you and, when needed, challenge you. Don’t go it alone. It’s harder.

© The Big Game Hunter, Inc. Asheville, NC 2018, 2021



Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter him Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 2000 episodes.

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