Rethink Your Career

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Sample Mind MapLosing your job can be a blessing and a curse. Most people understand the curse part, but few look for the silver lining in the otherwise stormy cloud. When you don’t have the encumbrance of a full time job, a well-charted path, you have the opportunity to do whatever you want. If you have an emergency fund saved up, now is the time to rethink your career and put yourself on a path that will help ensure you’re happy tomorrow, in ten years, and in forty years.

This article is part of Bargaineering Career Week 2009, a week-long series focused on your career – how to find a job, how to tailor your resume, how to find the job opportunities and how to nail the interview. This article is the first article of day one – career planning.

Use Mind Maps

If you think about how your thoughts are stored in your brain, you probably recognize that it’s not linear. It’s more like pockets of main thoughts with associated thoughts branching off that, and more thoughts off that, etc. A mind map is a visual representation of how your mind thinks and can be used as a brainstorming tool to get your thoughts on paper. For a look at some mind maps, you should review this amazing gallary at

I won’t go into the mechanics of mind maps, you can find that easily online (or just check out this PDF), but when you conduct the exercise, your goal should be to figure out what you want to do with your life. Write down the things you enjoy, what makes you happy, what is important to you, and so on. You may have to do this several times but in the end you’ll have mind maps that you can review to try to figure out what career path you should go towards.

Don’t Let The Past Dictate The Future

One of the hardest decisions I ever made was to become a full-time blogger nearly two years ago. one of the big reasons why it was so hard was because my entire career path was in some sort of software architecture and development. My education was in computer science and software engineering, my years of work involved designing and development software systems and applications, and all of that would be, effectively, for naught if the rest of my career was involved in writing a blog.

But I did it anyway because I enjoy what I do, it was financially feasible, and I didn’t let fear make decisions for me. Don’t let the past dictate the future. If you really want something and it makes sense, go for it. If it doesn’t work out, you can always go back!

Go For It

If the brainstorming and mind mapping teased out a career path that is in a totally different direction than where you were going, give it a try. I am of the belief that if a path is financially feasible, meaning it can pay for your lifestyle or your lifestyle can adjust to the pay, and it makes you happy, you should give it a try. If it doesn’t work out, at least you were happy doing it!

As an aside, I’m always asked if I believe the maxim that “if you do what you love, the money will come.” No, I don’t believe that. However, I believe that “if you do what you love and the money doesn’t come, at least you were doing what you love. If you do what you hate and the money doesn’t come, well then you lose on both counts.”

Have you used mind maps or other brainstorming tools to help you chart our your career? If you have any techniques you used, I’d love to hear it in the comments because the more ideas we have, the better.

(Photo: mshades)

{ 11 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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11 Responses to “Rethink Your Career”

  1. Jon says:

    Jim, I like how you don’t sugarcoat the facts. I see too many people pimping the “if you do what you love, the money will come” dogma. Some are the success stories, while others are just joining in the crowd mindset. Personally, I’m with you in that the money might come if you do what you love, but it’s not the “given” that they make it sound like. Well said.

    • Jim says:

      Yep, but if you do what you love, at least you were doing what you love even if you didn’t get the money. 🙂

  2. CreditShout says:

    This is a great idea, I do similar exercises a lot actually, just to keep me in touch with my goals and aspirations. I think a lot of times we get so entangled in our every day routine that we don’t “look up” and see whats really in front of us and where we are heading. Losing your job isn’t necessarily always a bad thing as you said because a lot of the time it forces you to take a good look at where you are now and where you would like to be.

    • jsbrendog says:

      agreed. I was miserable at my old job, quit, took a month off, and found a new job and haven’t looked back. granted this was yrs ago and I didn’t get fired but it all comes down to the emergency fund and looking at the positive.

      i realized I would find something I didn’t hate and having the flexibility to take that month off and recharge before I went looking was exactly what did the trick.

    • zapeta says:

      It is so easy to get lost in the day to day and lose sight of your goals. I think it is very important to to keep a list of goals and a time frame to accomplish them…brainstorming and mind maps are a great tool for this.

  3. hoht says:

    I like the brainstorming web, my professor was just teaching that to us today.

  4. Chris says:

    Losing my job was one of the best things that ever happened to me…once I got over the financial impact.

  5. eric says:

    Good idea on career week. I’m sure now is as good a time as any to bring it up.

  6. I think that if you’re doing what you love, the money will “appear”, because you’ll do what you need to sustain your passion.

    That isn’t to say that the money will magically appear out of the sky, but that you’ll do what you need to do to enable your venture. It might mean doing some sort of side work you DON’T enjoy in combination with cutting your living expenses to the bone, but you’ll make it work.

  7. Those mind maps are great. I’m definitely going to give that a try.

  8. fishboyridesagain says:


    You should at least recognize that you moved from amateur to professional in the world of blogging. There has to be some facet where “do what you love and the money will follow” is true. (“amateur” is based on the Latin root word for “love”.)

    Is there a way to combine this phrase with a sense of productivity? I’m trying to be more productive with my hobbies. I am interested in a lot of things, but if I am equally happy with several activities why not do the things that will also result in an improved version of me? Who’s to say if these improvements won’t help me with my career?

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