Top 4 questions you need to ask before changing careers

It’s a new year – are you feeling that push to make a career change?  Maybe you actually hate your job, or have been feeling stuck for a while. The start of a new year can be a catalyst, and if you’ve been thinking about a career change for a while then now is a good time to take action. The temptation may be to leap into something new, but before you do that ask yourself some important questions. Here are the top 4 questions you need to ask before changing careers.

1. What is driving me to change career?

The first question you need to ask when changing careers is what is driving you to make a career change.  If it’s linked to not being happy  in your job, it’s time to understand what that really means. Drill down into why you’re not happy:

  • is it your actual job? the work you do? the direction your company is heading?
  • is it the culture of the organisation? does it grate with you and your values?
  • is it your boss? are you clashing?
  • is it your colleagues? are they hard to get on with? do you have anything in common?
  • are you bored? do you need more stretch and challenge?
  • is it all of the above?

If it’s only one element that is making you unhappy, then it is worth considering if a change in company or sector is needed rather than a complete change in career. Or whether you could make some changes to your current situation.

Action: Work out what is making you unhappy or unsatisfied before making any big decisions

2. How will I know what will make me happy at work?

You don’t want to leave one career that you’re unhappy in to find yourself in the same position in your new career because you’re not clear about what will give you satisfaction and fulfilment. Do an audit on your current job, but this time look at what you enjoy about it and what has been missing from it. Then make a list of everything you would want in your ideal job. Consider location, salary, hours as well as job satisfaction, culture, people, sector, challenge, etc.

Your wishlist is important as it will allow you to measure any new career options and work out what you might compromise on and what are your deal breakers. Being clear about what you need to make you happy at work means you can make conscious choices about what next.

Action: Create your ideal job list

3. Where do I want to be in 3 years time?

It’s easy to just focus on the most immediate change, especially when your current situation feels untenable and you’re desperate to escape it. But having a vision of where you want your career to take you will give you clarity over whether the  short term move is right. It helps you work out whether staying and making  things work or leaving for a transition role is the best way forward. Being strategic about each step and how it takes you closer to your longer term goal is really powerful, and one of the keys to long term career success.

Action: Create a career vision board

4. Can I afford to change career?

There can be financial implications to changing careers, and this can be very scary, particularly during times of economic uncertainty. Your choice of new career may mean you need to retrain, or take time off to get specific experience. Or you may decide to take a career break while you reposition yourself. Plus the first role you take in your new career can mean, although not always, a pay cut. The financial cost of the change can put you off as it feels too risky.

However, asking yourself what could I do to fund my career change can allow you to identify possibilities. For example, saving money  to give you a 3 month window of opportunity, paring back your living costs to the essentials to realise what the minimum is you need to live on, or considering how you could generate additional income in the short term.

Knowledge is power. Knowing what you need and knowing that you can still support yourself  enables you to manage risk and choose what is right for you.

Action: Take financial control and get to grips with the money side of your change

Now, having answered these questions you’ll be in a good position to make the best changes to your career this year.

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Your 5 minute Midwinter Career Review

In a few weeks it’ll be the Winter Solstice, marking the middle of winter. Traditionally a time of feasting and dancing to celebrate the longest night of the year, it can still be an opportunity to celebrate but why not use it as a chance to celebrate your career instead?  If it feels too crazy before Christmas to fit it in then schedule it for the time between Christmas and New year when there’s not so much going on. All you need is 5 minutes and a notebook and pen and then you’re ready for your Career Review.

How can a Career Review help?

Think of this as an opportunity to be in control of your career, to avoid drifting and be proactive in getting what you want. It’s also an opportunity to celebrate what you have achieved, which we often forget to do, instead focusing on what we haven’t done. Plus you can learn from your experiences in the year which will increase your career resilience and adaptability.

Your Midwinter Career Review is a fantastic chance to set your intention for next year and start 2019 with clarity about what you want from your career. If you need help with this read my Career Roadmap blog

What to do in your 5 Minute Career Review

My 5 minute career review will give you chance to take a moment for reflection, ask yourself some searching questions and refocus your energy for next year.

Firstly find some quiet space where you won’t be disturbed, maybe think about being somewhere different such as your favourite cafe, then grab a notebook and a pen, and you’re ready.

Reconnect to the career goal you set yourself at the beginning of the year and answer the following questions – make a note of your answers:

  • What am I proud of in my career?
  • What do I feel was successful?
  • What were my major challenges in the last year?
  • What have I learnt in that time both personally and professionally?
  • Who have I enjoyed working with and why?
  • What do I want for my career in 2018?

The last question is really important as it gives you chance to focus on the next 12 months and what you need to do to realise your career goal whether that is changing careers or jobs, getting promotion or working on some new projects.

How to get motivated

  • Don’t get hung up on a SMART goal (they can make it a bit dull) instead phrase your goal in a way that is clear and motivating for you. Focusing towards something usually works best, for example ‘I want to be in a challenging more senior role in a larger company where I can learn x skills by the end of the year’.
  • Keep your goal alive. Find what works for you but consider whether an image, a word, or a quote can represent your goal, keep it active and in your line of sight. So often we set a goal and then it gathers dust in a drawer – you need to be able to tap into it’s motivating energy on a regular basis. Or use futureme.org to send yourself regular reminder emails to keep you on track.
  • Celebrate what you have done – yes, give yourself a pat on the back and a reward. Don’t focus on on what you haven’t done yet.
  • Develop a motivation mindset. Check in on your self belief – do you feel you can achieve your goal or do you have doubts creeping in? Identify any blocks and think about how you can overcome them. I like to write them down and develop a strategy for each one to stop it circulating in my head! If you need some help overcoming your doubts and your inner critic have a look at my book Developing your Inner Coach.
  • Find an accountability buddy. Staying on track can be the hardest thing if you feel there is no accountability so sharing this by reporting in and updating on progress can be really useful at making you get on with it. I run a monthly Accountability and Motivation programme for clients and they have found it incredibly helpful. If this is something you feel would make all the difference do get in touch.

