02 March 2017
“I’d like a new job tomorrow” is a very common phrase in today’s crisis-hit times where good work might not always be rewarded very well.. We’re constantly bombarded through a variety of social mediums that the idea of overnight transformation is open to everyone, and instant career gratification should be everyone’s goal. The media seems to love the guy or girl who left their job as a Banker on a Friday and started work as a charity worker on Monday. Everywhere there are stories of people who have suddenly made it, who unexpectedly fulfilled their dream. We’re introduced to the slightly shocked expression on the face of the emerging star, and even if we’re told that it took a decade of rejection before they reached the top, the story we want to hear is the great entrepreneurial narrative-that career dreams can be a reality.
They certainly can, but rarely overnight, and rarely without a great deal of preparation and support from those around them both socially, personally and professionally. While a small proportion of people will give up their day job and risk everything, for most people the strategy most likely to succeed is the result of a carefully thought-through approach.
For some this means trying out new sectors to see if they are a good fit. Someone thinking of setting up a new business may not only interview people who have done this, but also work in another business on days off, for example seeking non-executive director roles. For busy people working long hours this is challenging, but compared with the opportunity cost of not investigating, the investment in time is small.
In practical terms, moving ahead on a “small steps” basis may mean adopting a new mind-set which could be divided broadly in to two areas of behaviour.
The first is that we should explore career options for a great deal longer than we do before attempting to make decisions. In fact, most career choices are relatively passive, something happens to be advertised or comes along. A head-hunter approach comes at a convenient time. We also need to be realistic about what actually happens when we think we are making career choices-a great deal of the time we may just be thinking in circles moving erratically from “what if?” to “yes, but.”
For many of us who are solution-orientated (or “impassioned” to be kind), an avoidance of making a decision might be better. This isn’t a lack of courage or weak-minded self-determination, but is instead crucial in order to keep an eye on the mental function which Richard Bolles, author of “What Colour Is Your Parachute”, calls “the safekeeping self.” This is the part of your brain that snatches at early opportunities, dismissing new ideas and opportunities before any proper investigation.
The second, but equally important, bit of “re-framing” is that we should learn to explore as if we were doing it for someone else. If someone offered you £8,000 to go out there and find useful connections and identify potential areas for investigation, you wouldn’t go back after a day and say “I looked at a few things but you won’t like them.” That, however, is exactly how many of us play the game when the client is ourselves. Imagine for a moment engaging the energy that your safekeeping brain puts into saying “no” or even “yes, but” into open-minded discovery.
Moving across into a sector or opportunity which is close to where you are now, but the beginning of a new direction, well planned and well researched brings self-fulfillment. As John Lees, a UK-based career strategist says in his book “How to Get a Job You’ll Love” and “The Interview Expert”, the toughest part of the journey for career explorers “isn’t the last ten yards, but that small first step”.