Everyone seems to be running away from something rather than toward something. For example, many clients do not come to me or approach me until they see that they are running out of money, and so they decide to run away from a lack of money. Or others still find themselves in employment situations that are undesirable, and so they come to me wanting escape from their current situation. Yes, I do this.
I do help people relieve financial distress by helping them gain employment that brings in an income that enables them to afford their lifestyles, or better lifestyles. Yes, I also help professionals improve their career trajectory and help them find jobs that fulfill them and pay them what they’re worth.
However, most of them have not yet decided what they are running toward.
Where do people usually turn to see what opportunities are out there for them? Job boards. Here’s the flaw in that: job boards are not job prophecies. You will not be able to determine your career destiny by scouring job boards. This is what will happen: you will find many, many jobs with a few words that excite you, and you will use those few words as a reason to spend your time evaluating that opportunity and filling out an online application. You will cross your fingers, consider your effort done, and hope and pray that somebody will respond and invite you for interview.
Let me ask you, does doing this motivate you to get up every day and repeat the process? Do you really feel any closer to a better employment situation? Are you getting any results from this process? Even if this process does produce interviews, do you really feel like they are the right jobs?
It is spectacular to know that what you have currently is not what you want. However, if you are really going to ensure that your situation improves, you have to define what that improvement looks like. And, actually, the more full detail you give to that picture of improvement, the closer you will get to it.
Here are three exercises, consider them career development homework, that will propel you in a favorable direction once you decide that you want your professional future to be better than your past or present.
- Develop your criteria
Create a table, either in word or an Excel, with four columns at the top and numbers on the left (Excel has these already.) In the first column (A) put all the things that you disliked about your most recent position and any other positions in the past. In the second column (B) type the opposite of that. In the third column make a list of things that you heard other people complain about their jobs that you would not want to experience for yourself. In the fourth column include things that you’ve heard other people enjoy about their job that you have not yet experienced. Use all of the columns to develop questions that you can ask your network and your interviewees (once you land them) to find out if a company is a worthwhile target. In a new spreadsheet, combine columns B and D into one complete list that you will call your criteria. Sort them into order of importance, and make the “make or break” criteria distinct by using colors or bolding. Now, for each company you identify, either through job boards, recruiters, business journals, news articles, leads from your network, etc., add a column and cross reference what you find out about them, through any of the same sources listed above, with your criteria list. Use a simple system, like “X” for any criteria a company doesn’t match and an “O” for each one it does. If the Xs start to add up to more than 20% of the criteria, move on. If not, keep digging and make sure that your network inquiries include requests for introductions with value statements on what you can offer them. (E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to see a sample.)
- Create a reverse career roadmap.
Assuming all things are possible, how would you ultimately like to end your career? Every answer is okay. Don’t limit yourself, but don’t assume that you have to yearn for the highest possible position either. Use your imagination. If you do tend to eliminate possibilities, carefully evaluate if your reasons are actually valid or if they are manifestations of a self-limiting untruth, an assumption, or misinformation. A really easy way to tell if that is the case is to ask, “Has anyone else ever achieved this?” If the answer is yes, you have proof that it is possible, but even if you don’t know of anybody else who has achieved it, I will quote something I say to my daughters daily – “There is no can’t; only I don’t know how yet.”
Asking questions of your network is a lot easier than asking favors of your network. People love to help and offer their expertise. The caveat: if people tell you something is impossible, thank them and ignore them. They may or may not have their own illusions of reality. Stay focused on the how, not the if.
- Create a reverse financial roadmap.
Unless you are a financial advisor, I suggest you work with a financial advisor to get this quest completed. As a “rule,” you should increase your salary by 10% every year. Follow this link and use the calculator 2/3 down the page on the right to determine how much you should be making right now based on this rule. Project then, how much you should be making at the age you hope to retire. A financial advisor can help you understand how much you should have saved in order to have money left at the end of your life rather than life left at the end of your money. There should be two numbers – the least amount that you should have saved to cover expenses based on anticipated costs of living, and the ideal number that you should have saved to be able to really enjoy a high quality of life. Obviously, you have to be at least at the bottom of that range, but you should shoot for the top of that range. Furthermore, a financial advisor will help you determine if, based on the rule that you should be increasing your salary by 10% every year, if you can achieve that range or not. If not, some catch-up is required. Based on a Rutgers study on American workers, only 18% feel that they are well-paid. If what you’re making now is nowhere near what that formula says you should be currently making, we may be able to help you reroute and get back on track. We have helped many clients increase their salary by 25 to 100%! Contact us for a free session.
Desperately running away from a bad situation often leads to poor decisions, as we have shared before. If you’re in a bad situation, or simply situation that isn’t what you think is best for you, there is no time like the present to make changes, but they should be strategic changes. Considering the amount of emotion around career decisions, it can be a huge challenge to be objective enough to be effectively strategic. Don’t be too proud to reach out for help. Your logic and past experience should tell you that a partner, or even a team, will get more accomplished than an individual. You make the decisions, you are in control, and you don’t have to do it alone.