You may be just out of school or 60+ wanting a change. It’s an exciting challenge to work out who you are and what will work best for you, but many people find it daunting.
Are you lucky to have engineered to get into your career and you love it? Or did you stumble into your career after a quirk of fate?
What about those who are unhappy in their jobs? Time to look at a fresh approach to make sure you find a satisfying career.
Researching and being strategic over time – research a range of careers, jobs and courses:
- Exploring courses – formal and informal
- Learn about setting up a business
- Study recruitment ads
- Talk to industry bodies, HR managers
- Find a great recruitment company and talk to a consultant there
- Trial various options
Spontaneous career plans – suddenly retrenched, a relationship split, change of location, seeing an ad that attracts you, being sent a suggestion from a friend. Maybe a great project that attracts you along a new path. Maybe someone asks for help, or you offer it, or for someone who is not risk averse, starting a business without a major planning phase.
Four steps for effective career planning and career change:
1. Know yourself – recognise your interests, skills and personality type. Do you prefer to be physically active vs sedentary, team vs work alone?
Write down 10 things that bore you or drive you nuts in a job. Now 10 things you love or have enjoyed in previous roles or what you envy that other people are doing.
Answer questions and talk to a mentor or career advisor.
You need to come up with a list of your interests and values, your skills and aptitudes and your preferred environments. Know what stimulates you? Learn about yourself and what you enjoy:
- Do you love technology?
- Do you want to travel?
- Work from home?
- Are you a fast learner – do you want to be constantly learning?
- Do you want to make a difference in the lives of others?
- What are your hobbies and how do you currently enjoy your leisure time?
- What do loved ones think you’d do best?
Gain information from colleagues on what they see as your strengths, or do a 360 degree feedback assessment of your skills.
One of the key guiding principles is to recognise what makes you feel good and what makes you feel proud of your work.
2. Research opportunities – explore career and job options. Don’t feel because you have studied for one career or worked in one industry for many years you will be throwing away valuable skills. Skills and knowledge are so often transferable.
Use your list from step 1 to consider what job options might work for you. Be open. Talk to people about their work. Make appointments to meet people in roles that seem interesting to you, ask lots of questions, find out about possible work experience, project or contract work, or volunteer work you can do to trial your options. If you are lucky you may get an opportunity to hang around for a few hours watching them at work and learning more about what they do.
Look at different job descriptions online and ads on the internet. Find out which roles have pre-requisite studies and see what is feasible for you to do full-time or part-time or online. Check out roles, tasks, pay and opportunities for educational and training requirements. Read up on best practice workplaces – what makes one place a great fun place to work at? Ask questions to find out why people in jobs are happy and why they are not.
3. Match you to the jobs and careers
What do you need and want – match this list with what you know about jobs and careers. What is realistic and might work? What should be ruled out and never considered? You will be able to narrow down the list of options by eliminating ones with aspects to the job roles you would be unhappy and dissatisfied doing.
You may need to go back and learn more about yourself, or more about what is available to do a good job of this phase.
Try a short-term option to test or give you more time. Maybe you need to take parallel paths – e.g. being an artist or musician to satisfy your creativity and love of art or music, and at the same time having a “filler” career to earn money. Maybe you will build up a hobby and make it into your career.
4. Action plan
Set your goals and act on them. This may be a long process – over years while you undertake studies to achieve a certain qualification. You may need to persist with a job search, you will need a fresh resume and a great covering letter once you are ready. And you need positive thinking!
You will need to narrow down your options and make an action plan of where to start, what studies to do, perhaps seek a work experience opportunity, and remember it’s OK to try a few different careers in your life. Short-term roles on your CV can be advantageous if you learn new skills. Gain a variety of experience.
Make the time. It’s not going to happen without some effort, so start a project – YOU AND YOUR CAREER. Some people say that it is “too late” to consider a new career once they have a job that was hard to get, or where they are being paid reasonably well, or where there seem to be few opportunities. They often feel, especially if they have chosen a public sector role, that their options are now limited, which is NOT TRUE.
Reality may be disappointing – expectations may not match the job market. So be prepared to do anything relating to the desired career. The goal and desired job can come after recognition. Take on extra work, promote yourself, and seize opportunities for promotion. Or take a risk – start your business and go for it. Be determined!
Eve Ash is a psychologist, author, filmmaker, public speaker and entrepreneur. She runs Seven Dimensions, a company specialising in training resources for the workplace.