Thinking about a change of direction in your work life but don't know to what? Maybe your role has so many components that you could choose one of three options going forward but which one? Or perhaps you're returning to work after a parental or career break and don't want to go back to what you were doing?
Whatever your circumstances, it can be a frustrating and energy sapping process trying to figure it out and you end up going round and round in circles without a decision. Talking to family and friends can be useful, but they know you so well that they might struggle to be objective. Plus, if you’ve got financial or family commitments or are in a well-respected role/company on a specific career path, they’ll probably suggest that you stay where you are and not risk what you've already got or achieved.
Researching different careers or types of job can be helpful, but how do you know whether you’d be given a chance or have enough transferrable skills to get a foot in the door? Networking and using your work contacts can be particularly helpful for this because they can provide introductions that might be more difficult when when you're going to a company direct.
Here’s some other suggestions that may help you put some clarity around your thinking:
Job Likes and Dislikes
Make a list of what you enjoy about - your current job - the company/industry sector - your team/your manager - the culture
Then make a list in another column of what you don’t enjoy about each of the above. If you’re returning to work after a break, think back to your last role and do the same.
Consider your previous roles (even if these were short-term, temporary, holiday, Uni jobs) and do a similar list. These will probably be quite different to where you’re at now, but there will almost certainly be some common themes. Evaluating your past experiences can help you see if there are certain areas or moments where you've been unhappy and which have recurred that need to be avoided going forward.
What's not right?
Think about what you're doing in your job or what is it about your job that isn’t “really you” or doesn’t feel right? Has your role changed since you started and are some of those changes contributing to your dissatisfaction? Do you work in a team that's not really collaborative? Would you prefer to work in a large or small company based on your current or past experience? Which manager(s) have you really got on with and why? Where did you feel you had the greatest sense of achievement?
Strengths & Weaknesses
List out your strengths and ask yourself if they’re being utilized in your current job? If you're a people person who never gets to speak to anyone other than your immediate team, is that something that needs to be a focus in your next role? Do you love number crunching but you only get to input data instead of analysing it? Do you need to be challenged and have a varied role or are you happy doing something more routine?
Similarly, list out your weaker areas and ask yourself whether they form a small or significant part of your job. Having to do something that’s not really a strength takes extra effort and can contribute to pressure and stress. Knowing what you should be avoiding in a new role can ensure you ask the right questions of a company when interviewing.
Skills & Values
What transferrable skills do you have that could be used in a different role? Many transferrable skills are needed for any job e.g good communication skills, adaptability to change, ability to prioritise and meet deadlines, leadership skills
What are your values and do you need to be in a company whose culture and values match yours? Is it important for you to be in an organisation that demonstrates honesty, integrity, professionalism, environmental/sustainable goals? Does the industry sector matter in terms of your values? Do you need to feel that the work you're doing is valuable in some way?
What's important to you?
Write down and put in order of importance what you want from your next role but also what you want to get out of life in general. Keep in mind any factors that you may not be able to change and which could have an impact such as financial, family, location etc
Think about what you’re prepared to compromise on in a new role and how important that might be to your decision. Are you prepared to take a step back if needed – not just in terms of level of role but also financially?
Think about what motivates and drives you (what you’re passionate about) and whether those things could be the basis for a new job or role. What makes you happy at work and if you would do a job for free because you love doing it, are there jobs out there that are similar?
Hopefully these tips will help you understand yourself a bit better but also lead you to a clearer idea of where to next. Having changed career in the face of family opposition and with no-one to bounce ideas off or get guidance from, I know how hard it can be to move forward, but taking time to think about your personality, motivation and goals, can really help the process.
And don't forget - if writing all these lists seems too hard or your head is still in a spin, please do get in touch. Sometimes a conversation with someone who’s independent and removed from your situation can help bring clarity to your thoughts.
Other relevant posts you may be interested in: