Identify Meaningful, Motivating Career Change Options

Career change: When you go through the steps involved in a career change, you want the result to be work that you feel passionate about. In terms of your career change, however, I’ll be referring to passions—or “passion zones”—as those interesting industries in the world of work that are especially meaningful or intriguing to you.

For instance, one of my passion zones is bike riding. I love doing it, I love how good it is for me, and I’m willing to endure hour after hour of physical effort to stay skilled and in shape. A few of my other passion zones are cooking, reading, career counseling, knitting, rollerblading, professional development, and volunteering.

There are thousands of passion zones, and each person’s passion zone preferences are unique. In terms of career change planning, your unique passion zones can point you in directions that will lead to long-term career satisfaction and success. The following activities will show you how to identify your passion zones for use in your career change process, and then use this information to hone in on related careers that may be a fit for you.

Identify Several of Your Unique Career Change Passion Zones

Begin by flipping through the Yellow Pages in your phone book. Pay attention to the section headers, and try not to get distracted by the company ads. As you look through the hundreds of categories, write down any that seem like interesting careers and industries to you. If you have even the smallest glimmer of attraction or fascination with a particular topic (but haven’t yet experienced it first hand), mark it anyway. Salsa Dancing, for instance, is a topic that interests me even though I’ve never really done it.

PANIC POINT: At this stage in the process, many people will automatically begin to limit or “edit” their choices. For example, let’s say that you see the topic, “Private Investigations,” and you think, “Sure, that topic interests me. I’d like the idea of digging up dirt on people’s backgrounds, especially if it helps uncover bad guys before they get into any more trouble. But in reality I have no experience or training with private investigations. Be real; what are the chances that I’d ever really have the chance to get involved in that kind of area. Better not check that one…” If this is how you’re thinking, I encourage you to Whoa, Nellie! At this stage in the career change process, my aim is for you to develop list of as many topics as you can that seem appealing to you. You will have the chance to edit (and make practical decisions) about your choices later on, I promise! But for now, please allow yourself to highlight every topic that intrigues you. By permitting yourself to choose a long list of interesting topics now, you will greatly increase your chances for uncovering many more excellent-fit career opportunities later.

When your Practical Self jumps in with, “Be practical! Don’t check that one!” tell him or her, “While I appreciate your interest in protecting me, for now, I’m going to have a little fun and choose things that seem exciting to me, even if they seem a little unrealistic. I promise that in the near future, I’ll be calling on you for your good judgment once again.”

Now, back to the selecting… I encourage you to choose a minimum of 30 passion zone categories and related career areas from the Yellow Pages. Here are a few tips to help in your selections:

— Avoid thinking in terms of “job titles”, and instead look at the topics as “industry categories.” This is an extremely important point. Often, people will look at the passion zone list and immediately think, “I need to find job titles in here that interest me.” Warning! Warning! For this exercise, we’re NOT focusing on job titles. Instead, we’re paying attention to industry categories.

By considering entire passion zone industries—rather than specific job titles—you open up many more possibilities for yourself. For example, the topic, “Hotels” is an industry category where an entire world of activities exists: people building hotel units, marketing hotel services, checking in guests, cooking food for them, cleaning their rooms, organizing their events, maintaining the hotel grounds, processing their expenses, and so on. Within the hotel industry, there may be several possible specialties that fit your talents, skills and interests. By focusing on broader passion zone industries now, you allow yourself the opportunity to identify many more great-fit career-change possibilities later on. To further paint a picture of passion zone industries versus specific job titles, here are a few more examples:

“Passion Zone” Industry Categories
(you want to focus on this column…)
Sample Job Titles Within that Industry
(…and ignore this column for now…)
Travel Airline attendant, writer of travel articles, travel planners, hotel owners, taxi drivers, chefs…
Websites Designers, programmers, salespeople, research analysts, accountants…
Security Systems Installers, business owners, developers, dispatchers, law enforcers, etc.
Banks Tellers, credit analysts, personal bankers, managers, loan officers.
Furniture Designers, manufacturers, salespeople, refinishers, upholsterers, store owners.


To further help you with your brainstorming of industry or passion zone topics, try these exercises:

  • Imagine that you have a Passion Zone Tour Genie. He is going to make it possible for you to spend fifteen minutes experiencing every passion zone you choose, guaranteeing that you will feel no pain and risk no loss during your visit. With this opportunity to take a risk-free tour of several passion zones, which topics will you choose?
  • Make believe that you will live for 200 years. During this time on earth, you may become involved with as many things. Your long life allows you to experience these interests with no pain or loss to you. In which areas will you spend your centuries?
  • Envision yourself as a superhuman with the power to succeed with anything you attempt. Knowing that it’s impossible for you to fail, which passion zones might you choose to explore?
  • Pretend that you’ll be given $1 million simply for choosing 5 – 10 passion zones that, although they seem interesting to you, are out of character with what you’ve pursued or experienced so far in your life. Which 5 – 10 “wild hair” industries would you choose?

Excerpted and adapted from “Career Coward’s Guide to Changing Careers” by Katy Piotrowski, M.Ed.