Grace Owen explores how, during the holiday season, you can take some practical steps to change your career for the better as well as offering her essential ‘holiday guide’ for those struggling to find their dream job.
Many of us spend more time planning a holiday than we do our career. Planning a holiday is exhilarating, although it can be stressful. Choosing a country you want to visit, which part and then finding a place to stay in the right location can feel overwhelming.
I work with individuals who have no idea of how to plan their career effectively in order to achieve their short term goals and long term dreams. In this article I’d like to offer you some handy hints and tips about how to be more strategic with your career, as well as enjoy your next holiday!
Where do you want to go?
Choosing a holiday destination is exciting, but it’s not always as easy as it sounds. Some people put a pin in a globe (with their eyes closed!), others draw lots or select a location based on recommendations from friends or the many travel lists that appear in newspapers such as ‘101 places to go before you die’. Then, there are those who want to try somewhere new, having been enticed by television adverts or glossy brochures.
A large number of people simply return to the same place each year, because they are creatures of habit afraid to venture out of their comfort zone and try something new. What do you do and why?
Deciding where to go next on your career path is even more difficult, as you are going somewhere for a lot longer than a couple of weeks, so you need to consider the options carefully.
The 21st century career map presents a myriad of destinations, which can seem mind boggling. You can be employed on a full-time, part-time, temporary, permanent or project basis. You may even choose to work for someone during the week and run a side venture in the evenings and at weekends. Alternatively, you may decide to take the leap and go freelance or run your own business. You also need to think about the industry you work in and whether you want to explore a different one.
Whatever you decide, taking a carefully considered approach and researching options versus making a move on a whim will best serve your short to long term career aspirations.
The reality is that many people ‘fall into’ a career, which is not always a bad thing, particularly at the start of your journey when you don’t have a clear notion of what lies out there. However, as you progress through your career simply ‘waiting to see what comes along’ or doing what someone else thinks is good for you, will eventually lead to frustration and dissatisfaction.
What do you want to do?
Most people choose their destination based on their needs and interests. You may want to lie on a beach and relax; if you’re the active type you may want to climb mountains. If you are interested in culture (and some retail therapy!), then you may decide to visit a capital city. Whatever kind of holiday you choose, you are likely to have a more enjoyable experience if you have done some research about the place and are clear about why you want to go there.
What you choose to do next in your career will depend on what you enjoy doing, but your current situation will also play a part. Many of us fall into one of the following four situations:
burnt out; stuck in a rut; confused about where we are headed or looking for work-life balance. Whilst you may be motivated to move on, you need to consider what has led you to where you are, so that your next move is the right one for the right reasons.
To help you decide, you need start by focusing on yourself. Even if you don’t know it, you are likely to possess a wealth of talents, skills, knowledge and experience. Think about those areas where you have already been successful and then be open to exploring your untapped potential that can lead to opportunities you may not have imagined.
It is a bit like packing your holiday suitcase. What is ‘last season’ or represents the memories that you want to leave behind and what are you willing to try on for size to see how it makes the most of your unique attributes and personality?
You also need to consider your values and what is important to you; i.e. those areas where you aren’t prepared to compromise. In travel terms this may be staying an eco-friendly hotel, having access to outdoor activities or be able to experience the ‘real’ country and not follow the tourist trail.
Wish you were there?
Once we’ve booked a holiday, most of us want to go immediately! Looking forward to it is part of the overall experience. As the time to travel at home or abroad draws closer, we automatically fall into holiday mode, day-dreaming about what we will eat, drink and wear while finalising last minute details. The danger is that losing focus on the here and now may adversely affect our productivity, reputation and ability at home and at work.
Changing career is thrilling because it is new and, at the same time, daunting because it is unknown! The biggest challenge today is that whilst many of us would like to change jobs, we feel constrained by market forces over which we have little or no control. Additionally, once you really have decided to move on in your career, you may feel frustrated by not being able to do it the very next day. Identifying things you can do is the place to start.
Consider the following checklist, while you wait:
Step 1: Adopt a positive attitude - this will make you feel good about yourself and others. Your upbeat vibe will draw opportunities to you.
Step 2: Downsize your spending - start saving a nest egg no matter how small the amount. Not having spare money to cover expenses if there is a period of unemployment is the most cited reason for people not changing career.
Step 3: Be visible - industry related magazines list networking events that are free or inexpensive where you can develop your skills and informally meet people who work in the organisations that you’d like to join at a later date. Start building relationships now.
Step 4: Watch the market place – reading the business press, listening to radio programmes, surfing the internet or watching specialist TV programmes will help you to judge the best time to leave and make the career move that you desire.
Step 5: Do some volunteering (either in your chosen field if possible or in another area of interest) - this will give you a focus outside of work and help you make new contacts
Step 6: Keep your CV up to date – this is your single most important document. It will be scanned in less than 30 seconds, so first impressions are important. It needs to set you apart from the competition and you’ll be able to use some of the information in application forms.
Step 7: Invest in your professional development – find inspiring career change stories online. The only cost is your time and it gives you access to lots of virtual mentors.
One way ticket or return journey?
Whether you are returning to a favourite place or striking out new ground you’ll still have new experiences when you get there and learn something about yourself in the process (such as why you are being drawn there). In the same way changing career is an inner and outer journey that reflects where you’ve been, where you are and where you’d like to go in the short and longer term.
Most us collect souvenirs and take photographs when we travel; it’s one way of connecting with a place and having a visual reminder when we get back home. As you journey from one career opportunity to the next pay attention to the skills you are developing, the experiences you are having and what you enjoy doing the most. And remember that ‘careerwise’ the journey really is the destination.
About the author
Grace Owen develops leaders for greater impact and specialises in career transition. Her book The Career Itch – 4 Steps for Taking Control of What You Do Next, £9.99 is available from Amazon and leading retailers. www.grace-owen.com