Is it time for a career change?
The third Monday of January, often referred to as Blue Monday, is considered the most depressing day of the year. So it’s no surprise January turns out to be the most popular month for employees to think about a career change, according to employment website Glassdoor.
Looking back at my own career, two of my biggest work-related decisions were made at the start of the year. In January 2010, I decided to move from San Francisco to London. In January 2013, I decided to leave my global marketing role in the corporate world to start a business helping others reinvent their careers.
Now, as a speaker, career consultant and podcast host, I cross paths with thousands of professionals each year who may be navigating some complex career decisions. I rarely meet anyone who hasn’t made at least one major career pivot in their lives. With the arrival of the new decade, now is the perfect time to consider opening a new chapter in your life.
Pinpoint exactly what the problem is
If you’re not exactly jumping out of bed with excitement each Monday morning, you’re not alone. Only 11 per cent of employees are fully enthusiastic about their work, according to Gallup’s most recent State of the Global Workplace report surveying 155 countries.
People often ask me how to tell if the dissatisfaction you’re feeling is a normal part of working life, or a sign that you need to make a change. Figuring this out starts with identifying exactly what’s bothering you.
Each job is generally made up of six parts: location, industry, organisation, function, role and team. If one or two of these is behind your dissatisfaction, addressing those issues could be enough. If your company’s culture is misaligned with who you are, moving to a new organisation could fix things.
On the other hand, you may find that the issue you’re struggling with follows you wherever you go. If this is the case, you might find you need to adjust your expectations. If you are annoyed by all your managers, you may need to change your attitude.
Or it could actually be that large-scale change is necessary if you feel your industry, organisation, role, or all of the above, are at odds with who you are. If your manager’s job doesn’t appeal to you, you may need to change career.
Decide what’s important and take action
If you’re unhappy where you are, but are feeling stuck because you don’t know what to do instead, rest assured this is a very common problem. Knowing where you don’t like working and knowing where you would want to work instead are two very different things.
Your career will inevitably involve trade-offs, so you have to distinguish between the ‘must-haves’ and the ‘nice-to-haves’.
After you’ve identified the issues you want to address, decide which one or two changes will make the biggest difference, then act. Most people I know who have successfully relaunched their careers chose to err on the side of an imperfect action, rather than endless reflection in an attempt to make the perfect move.
Forcing yourself to test the waters in a low-risk way with activities, such as an evening class, that could move you in a better direction is another way to gain clarity.
Build a Personal brand that reflects who you are
In my former life as a brand manager, I saw how good branding and marketing were critical to successfully taking a brand in a new direction. Similarly, when you’re trying to take your career in a new direction, you have to invest time in thinking about who you are, where you want to take your career and how to communicate this to hiring managers or recruiters.
Take stock of your key skills and strengths and ask what unique value you can offer employers. You’ll need to construct a clear narrative that helps connect the dots for people, which is often a challenge for those who change careers.
Think about how you’ll communicate your personal brand when responding to common questions such as “what’s your background?” and “what are you looking for in your next role?”
Emotions and fears will inevitably surface
If changing careers was easy, the 89% of people who are not fully engaged at work, according to Gallup’s report, would already have done something about it. When I changed careers, my biggest fears were making a mistake or ending up in a worse situation.
It’s normal to feel like you’re the only one who is struggling and to wonder if your expectations about work are unrealistic. It’s also normal to feel you’re not making progress quickly enough in uncovering what you want to do.
The difference between settling for the status quo and finding more enjoyable work is to keep searching until you have your breakthrough.
While the journey to reinvent yourself may feel daunting at times, as someone who has relaunched my own career a few times, I can assure you that making the effort to create a more enjoyable work-life for yourself is worth it.
5 WAYS TO DEFINE YOUR PERSONAL BRAND
1. Identify your key strengths
Capture two or three key skills, areas of expertise, and/or work style that differentiate you from others. Being specific about what you can offer helps employers to quickly understand the
exact value you can add.
2. Increase your visibility
Being more visible in relevant professional circles can help others discover you. If you like writing, platforms such as LinkedIn Publishing can be helpful. If you like public speaking, volunteer to speak at a conference.
3. Build a consistent image
Ensure you communicate who you are consistently across your job search materials and social media profiles. Start with your cover letter, CV and LinkedIn profile.
4. Reinforce your reputation
Get involved with people and causes that align with the reputation you want to build for yourself, and engage with opportunities that reinforce who you want to be.
5. Live by your values
Figuring out what truly matters to you can serve as a powerful compass for your career. Be around people you respect, do more work you find meaningful and invest your energies in organisations you respect.