When people think about career change there is often a tendency to start with too narrow a focus. To limit themselves too quickly to labels and titles in a familiar industry, because after all, it is only natural to gravitate to the familiar. I suppose where you look depends on what kind of change you are seeking. Is it career transformation or rather substitution?

Career substitution

This is about replacing one type of job with another that is broadly the same. A similar role with a competitor organisation in the same industry, for example. Things might be somewhat different, and hopefully better, but the core of what you do would be much the same. Substitution is then not about fundamental change. And, there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you are clear about this for yourself.

Career transformation

career transformationCareer transformation on the other hand involves a more fundamental shift from the usual “I wonder what is out there that I could do?”.

For career transformation to be sustainable, it has to originate from a place of inspiration within you. And, that requires an exploration of what really inspires you. A deeper investigation of the underlying characteristics of a particular line of work and what really attracts you to it. Jumping too quickly to surface labels and occupation names, such as “marketer, carpenter, engineer” can result in glossing over their underlying features.

For example, both baking and carpentry might involve a love for working with one’s hands and creative expression. We would also probably find that our baker has a passion for good food and our carpenter a love for all things wooden! And, perhaps it is these things that attracted them more than any other. Ultimitalely, each of us is unique and as such will be uniquely attracted by different characteristics of the same activity.

I recently had a coaching session with someone who realised that what she really wanted to do was work outdoors and collaboratively in a small team. She realised that nature, human contact and collaboration were essential for her in whatever she did. Whether that manifested in a career as a garden designer or a trekking guide was secondary for her.


Looking beyond surface labels at the underlying characteristics that attract and inspire you can be very liberating. It opens up a world of possibilities from which you can begin to narrow things down to something that you can truly connect with.

Of course, it is far easier to substitute. But, perhaps it is the transformation of finding something more meaningful that will bring you fulfilment in the long-run. And, this requires you to start by asking yourself: “What am I really inspired by?”

Find out more about Harsha’s work