A friend of mine recently said, “If you’re not going into the office every day because you want to be there, you’re doing the wrong job.” He may be right and perhaps in an ideal world we’d all look forward to Monday morning.
However, if thinking about work starts getting you down on Sunday night and you feel you need a major shift in direction, Alan Kearns, head coach of CareerJoy — a Canadian career coaching company offering career identification, transition and search services — offers 10 steps to help you successfully navigate the pathway to career change.
1. Start with the end in mind. This part of the process isn’t about the job — rather, it’s about you. You’ll need to ask some important questions about what career success means to you. Kearns recommends coming up with answers to some of the following:
• What is your ideal work schedule?
• Where, physically, do you want to work?
• How much do you want to earn?
2. Map your career landscape. Think of the jobs you’ve done in the past. Specifically, think back over what’s worked for you and what hasn’t. This is a good time to make a list of positives and negatives to give you a clear view of your career history.
3. Find your “unfair advantage.” What are the strengths and talents you have to bring to the market? “What is the thing you are better at than anyone else?” asks Kearns. It’s your self-confidence that you can accomplish your career goals that will make others believe it too.
4. Identify your passion. What makes you angry? What makes you happy? Kearns recommends thinking of which sections you head for when let loose in a bookstore or what sites you choose to visit online to help you pinpoint your passions.
5. Create your target list. What companies work in the areas you’re passionate about? Start to identify specific organizations you might want to work for as well as deciding on which role to target in those organizations.
6. Do your research. When researching jobs and companies, maintain an open mind. Kearns says one of the biggest mistakes people make is starting with preconceived notions. “People want to find the answer so they start with the answer in mind,” he says. “So many great discoveries have come out of researchers having an open mind.”
7. Ask for help. This is not about asking for favours or begging for a job, rather it’s about asking people you respect — from your school, work, volunteer and other communities — for their opinions and input into your job search. These contacts are the foundation of your all-important “network.”
8. Put together your package. In today’s competitive job market you need a résumé and cover letter to make you stand out from the pack. Kearns calls this the “President’s Choice” step. “Think about the Decadent Chocolate Chip Cookie,” he says. “If PC had a white bag with ‘chocolate chip cookie’ on it, it would not sell. Packaging is important.”
9. Go to the market. It’s time to get out and make contacts. Develop a project plan for your career change, complete with 30-, 60- and 90-day goals to keep your search on track. Focus about 30 per cent of your efforts on “public” positions — those posted in want ads or on job boards — and spend the rest of your time exploring opportunities you find through research and your network.
10. Land on your feet. The way you handle the first three to six months in any new position is crucial. It’s normal to want to add value as soon as possible, however it’s also important to manage your expectations. Remember, you may not feel comfortable right away; it takes time to grow into new surroundings and understanding this will keep you from panicking and questioning your decision.
The change you need may be big or small. You may decide to reapply your existing skills in a new organization or you may find yourself back at school, training for an entirely new career. Either way, following the steps above will help you decide what you really want from your work life and will help you to achieve your goals.