How You Can Give Your Career a Fresh Start
(Previously featured at Forbes.com – February 15, 2015)
“The question is not how to survive, but how to thrive
with passion, compassion, humor and style.” — Maya Angelou
Are you just surviving at work – caught up in the day-to-day doldrums of your job? Life is too short to tolerate any sense of dread on Sunday evening as you think about going to work the next day. If you aren’t thriving at work and your passion is missing, perhaps this is the year for you to jump-start your work life. Since working until age 70 is no longer the exception, the sooner you take charge of your career, the better.
The good news is that you can re-charge your career at any time. Your career path can be vertical, horizontal or bumpy. Altering the direction of your career path does not carry the stigma it once did. In fact, the gold watch ceremony for employees who have been at one company for 50 years has become obsolete. Adults average four different careers in their lifetime—not jobs, careers. I’ve already had six. And each has been an extension of the previous ones. The neat thing is that skills and talents are often transferable, so you can take skills you’ve developed in one career and transport them with you to another. Project managers can apply their budgeting, resource allocation, and planning to consulting assignments. Lawyers can apply their research and negotiation skills to many careers, including politics, teaching, and writing.
So, how do you begin to give a fresh start to your career?
Step back and do some honest reflection about your current situation.
Are you feeling disgruntled and disengaged in your current job or because of the type of work you are currently doing? Would you feel rejuvenated if you worked for a different manager or a different company doing similar work? If you still find your career choice one that fulfills life purpose and values, you may want to seek a different workplace environment. The ability to perform work that is aligned with your mission and values in an organization that encourages you to be your best self can reignite your passion, compassion, humor and style.
Do career strategic planning.
Businesses perform a SWOT analysis and so can you. After all, your life is your most important business. A SWOT analysis is a formal process where an organization considers its Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
Be introspective about yourself. What are your strengths and talents? Take a look at all the things you’ve done during your career and while in school. What have you accomplished? What did you enjoy most? Where have you excelled? What areas have you not enjoyed and which stressed you or drained your reservoir of personal energy? This process can show you what career you have the passion and capacity to do. The updated best-selling book, What Color Is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles, is an excellent resource for this process. Additionally, there are many self-assessment instruments that you can use in your introspection to help you understand your career aptitude, styles of leadership and conflict management, and workplace preferences.
Discover and assess your gaps in knowledge, skill, and behaviors.
What are the hard and soft skills you need for the next part of your life journey? Seeking honest feedback from people who know you well can be insightful. One exercise is to ask people close to you, “What are 4 words that describe me?” Examine those “4 words” and ponder how those 4 words match your view of yourself personally and professionally. This is the time when many women seek help with self-esteem and displaying self-confidence. Organizations like Toastmasters teach members to speak spontaneously and confidently. Improving networking skills is often a key skill during this discovery period. Many professionals take additional training and education in areas they want to strengthen including courses, certifications and degrees.
Hold informational interviews with people more established in your current field and in the career that interests you. Many professionals enjoy meeting with others who believe they are influential and want to learn from them. In this time of “giving back,” professionals are happy to share their experience and help others who are interested in learning from them. Be clear that you are not asking for a job, it’s just that you admire them and want to learn more about their experience and their field. You may find ideas for invigorating work in your current field that you can implement immediately.
Do your “due diligence.”
Research your current career path as well as other options. Read trade journals, conduct research online, and interview others in the field. Is the future of the industry positive or is it a struggling industry that is not growing? Reach out to others in your network to better understand other industries and fields you are interested in exploring.
Keep your sense of humor and enjoy the journey.
Continue to focus on the positive every day — no matter where you are on your career path. There is always an opportunity to impact those in your circle in a positive way.
As Maya Angelo said, “The question is not how to survive, but how to thrive with passion, compassion, humor and style.” Are you thriving now? If not now…when will you start?
Dr. Susan Murphy is a best-selling author, coach and speaker who specializes in relationships, conflict, leadership and goal-achievement. Dr. Murphy can be reached at Dr.Murphy@LiveWellClinic.org and (760) 674.1615.