Guess what? You’ve Changed.
The last two years have changed us. The “why” still isn’t clear. But the evidence is clear: our dissatisfaction with work, our increased propensity to retire, our willingness to change jobs... It is as if, caught up in so much we can’t control, we want to restore our agency and regain charge over our health and wellbeing, our hours and location of work, and the balance we’ve lost.
If you’re contemplating a job change, pause a minute. The New Year is traditionally a time for reflection. Be purposeful about your next steps and before taking a decision, get clear on your vision. There’s no better time to recalibrate.
Triangulate to Accelerate.
No matter how you plan to spend the New Year, find time to contemplate these three drivers, as you revisit your career vision.
What I value.
We are most satisfied when our work is aligned to what we value. What you value is specific to you. “No judgment” is important here. You might value outcomes: status, reputation, prosperity. Or environments: working in a team, supporting community, close to home. Or relationships: making your parents proud, enjoying harmonious interactions, time with those who matter most. Knowing what makes you satisfied is critical. In the absence of an honest appreciation of what you value, you risk getting caught up in other people’s expectations of you. How will you know?
It could be as sophisticated as a psychometric. Tests to scientifically measure our values are readily available. Or you could try this simple exercise. See the Word Cloud? Which three words resonate most? Chances are these are important considerations for you.
You can identify your values by reviewing your past experiences. When were you most satisfied? Are there common themes? “I’m always happy working in a team - regardless of the project”. Or “I love a challenge, with the opportunity to learn”. Or “I am happiest when I take charge”. “I need variety. I’m bored with routine”. Finding what is common about your happiest moments reveals what you value most.
Finally, you can ask others: a partner, a trusted colleague, a friend. When do they see you really satisfied? When are you at your best, regardless of what others consider “success”?
What I am good at.
Next, while not the last word in setting a career vision, is what you are good at. Things get easier when you "go with the grain”. Aligning to roles that contain things that come naturally, supports success. How do you know what you’re good at? It’s harder to answer than you think. We often overestimate our strengths, so with only 10 to 15% of us truly self aware, we need objective inputs.
Look at your last performance review or client feedback. What does that tell you about where you excel? Or ask your boss for your “signature strengths”. Get developmental feedback, to identify what comes less naturally. Feel uncomfortable asking? Check out this. You can’t ignore weaknesses, but you can put yourself in the way of opportunities that mean your development gaps don’t overwhelm your strengths and risk performance. Reflect.
You’ve anchored your vision in what you value and what we’re good at. To move beyond wishful thinking, it needs to be “achievable”. So what’s achievable? Glad you asked!
“Achievable” is a two-sided coin. On the one side, it’s what the “outside” considers achievable. The other side of the coin is “inside”; it’s whether we really want to achieve it. Let’s look at both.
Achievable - Outside In.
First, there must be a market for the value you can create. If nobody wants what I offer, then what you do is likely to be a hobby rather than a job. (hobbies are important, they just don't pay the bills). Second, you compete with others. If I'm considering a complete change in profession, mid career, I can’t expect to reach the levels of those who have been doggedly on this path for years. And, third, the skills market may be geographically bound. If my dream job is not available in the location where I live, I can't expect to be the preferred candidate. In general, the environment will favor those with more skills and experience in locations where those skills and experiences can be optimally utilized. Does this mean you shouldn’t pursue options that don't need these three criteria? No. It means your plan recognizes the external market. You temper your ambition when setting your vision, to what’s achievable from the Outside-In perspective.
Achievable - Inside Out.
This is our “tough love” conversation. Something is only achievable, as we define it, if you’re truly prepared to make the sacrifices needed to make it happen. Otherwise, at best, it's a pipe dream, with inevitable disappointment. Or worse. You make the sacrifices and regret them deeply later. This is about boundaries. The Outside-In criteria may all be fine, but… Am I prepared to be away from my family, due to constant travel? Will I sacrifice sport because my work doesn't give me that sort of free time? Will I risk my health, knowing the lifestyle my doctor recommends isn’t compatible with my career goals? What are you prepared to sacrifice? Anchor your vision to what is achievable - in terms of the market, and in terms of the sacrifices you’re prepared to make.
The sweet spot is destinations that align to your values, contain enough of what you are good at to ensure you can do good work and earn the right to the next desirable, achievable role. Alignment won’t always be perfect. But minimizing misalignment, and having a plan to deal with it, makes success more likely.
Now commit to action, large or small, to move towards your goal.
Happy New Year
To our followers, a huge “thank you”. Make 2022 your year: the Year of the Career. May 2022 bring you career success, on your terms.
This blog represents the authors' views and not those of associated organizations or institutions.