I’ve been reflecting on the most common things I hear when I first meet with a new client. They want take control of their career but have no idea how to go about it or where to start.
There’s truly nothing more frustrating and dispiriting than feeling like this. I get it, you’ve invested so much time and effort to be good at what you’re doing now, to earn this level of professional status and financial security… making a change seems impossible, doesn’t it?
But, let me ask you this… do you really want to stay stuck doing something that’s “just ok” forever?
Are you the passenger or the pilot?
The primary reason you don’t know what to do or where to start is because… you’re not clear about where you want to go.
Possibly you’ve just let things drift, or roles have always come to you as recognition of your hard work or loyalty, or you’ve always relied on a routine of search and apply to arrive at where you are today. The thing is… what got you here, won’t get you where you want to be next, especially if you’re not sure where “next” is.
Having an “accidental” career is basically a “passenger plan”. It relies on other people making choices and decisions for you. It’s at best, uninspired, and at worst, completely disempowering because you’ve willingly relinquished control over your career success and satisfaction.
It’s also likely to feel very confusing… on paper things might look amazing – responsibility, status, money, perks – but if you’re dragging yourself through the days and weeks, what are those things really worth.
To take back control you need to become the pilot of your career strategy. And you can do this by getting crystal clear about what’s important to you and what you really want.
How to take control of your career?
1. DISCOVER WHAT YOU REALLY WANT
The sense of satisfaction you feel in your career starts with understanding “what you want”. But the question “what do you want?” can be challenging and difficult to answer. In order to feel clear about where you’re headed, the place to start is in uncovering and articulating what’s most important to you – in the way you work, where you work, with whom you work and the outcomes you’re motivated to achieve. Knowing these things creates a strong foundation for designing a career you love.
2. TEST YOUR HYPOTHESES
Once you’ve a clear idea of what’s important to you and what you really want (i.e. not what others say you “should” want), you then need to run your thoughts and ideas through a “reality” filter. Create a list of qualifying questions to use as a guide, such as – Which 2-3 things on this list are non-negotiable? Are there things on this list I’d like but I’m not prepared to “do the work” to make happen? What financial impacts do these things involve and am I comfortable with those? In applying these filter you can gauge whether the things you want are realistic or an unachievable fantasy.
3. CREATE A PRO-ACTIVE PLAN
Here’s where the rubber hits the road. Once you know what you really want, what’s important to you and you’ve prioritised what you’ll compromise on (or not!), you have a solid framework for making intentional decisions about what’s next for you. It could be related to your ongoing career development, the type of role you want to focus on, or the type of organisation or industry you want to move into. You can proactively go after what you want or you can assess opportunities within your framework and feel confident about the decisions you’re making.
Rarely (if ever!) will you get in your car without knowing where you’re going, so it’s time to stop doing this in your career.
If you feel like you’re lacking clarity about what you want next from your career, I’d love to help you work it out.