When we loose our job or have been feeling unhappy with the current one for a while, we tend to jump into ‘vacancy search mode’ and start sending out as many CVs as possible. This is usually a mistake; and why we will probably end up in (another) job we will not enjoy.
Below is some advice to make sure you are getting closer to a career that will really make you feel like a happy and fulfilled person, without skipping important steps.
#1 Know yourself (Reflection phase)
This is the phase people ignore most often. Don’t skip it! It is hard to find a career that fits your personality, interests and needs, if you are not fully aware of what these are. Do you know what are your core values, your biggest strengths, or your fears and limiting beliefs? Give yourself enough time to reflect on each of these aspects.
I took almost six months, making sure to remove myself from the 'usual context', to reflect on all I was and all I wanted to be. This is an exercise I will repeat every now and then since, as we grow, who we are also transforms.
#2 Identify multiple career paths (Definition phase)
We all have multiple skills and strengths, which means there is more than one career that can make you happy. So, find out which are the ones that align best with your life goals, that leverage your strengths, skills and experience, and which fulfill your specific career expectations (pay, location, organisational mission and culture, life balance, etc). Reflect on this and find your top 3 career paths.
I filled in several free online tests (read their results with interest but also critically), made drawings and scribbled keywords on a lot of pages trying to find the links between it all and, eventually, I realised most of my best career matches fitted within just 3-4 main areas. I then ranked them and picked, out of instinct, what would be the one I wanted to place in #1.
#3 Learn more and try it out (Test phase)
Here is a suggestion: why don’t you ‘test drive’ your next career path? Volunteer some of your time, attend related events, talk to practitioners. Ideally, run a short collaborative project with an organisation in your desired field, or try to design a test project that you can run without anyone’s permission, long enough but time-bound (1-3 weeks), representative of your potential career path and that can produce measurable/visible deliverables regarding which you could ask others for feedback; use it also to show your own value.
I decided to design one workshop on the topic I most liked to coach on, and offered it within the framework of a network that targets my potential clients. That first workshop was not perfect but it allowed me both to test my skills and to see the reaction from potential clients. It confirmed I was on the right path, but it also gave me important learned-lessons that I made sure to apply.
After you have done your test project, reflect on the results and consider the need for adjustments or for a different career path altogether. If necessary, go back to phase 1 as many times as needed, until you feel comfortable moving on.
#4 Find your next job (Launch phase)
Now it's finally time to get out there in the job market. Here are a few things you will want to pay attention to:
· Create your shortlist - not of desired jobs (a set of roles/tasks) - but instead of 5-10 organisations that align with what you are looking for;
· Go beyond simply 'networking' and build relationships in particular with those already in your shortlisted organisations;
· Show them how you can create value and then get an insider to refer you when a vacancy opens up;
· Prepare an impressive CV and get ready for the interviews; and finally
· Negotiate your (ideally, multiple) job offers.
Each of the points above would be worthy of a full article, but many others have written about it better than I could do now so I really encourage you to look off and online for more info. I particularly recommend Mission Collaborative.
In short, don't 'spam' your CV around unless who really know what organisations you want to target. And remember, going freelance can also be an option. Actually, that turned out to be the option for me and I decided to register my own business instead of waiting for others to offer me the opportunities I wanted.
Ultimately, as different research has been proving to be crucial, make sure you find a career path and job where you feel you can make an impact (create your own 'legacy'), master a concrete skill or talent (continuously growth) and eventually have enough autonomy to adjust it to your desired lifestyle (this may come only a bit later but the potential should be there already).
Your current job may not be perfect, but are you already on the right path?
Note: A shorter version of this article is available in Dutch at the de Broekriem website here.
Acknowledgment: While I am the sole responsible for this article, its content was closely inspire by Mission Collaborative's approach to career transitions, which I used in my own journey to find a new career. Check their website to find out more.