Brad Waters MSW

Design Your Path

7 Steps for Starting Your Career Reinvention

A career counselor shares her story and professional tips

Posted Jun 22, 2016

Over the next few weeks I'll be sharing several guest posts written by professionals I've invited to discuss career change and career-life satisfaction. In our first post, Chicago-based career counselor Kris Kirilova shares her 7-step plan for making a career change. 

How do you change careers when you’re feeling stuck and work is not fulfilling? When there is a growing pain about your situation but you have no idea where to start. Career change can be scary. How do you overcome the barriers and take steps toward finding work you love?

Below are my 7 essential steps to get you started and help you dissolve the roadblocks that are keeping you stuck.

1.  Gain deeper self-awareness

As a first step, gain some clarity about your current situation and the path traveled so far. What is your internal voice trying to tell you? Sometimes we have so much pressure to do well and serve others’ agendas that we forget to listen to our internal voice. Reflect on your experiences: where have you been, what have you learned, and what competencies do you want to develop in the future?

Some will desire a small shift while others a major change. Maybe you desire more meaning and wonder how to transform yourself and your career.

When I was laid off from my corporate job, it was a welcome change but I had no idea what I wanted to do. I had the internal confidence and belief that I will figure it out and find other ways to be successful. I had immigrated to the US at an early age, got my education, and built a career in information technology working for a bank. During the economic downturn and bank mergers I was laid off along with many others. That event took me on a quest for meaning and finding something that would change my life and career.

2.  Uncover your career story

Uncover your career story by reviewing the past, present, and future chapters of your work life. This will reveal some patterns and help you understand your motivations and needs. A great exercise is to create a Career Life Line with your work experiences and major life transitions.

Kris Kirilova
This sample career life line, from age 15 through 35, shows career and life experiences that may yield clues about one will do next. Look for strengths, skills, experiences, interests, needs, wants, etc.
Source: Kris Kirilova

Jot down all the jobs you ever have had on your career life line. Include any major life transitions and changes: moves, layoffs, or having children.

Your goal is to create a positive story of your work experience and gain insight about your interests, values, and vision for your work-life. Collect the clues to your strong interests and motivations. When do you lose track of time and what makes you feel alive?

3. Explore your multiple selves

Herminia Ibarra, a professor of organizational behavior, suggests exploring your multiple selves. We are multi-talented and multi-faceted people. We don’t have just one calling or single ideal career. Instead, we have a multitude of talents that can be applied to multiple positions.

Your task is to learn about your possible selves, and explore different possibilities. To do that, you have to experiment, research, try out, and perhaps shadow other professionals to learn about new fields of interest.

4. Evaluate your risk tolerance

We all have different tolerance for risk and our own fears that keep us stuck from growing. Perhaps the hardest part is making the decision to leave—to change your situation—and undertake a new path.

You may be afraid of the unknown or have fear of failure. Ask yourself: What is the worst that could happen? What kind of resources do you need to make this happen?

When I decided to make a career change from corporate America to counseling, I knew it was a serious shift and a risk to rebuild my career in a different field. I was open to the challenge and aware of the sacrifices: a few years of education, practicums, gaining experience, and plenty of uncertainty. What helped me the most was shifting my connections to the new field. Building my new network.

Successful companies don't make big changes without pulling in consultants, advisers, and their board of directors. Who is on your board of directors? You will have moments of doubt and moments when you feel like you have lost yourself. Use your inner compass and support system to navigate challenges on the way to success.

5. Reframe uncertainty as a an opportunity for learning

When making a job transition most people experience some confusion and insecurity. We are afraid of the unknown. We may be tempted to jump ahead quickly. Many of us try to control uncertainty or eliminate it altogether. View this uncertain time as a necessary part of your transition. Let the path unfold, practice acceptance, and stay open to synchronicity and new opportunities.

6. Manage risk by taking small steps

Create experiments and try out new professional roles before fully committing to a Master’s degree, Law School or other major shift in your career. Think about shadowing first, taking on a side project, an internship, or volunteering. A great way to minimize risk is to create new contacts and try on professional roles in small ways to ensure you are feeling it’s the right track.

Before shifting direction, I made connections with people in the psychology and counseling field. These people provided information about their career path, daily work, and became key mentors providing a bridge to the new field.

7. Commit to change and take some action

Once you gain some clarity, commit to the change, make a plan, and take action. Don’t allow yourself get stuck on the “What ifs” without taking further action.

If you’re feeling apprehensive, ask yourself: What is getting in my way? Is it managing my anxiety?  Do I need more confidence? Get to the root of the roadblock. If it’s a stubborn fear preventing you from taking action, consider hiring a counselor to work through the blocks.

If you continue to do what you have always done, you can’t expect a different outcome. Without exploring new possibilities, making connections, and expanding your comfort zone you would see much change in your work-life.

Most people feel more fulfilled when they are engaged with their work, and that sense of fulfillment has a positive influence on other aspects of one’s life and well-being.

I love what I do now! Counseling allows me to help others navigate their career journeys, explore possibilities, and overcome challenges. It has been a worthwhile transition that has enriched my personal and professional life, while becoming a great motivator to continue learning and growing in an area that I feel passionate about.

Career transitions, whether large or small, are absolutely possible. Having a plan of attack and enlisting support will greatly help you along the way. Thanks, Kris, for sharing your story and helping clients find fulfilling careers!



Ibarra, H. (2003). Working Identity: Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career.


Kris Kirilova is a licensed professional counselor practicing in the Chicago area. She helps people develop a career-life vision and address the challenges of career changes, transitions, and work place issues. To contact Kris, visit or follow her on Facebook.

Brad Waters, MSW works nationwide with non-traditional career seekers, freelancers, creatives, introverts, Millennials, and corporate career changers. He helps people clarify their career direction and take action on career-life transitions. Request a free consultation call at

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Copyright, 2016 Brad Waters/Kris Kirilova. This article may not be reproduced or published without written permission from the author. If you share it, please give author(s) credit and do not remove embedded links.