Many, many, many, many (see where I’m going with this) people sort ‘find’ themselves in a job they never planned. There are a million reasons why this happens, but more often than not, these careers aren’t as fulfilling as many would like. What’s cool though? This doesn’t have to be permanent. With a little intentional thinking and a plan, a new, more fulfilling career can be found. Whether it’s about making a clear plan for job growth in your current role, or finding a new role altogether, there are three phases to designing your career path:
- You have to acknowledge where you stand.
You can’t move forward unless you know (really know) where you are right now.
- What about your career do you like?
- What do you not like? Where are your pain points?
- What ‘problems’ are you looking to solve?
Once you analyze, and accept, your current state of affairs you can understand the positive possibilities that your circumstances offer. You maybe tempted to skip this part of the process, but you really can’t. Just saying, “Whelp. I’m fed-up with my job, so I’d better start searching for something new!” will land you back in the same spot in short order.
You need to give yourself your full attention. I know that sounds like a no-brainer, but often we give ourselves the LEAST amount of attention possible. You may have to take yourself out for a drink/coffee/meditation session and explicitly say to yourself "I need your FULL brain/eyes/ears on me for 37 minutes." and take the time to really address your situation.
2. You have to discover what you truly want.
In my opinion this should always start with two questions. 1: What do I find fun? And 2: Why? If you’re like:
“I find sitting in my underwear, watching 70s cop movies while eating corn dogs fun - but that’s not a job!”
I challenge that notion. People make great livings writing about film, culture, snack foods and personal memoirs that involve all three. But then ask yourself why. Is it that your day job at a macrobiotic food lab where every movement of your day, including your lab coat and lunch options are regulated, is making you feel a bit stifled?
If that’s the case, your career world has just blown wide open. Something in food science that isn’t in a lab? That’s maybe outdoors? That maybe works with fun people? Kids? The world is your career oyster.
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3. You have to implement your new decisions.
You’ve sat with yourself and made some decisions. AWESOME. But now it’s time for some homework. Bummer. I know. I know. But think of it more as “fieldwork” - it’s where you’re researching and testing your new path.
As much as you may think you do, you don’t actually know the true outcomes of the decisions you’ve made. You don’t know how you’ll really feel about your decisions unless you test and refine them. Vague ideas and wishful thinking only get you so far. And that’s all in your head. You have to get out in the real world.
Part of this involves talking to people actually doing the thing you’re interested in - even if they’d be at a different level than you. It means shadowing, practicing, volunteering. It means doing the real nitty gritty, daily tasks.
This is another one of those times where you can’t skip out on the work. People who FINALLY make a new career decision tend to want to jump right in. Both feet. I totally get that. But if you do, be prepared to potentially have to start all over again. You’ll get to the good stuff soon enough. Promise.
Here’s the thing. This isn’t a ‘one and done’ proposition. You can choose, and test, as many as you like! You will make some not-so-right choices on the way. And that’s ok.
Now… go forth and make YOUR plan.