I have read dozens of books on changing careers. It began years ago when I was still working in the corporate world and was looking to change my own career, and I’ve continued to keep up with the latest career change resources, now that I help others with this same life changing decision. Not every career change book hits a home run, but I do have a short list of books that I always recommend to clients who are searching for the right career. I’ve used the exercises in these books myself and I have seen the positive results from clients who have used them, too.
One of the titles on my short list is, “I Don’t Know What I Want, But I Know It’s Not This,” by Julie Jansen. First published in 2003, it was re-released in 2016 in a third edition that was revised and expanded. The title says it all. It’s a plea I often hear from new clients who are stuck in a career they’ve long since outgrown. When you are unhappy with where you are now, the process of finding the right work can seem overwhelming. “I Don’t Know What I Want…” guides you through the process of how to match your top strengths, values and preferences with the right career for you.
“I Don’t Know What I Want…” is a hands-on workbook, filled with a variety of career assessments and personality quizzes. It’s also a guide for navigating every stage of your career, offering a step-by-step program to help you find the right job and implement a positive career change. The process of going through the exercises is very introspective and will give you a greater understanding of who you are and what you want from a profession. And of course, working with a coach can help you decipher your results and translate them into a new career direction, with a solid plan for how to get there. is one of very few career change books that I recommend over and over again to clients. If you are considering a career change or have been out of the job search process for awhile, you’ll find valuable tips, assessments, and case studies to guide you.
Recently I interviewed Julie Jansen. I wanted to learn more about the newest edition of the book and get her perspective on some of the mistakes people make when they choose a career.
Q: What inspired you to write I Don’t Know What I Want, But I Know It’s Not This?
I wrote the first edition in 2002, and it was published in 2003 during the dot.com era. This was a time where money was flowing in the economy and people started feeling like they could do something different work-wise, but they didn’t know how to approach the process. I updated the book again in 2010 during the end of the Great Recession when there was no hiring and people felt stuck. Then in 2016 nearly every company was hiring, millennials were reinventing workplace values, and the hiring landscape was very complicated. So people need as much guidance as ever to help them realize gratification in their work.
Q: The assessments in your book identify things like values, personality preferences, favorite skills and much more. How did you determine these elements were potential success factors for choosing a career?
I have been fortunate to work in different aspects of the career management field for 20 years – sales, coaching, training, speaking and writing. What I have learned through these different functions and activities is that if someone doesn’t learn about and understand who they are and what they want first, they will not be successful at finding gratifying work that is sustainable. The assessments that I discuss in my book encompass someone’s inner and external drivers.
Q: High school or college graduates often have different priorities and criteria for choosing a career, compared to someone who has been working for 20 or more years and wants to change careers. How does the book address the needs of both groups?
It is true that everyone has different needs, priorities and criteria for choosing a career regardless of their age or experience and these continue to change throughout their lives. This is why the book is written in a way that enables an individual to customize their approach to identifying their work. The book is probably more useful for someone who has at least worked for a few years, however there is still so much useful information about workplace trends, job search how to’s, and most important, especially for someone starting out in their career, the ability to identify who they are and what they want.
Q: What mistakes do you see people make when they are choosing a career or changing careers?
They don’t understand who they really are first, they focus too much on tangible things like titles, money and status, they don’t learn enough about a type of job, an industry or career before going into it, and they succumb to their insecurities or what other people think they should do.
Q: Tell me more about the third edition — what’s new and different?
New case studies, added contemporary interests and favorite skills, updated and replaced all statistics throughout book, changed the entire tone of the One Toe in the Retirement Pool chapter from the old model of everyone retiring at some point, to today’s reality that fewer people are going to make a hard stop from working and retire, either because they are healthier, passionate about doing something new and different, or need to keep working for financial reasons or to get benefits.
The Job Search – The Nuts and Bolts chapter was expanded immensely in the following ways:
- I added a social media section about how to use LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, monitor “digital dirt” and managing your on-line presence
- I added considerable content to branding section including why it is necessary, what it is, and the multitude of ways to perpetuate your personal/professional brand.
- I updated the resume section and deleted info about on-line versus traditional resume.
- I updated the interviewing section to reflect on-line applications, phone interviews, Skype and Google Hangout interviews, panel interviews, behavioral interviewing, making PowerPoint presentations in interviews, psychological and personality testing and other changes to the interviewing process.
- I updated the majority of resources (95%) listed in the Resources section.