Don’t just drift in your career, take control and the solstice as your motivation to stop, reflect and plan. In December and January I am offering a special one hour super focused Career Planning coaching session to get you clear about next year as well as giving you a confidence boost through celebrating what you have achieved this year. If you would like to go deeper and get some help to be clear about the progress you want to make next year and are interested in discovering more about this session and the early bird price get in touch here.

kaboompics.com Be happy always - Your 5 minute Midwinter Career Review

Join my FREE 10 day Career Change challenge

If you're unhappy in your career or at a crossroads but feel stuck, take part in my CHALLENGE to move closer to a career you can love.

Photo courtesy of Kaboompics.com

Amid all the Christmas festivities don’t forget to celebrate your career successes for 2016. Use this simple technique to do a quick review

 

Don’t wait until January to review your year – get ahead of the game and start celebrating what has gone well in December. Then  you can start getting clear about your focus for next year.  It’s particularly important in our busy and hectic lives where it is easy to let one year slip into the next without looking at what we enjoyed, what went well and what we could have done without!

If you can also identify the part you played in making the good things happen it can be incredibly valuable, as well as acknowledging your strengths and skills. Both will boost you resilience and career well being – look at it as an early Christmas present to yourself!

Completing this activity can mean you can avoid plateauing or getting stuck in your career. It enables you to focus on the positives whilst looking out for things you don’t want to repeat.

And it’s a really simple process to do too. I like to do it in mind map form, using colour, but there are no rules so you can be linear and use a list, or create your own method of displaying the info.

  • Start with a blank piece of paper and if you are mind mapping write “My career 2016” in the centre and draw a circle around it.
  • Next, around this circle map out all the things about 2016 you think deserve to be celebrated – this could include new skills you’ve learnt, opportunities that you said ‘yes’ to, achievements, things you’re proud of, new projects  you took on, achieving a better work life balance, people you enjoyed working/connecting with and so on.
  • When you’ve  filled the paper with as many things as you can, take a moment to reflect. Firstly really congratulate yourself and celebrate for making all these wonderful things happen, and then jot down what it was YOU did to enable them. Maybe you were courageous, maybe you said ‘yes’ and pushed yourself out of your comfort zone or maybe it was something else.

Next, thinking about 2017 identify 5 things you would like more of for your career this year, and also 5 things you would like less of in 2017. Use these intentions to help you focus your choices and decisions around your career in the year ahead.

Want to go deeper and carry out a more in depth review and plan then grab my free Career Review and Planning Tool

Oh, and don’t forget to give yourself a treat for all the great things that happened in your career in 2016!

Why you need a roadmap for your career

If you’ve ever tried to drive somewhere new without a roadmap or a route plan, you’ll know that, while instinct and intuition will get you so far you can end up wasting a lot of time going the wrong way, having to do three point turns in dead ends and realising you’ve driven past that particular land mark three times already, before you finally give up and end up either back where you started or somewhere else completely.

And so it is with your career – if you don’t have a plan or a roadmap you can end up feeling stuck, lost or plain frustrated. This can be the case whether you want to change career completely or develop your current career further. It can, however, be quite simple to develop a plan that you can work with and which will get you moving in the right direction.

Step 1: Create some space for thinking about your overall career goal. This could be an aspirational goal – what do you want to be doing in 3-5 years? Or if could be a more immediate career move.

Step 2: Take a large sheet of paper and write your career goal in the centre. Be specific, for example, ‘Be Head of Department/Director’ or ‘Be Senior specialist in ….’ Or ‘Be Lead Consultant for xxx’ or ‘Be running my own business in  xxx’.

Step 3: Now you need to identify the sub goals that will help you achieve your main goal. These sub goals could be from the following categories:

  • Experience – thinking about your overall goal is there a gap in your work experience for example, have you managed people or projects? Identify what you’re missing.
  • Skills – are there particular skills you need to develop in order to be shortlisted for your ultimate job? Identify particular skills you are going to need.
  • Expertise – how can you build your reputation in your field? This sub goal could be about being perceived as an expert or specialist, or it could be becoming known for delivery, innovation or performance.
  • Personal Development – what do you need to work on in order to achieve your goal – this could be confidence, presence, networks, etc
  • Personal – this is personal to you but could be working more flexibly, getting better work life balance or getting more enjoyment and satisfaction from work and home.
  • Job Search  – how are you going to approach the external jobs market?

Step 4: Arrange your sub goals, mind map style around your main goal. You might have between 4-6 sub goals as not all the categories above will be relevant.

This is the beginning of your roadmap – you’ve identified your destination and all the stops along the way.

Step 5: Now you can get into all the nitty gritty – break down your all sub goals into tasks and actions. For example, if one of your subgoals is to get some people management experience, then your actions could be to talk to your current manager about opportunities to supervise another member of staff or do some matrix management, or it could also be to take on a volunteering role in your spare time that involves elements of people management, and/ or it might be to investigate courses that will enable you to understand management theory and principles.

Step 6: Now assign timescales to all your actions and goals. You can now create an action plan identifying the actions by weeks and months. Breaking it down in this way and seeing it planned out stops you feeling overwhelmed and will give you a sense of progress as you work through your plan.

You should now be feeling clearer and more motivated to achieve your goal. Having goals and pathways to achieve them is one of the keys to feeling confident about any change you’re going to make in your career.

For more info or support with developing your career plan contact me on [email protected]

 

Photo courtesy of DenysNevozhai, Unsplash.com