The new year presents such a timely opportunity to ask ourselves, “What’s missing?” and, “What’s possible?” in our careers.
And if a new job is something you’ve set your sights on for this year, here are the top 5 strategies I recommend for landing a job you love.
When considering the financial implications of a new job or career path, most professionals immediately focus on salary.
Yet while salary is important, it’s not the whole picture.
Your next career move presents a much greater opportunity: to get your financial house in order and to make that sure your new job aligns with your financial - and life - goals.
This week, I sat down with my good friend, Emily Zeigler, CFP and Co-Founder of How Green Is Your Money. I love her simple, actionable financial advice and wanted to share some top takeaways for career shifters here.
I’m considering going back to school for my Master’s Degree (possibly an MBA). I don’t know exactly what I want to do, but I think graduate school will open a lot of doors and help me figure out which one I want to walk through. I know I’ll learn a lot, have fun being a student again, and build my network too, which can only mean good things, right?
I’m wondering, is graduate school worth it? Should I just take the leap, or how do I decide?
Most of us hesitate to share our deepest, most inspired career desires out loud.
It makes sense. Sharing what we want is risky.
We risk failure: “What if I tell someone I want to be X, and then it never works out? I’ll feel like a total flop.”
We risk rejection: “What if I say it out loud and people laugh, or tell me it’s not possible or that I’m not good enough?”
We risk our identity: “Everyone knows me as X. So I’d better be 100% sure of what I want before I start telling people about it.”
We risk our time and energy: “Once I say it out loud, it would sure take a lot of work to follow through and make it happen…”
But for all this risk, the bigger risk is NOT sharing our dreams. Because only once you share a dream out loud can the universe start conspiring to help you achieve it.
Most people don’t know what exactly they want to do with their careers. Even among leaders at Harvard Business School, fewer than 20% report having a strong sense of their career purpose.
Yet the perspective I consistently hear from job seekers (and that I have been pressured to feel in my own career) is that we are all born with one innate career purpose. And that if we just look hard enough or in the right places, we will find it. And that once we find it, we will be happy in our careers for all eternity.
This is quite simply the worst career advice out there. It’s not reflected in the numbers. It’s certainly not empowering to the 80% of us who don’t have that one career goal in mind. And most importantly, it’s not grounded in the reality that we are constantly changing people in a constantly changing world.
A metaphor I like to use for all the “innate purpose” and “follow your passion” advice is Michelangelo’s David.
The goal of my work is to get people inspired to dream big about their careers, and to help them follow the step-by-step path to landing their dream job.
But I must confess that the biggest mind-shift most of my clients experience while working with me or participating in my Land Your Dream Job course is this:
We achieve happiness in our careers not when we ‘get it all’, but rather when we recognize what’s most important to us, and optimize for that.
Every day I speak with professionals eager to find happiness at work. And I ask everyone the same first question: “What does happiness at work mean to you; what does it look like?”
If you’re like most people, your response goes something like this:
To stay or not to stay. Is that the question?
Oftentimes professionals fall into the trap of viewing finding a new job as an all-or-nothing decision: “Either I stick with the status quo, or I try for something better. What to do?”
Sadly, framing the question in this way leads to indecision that can drag on months or even years, because we’re searching for perfect clarity (or waiting for a perfect gig to fall in our lap) before we take action.
But you can’t think or wait your way out of career indecision. It just doesn’t work. It takes more action -- and less thinking -- to either land that next job or come to a place of peace in your current one.
What you should be asking yourself is, “What small action could I take today to move my career in the right direction?”
I’ve read more articles than I can count sharing ideas for reviving a stagnant job search. And I feel beyond frustrated every time I see suggestions like “Attend a networking event!” “Call your mentor!” and “Update that resume!”
Succeeding in the modern day job search requires a strategic approach. So when you start to feel stuck (most job seekers experience this at least once in their search), don't just try anything and everything.
Instead, pursue only the activities that address your specific challenges -- thereby saving you time and generating the results you need to move forward.
Learn the two-step process I use with job seekers who find themselves in a job search rut.
Once you’ve identified the career paths you’re most passionate about pursuing, it’s important to check in and ask yourself honestly, how hard do you want your job search to be?
My personal philosophy that I share with my clients is that I sincerely believe you can achieve just about any career path -- if you’re willing to do what it takes to get there.
But before you dive into your search, it’s helpful to have a clear understanding of how well your experience and expertise to-date position you to achieve your career goals, and to be honest with yourself about which type of transition you’re willing to take on.
First, you need to recognize that employers generally look for three areas of expertise for any job:
To figure out which job you want to do, you need to start with what you like to do.
This means asking yourself which activities and processes you want to fill your days doing -- or in other words, which skills you most enjoy.
The problem is, most of us are terrible at articulating our skills.
And if we can’t articulate our skills, how on earth can we determine which of them we enjoy most?
I see this problem frequently when my clients complete our direction-setting diagnostic. One question asks you to list all of your skills, and then categorize them into those you enjoy and don’t enjoy. With a full picture of what you can do and what you enjoy doing in front of you, it becomes easier to assess the career possibilities at your fingertips, and which of them may merit pursuit.
But when listing their skills, most people (no matter their industry!) tend to only include non-specific, soft skills like problem-solving, teamwork, communication, organizing, planning, collaborating.
This isn’t too surprising; we're socialized at work to focus on “we” over “I” and to talk in least common denominators about company and team goals -- we rarely delve into the specific parts of the process we individually own to help achieve those goals.
Yet because soft skills are applicable to most any job, they don’t help you discern which jobs you’re more likely to love than others.
For that level of insight, you need to go deeper into what I like to call “how skills.”