Whether you’re just finished your studies, searching for new opportunities in your skills or sector, like many in this economy, facing unemployment, it may be time to consider your career path. By learning how to research options, realize your strengths, and acquire new skills, as well as muster the courage to make a change, you can discover the career that’s right for you. Even if you’re trapped in a position you don’t love, with no realistic opportunity for change, there are still ways to find more joy and satisfaction in what you do.
Why is finding meaningful work important?
Since so much of our time is spent either at work, travelling, or thinking about work, it inevitably plays a huge role in our lives. If you feel bored or unsatisfied with what you do for large parts of the day, it can take a serious toll on your physical and mental health. You may feel burned out and frustrated, anxious, depressed, or unable to enjoy time at home knowing that another workday lays ahead.
Having to concentrate for long periods on tasks you find mundane, repetitive, or unsatisfying can cause high levels of stress. What’s more, if you don’t find your work meaningful and rewarding, it’s hard to generate the effort and enthusiasm needed to advance in your job or career. As well as feeling happy and satisfied, you are far more likely to be successful in an occupation that you feel passionate about.
So how do you gain satisfaction and meaning from your work?
You choose or change careers to something that you love and are passionate about.
You find purpose and joy in a job that you don’t love.
When changing careers isn’t a realistic option
For many of us, career dreams are just that: dreams. The practical realities of paying the bills, putting food on the table and the kids through school mean that you have to spend max hours every week doing a job that you don’t enjoy. Or maybe you have to juggle multiple jobs, as well as school or family commitments, just to get by in today’s economy. The idea of choosing to make a career change may seem about as realistic as choosing to become a professional athlete or an astronaut.
Still, getting up every morning dreading the thought of going to work, then staring at the clock all day willing it to be time to leave can take a real toll on your health. It can leave you feeling agitated, irritable, disillusioned, helpless, and completely worn out even when you’re not at work. In fact, having a monotonous or unfulfilling job can leave you just as vulnerable to stress and having one which leaves you rushed off your feet, and it can be just as harmful to your overall mental well-being as being unemployed.
we picked a career path and stuck with it. most people who started out in one career retired from a higher-level version of the first job they accepted out of school. That isn’t the case today!
These days people change careers more often than they change cars. They don’t just get a new job, but often move into a completely different field. That increased mobility is good for working people and for their employers. In fact, it’s the scaredy-cat organizations that miss out, because their job ads scream “Only people with industry experience will be considered!”
That’s a very foolish decision to make, but some managers don’t understand that it’s easier to teach people industry-and-function-specific jargon than to teach them how to think and solve problems.
I’ve always found that the more open you are as a hiring manager to people with wildly different backgrounds, the more earth-shaking, fantastic new ideas you will hear.
Now that career paths ooze and flow around, through and across one another without the solid boundaries that we grew up with, how do you pick a new career path when the old one is done? You may be burned out in your career, or the career may have disappeared altogether.
There may not be any jobs. You may have to try something completely different from what you’ve done before.
In other words, you’re qualified to do any number of things. You may be asking right now
“My problem isn’t that I don’t think I could learn a new function. My problem is that I don’t think department managers will give me a chance without industry or function-specific experience!”
I understand what you’re saying. There are, of course, weenie managers who will turn up their noses, people coming into a new field. God bless those ameobae. You don’t need them.
They couldn’t help you, even if they hired you. You couldn’t learn anything from people like that. Your task as a career-changer is to look for the managers who value your experience, no matter where you earned it. Luckily there are lots of them!
Every manager has pain. If they weren’t responsible for solving problems, they wouldn’t have a job, because companies don’t pay people to sit around and play solitaire all day. They hire people to solve their problems.
Managers have major Business Pain. You can solve that pain, no matter what industry you’ve come from, if you see the similarities between the pain you’ve solved in the past and the problems your target hiring manager is facing now. There are similarities, of course. You just have to spot them!
First, let’s think about your target hiring managers. They are managers of departments you’d like to work in, and they’re employed by organizations you’d like to work for. How will you decide which managers to target? Here’s a simple method for getting started.
Read the job JD on Jobdrag and other Portals, and as you read, ask yourself “Would I enjoy this job? Could I do the work this job ad is talking about?” Don’t worry about the practicality of your career change right now. Think about your best-fit next career path, instead. What sorts of work would you get excited when you get out of bed in the morning?
Now, get out a notebook or open a document on your computer and start writing. What sorts of problems have you solved in your work already? Tell the stories in your words as you write.
Let your mind wander back over your career, whether it’s a very short one right now or decades long. Write about the times when you saved the day at work, and the times when you felt powerful and were glad to be on hand to help.
We call these stories Dragon-Slaying Stories, and my prediction is that the more of them you pull out of your memory banks, the more Dragon-Slaying Stories you’ll recall!
Write down ten of your favorite Dragon-Slaying Stories, like this:
· The time I figured out why the monthly returns report didn’t match the customer service returns log, and I fixed the problem.
· The time I flew to Phoenix and got the Acme Explosives people to finally learn how to use our product properly and stop calling Tech Support every three minutes.
· The time I pushed my boss for three months to change the new-customer credit policy, and got fourteen new customers off credit hold and using our products.
Now you’ve looked at job ads, and you’ve thought about your Dragon-Slaying Stories. What themes come through? What are the activities and projects that grow your flame? Do you especially enjoy working one-on-one with people, or do you like to close the door in a quiet room and write code?
Do you love to teach people how to do new things, or do you like to write procedures and documentation?
Think about what you’d love to do more of in your next job. Think about what you never want to do again in your career. You aren’t limited by your past job titles. You can segue from pretty much any career path into any other. You only need to see the connections between the old and the new.
Once you see them, you can make them clear to hiring managers in your Pain Letters and Human-Voiced Resume!
You can go ahead and apply for jobs that you think you’d enjoy, whether you have the requirements listed in the job ad or not. You just can’t apply through the standard channel, which is the automated recruiting process. That thing will knock you out right away because your resume won’t have the ‘right’ keywords in it. So what? You can still get the job.
You can reach out to your hiring manager directly and start a conversation with him or her. Here’s how do get that process started.
If you can’t decide which career path to focus your job search on, don’t panic! You can pursue two or three different, new career paths at once. We call these job search directions “prongs.” You can have three or four prongs going in your job search at once.
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