One of the biggest questions we ever face in life is what do we want to do with it. Our lives are a wonderful gift; how do we marry our talents with that which fulfills us and makes us feel as though we’re fully engaged and balanced? To be honest, I don’t know that anyone really has those answers. And not one answer fits everyone, which complicates matters even further. The best thing I can say is there is no wrong or right and it’s completely individual– this means that no one can tell you what is best for you.
It’s happened many times– someone hands a recruiter a resume and says, “Do you have anything for me?” or “What do you think I should do?” Anyone who has been in employment for a while will tell you that they can give you some ideas after a conversation, but no one can tell you what to do with your life. You really have to figure it out on your own. After all, you have to spend all of those hours every day with your coworkers, doing that job, driving to and from that job. Think of it this way: you’ll spend more of your waking hours during the week at work than you will with your family. Puts it into perspective a bit. When you’re in the position where you need to re-evaluate your career, your entire work-life situation, it’s best to take a step back and really put some thought into where you’ll be next. Make that step intentional.
The 5 Year Plan
It’s such a common interview question, but where do you see yourself in 5 years? Whatever your current circumstances, be assured that they won’t be the same in 5 years. Change is good. Change is healthy. Change is what keeps life interesting. Thinking ahead and anticipating change can help you put yourself in a situation where managing through the change is a bit easier. The only thing that I can assure you of is that nothing, and I mean nothing, ever remains the same forever– good or bad.
Once you know where you’d like to be in 5 years, sit down and write out a plan for how to get there. Be deliberate about your moves. Explore your options. What actions can you take now that will help push you in the right direction? What are you doing right now that is of no help at all? Make a plan to transition out of those activities. My parents always told me, “Get rid of the things you don’t want in your life in order to make room for the things you DO want.” Know what? It works every time.
Look at your volunteer work and hobbies
You know how you can be working on something and just lose track of time? Think about what you’re doing when that happens to you. What about your side projects or somewhere you volunteer? It might make sense to see where you can marry your experience with one of these passions. I have a dear friend who worked in customer service for years. While she enjoyed work, she didn’t have a passion for it. However, at the drop of a hat, she was eager to help friends and family plan events or decorate. After being laid off from that job, she took some time and really thought about where she needed to be in terms of work. Happily, she was able to find a job as an event planner, marrying her superior customer service abilities with her creative talents. And, yes, she’s just as happy as you’d think she’d be.
If you’re thinking about a career change, make some connections. One way you can do a little research on your own is to look at someone who is in a position you admire. Visit their LinkedIn profile and see what their path was to get there. As a next step, see if you have connections in common and talk to them directly about their path. Many professionals are happy to talk to others about their career, how they got there, and give some advice to someone who is looking to go in that direction. It never hurts to ask. Just remember, be open and pay it forward if you’re ever asked for the same advice. Following someone around for a day is sometimes not possible in many careers, but having a frank discussion is possible as long as you’ve built some rapport.
Stop the negative self-talk
Often, we talk ourselves out of following our passions without ever even giving it a try. A Forbes article by Kathy Caprino [http://www.forbes.com/sites/kathycaprino/2013/01/03/a-surefire-plan-to-figure-out-what-you-really-want/] addresses the ways we limit ourselves. Thinking that you’re not good at what you love, believing that you need to be at a certain salary, a certain status, all of these things are self-limiting. Banish all of those thoughts right away. How can you be truly happy if you have this nasty little voice in your head telling you negative junk? If you are experiencing self-confidence issues or have a history of anxiety and/or depression, think about seeking out a good therapist or life/job coach who will be able to give you some insight and help you see yourself more objectively.
Remember, nothing worth having is easy. A job that ignites all of your passions may not pay you what you’d like, but give some thought to that. Aren’t there jobs you’ve had, bosses you’ve worked for, that you would’ve paid to not have to endure? Life is far too short to do something that doesn’t make you happy. Start taking steps toward a happier working life today!