The days of a “job for life” seem to be over, with more and more people deciding that not only do they want to change jobs but whole careers. We are told at school that if we work hard, we can be anything we want. What nobody seems to tell you is how to work out what that actually is. Below are some questions and exercises to try out if you are looking to change career or considering your next role.
What have been your best 5 days at work to date? What was happening? What characteristics did they have in common? It may not be the nuts and bolts of what you were doing that you enjoyed, but the environment. Do you notice any themes?
What does your ideal week look like? Monday-Friday 9-5 (or 8-6 if we’re honest) doesn’t have to be the only way anymore. What do you want your balance to be? What type of work do you want to spend your time on?
What really matters to you? Take ten post-it notes and write down the ten most important things to you about your work, one item per note. For example, “autonomy, helping others, variety”. Take two of the post its and decide which if those two values is most important to you. Then compare that one to another post-it note and slowly you will order your top ten from most to least important. Whilst your next role may not satisfy all of your values, at least you can identify if any won’t be satisfied and go in with your eyes open when deciding if it’s the right path for you.
The world is your oyster – so give yourself some criteria to assess that oyster. Doing some number crunching may fill you with dread, but it is really important to work out what you actually need to earn. This may be surprisingly less than you might think. It is easy to measure success by the money people earn because it is an objective, tangible measure. In reality, for many people money isn’t necessarily a big driver and taking a smaller salary but to do something you love might be the way to go. You need to know what the number has to be first though. You may also save yourself some money in the process by reassessing your direct debits and noticing those old subscriptions you had forgotten to cancel. Think about other factors that you want to measure potential jobs against. These may be the work life balance you’re looking for, the values you’ve identified or whatever it is that is important to you. Once you’ve got the criteria, it helps to calm that feeling of overwhelm when faced with a whole world of options.
Deciding to change career is not an overnight process. Give yourself dedicated time to work things through in your head and let ideas ruminate. This can be challenging when you are still fully committed to your current role. It is often said that finding a new job is a full time job in itself, so carve out some regular time to work on it. If you don’t prioritise it, nobody else is going to.
When changing career, don’t under estimate the number of transferable skills you have. Whilst your current role or industry may feel very specialist, take a step back and think about how you do that role. Those behaviours are skills in themselves. Just because something comes naturally to you, does not mean it is something you should overlook. It is worth considering a functional CV if you are looking for a new role that doesn’t obviously follow on from your current role. This helps prospective employers see what you can do, not just what you have historically done.
Define what success looks like for you. Think about all parts of your life, as your work is only one part of your pie. Set yourself some goals that resonate with you. They need to matter to you so that when you have those tough days and motivation seems to vanish, you’ve got something to aim for that really matters, not just a cold heartless number.
You’ve got a great network of people who are willing to help. Reach out to people and give them the opportunity for a warm, fluffy feeling by helping you. You aren’t asking them for a job, just the opportunity to bounce some ideas around and for their wisdom. Who knows, they may know someone who would be a great contact for you, but they have to know you’re looking to be able to make that connection.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. This is about your next role, you don’t have to commit for the next 50 years, so just remind yourself of that if panic starts kicking in.
It can be a scary time but also a really exciting one, so make sure you try to enjoy the ride. All the best for your next move.
If you’ve got any other tips that have worked for you, please add them to the comments below.