Figuring out where you think you want to go with your career is not cast in stone. You can adapt this later on. The decision you make today may be a different one than you make two or three years from now. We’re always changing, and the circumstances of life are always changing. The work world of today is a vastly different one than the one I entered in the 1970s.
These days, we start by figuring out where we want to go. From there you start breaking it down to figure out what you’ll need to do to get there, including what’s most important to you—your values—because not everyone has the same value system as another.
Until you get clear of your values, you’re in danger of following someone else’s path—like the one your parents set you on, for example.
Once you understand what your values are, you can ask what will be the most important things to you in the next job or organization. What are you going to need to see or hear or feel to know it’s the right place for you?
Exercises to Help Figure It Out
You can do this in a variety of different ways. It might be useful, first of all, to take some time with yourself and figure out through journaling, and then speak with someone else to see if you’re being realistic. So, for example, the beginner who says, “I want to change jobs now and I want to become the Chief Financial Officer with an organization with my next job change,” is certainly being unrealistic. The likelihood of such a thing happening is next to non-existent. You might need a reality check.
Once you’ve had an opportunity to identify where you want to go in the next few years, speak with a trusted advisor. It could be a trusted current or former colleague, a mentor, or clergyman, but ideally, it should be someone from the profession that you’re in or want to be in. Someone who has gone through what you want to go through.
It is definitely a balancing act. What I hope you get from this program is the understanding that I don’t want you to be a drone. I don’t want you to be the next cog in the machine. I want you to be able to dream and be able to achieve big things in life. At the same time, I want you to have the opportunity to be practical because you’re going to have to take steps between now and that dream to get there.
Let’s look at some of the very basic things you can ask yourself. What kind of job do you want to have? What’s the nature of the work that you’re willing to accept? What are you trying to find in the next firm? What are you trying to get away from at your current firm? Sometimes, you need to go to the negative and identify that to get to the positive.
What are you going to need to see or hear or know to determine if the next firm is a fit for you? What sort of conditions or qualities do you want to continue from your current circumstances? What do you like about your current job? What are the qualities of your boss that you like and dislike? Are there certain benefits that you’re going to need, like a particular type of health insurance, that will also be important to you at the next firm? Is tuition reimbursement a critical item for you? What’s the nature of the work or location? What other sorts of things just come to your mind that are going to be important to you in the next firm?
Once you’re done answering all of these questions—and you should write down as much as you can–I hope your list is enormous because then I want you to do next is prioritize the items: take a look at this list and figure out what’s the most important thing on this list, the thing that you must absolutely have? What is the second item? What’s the third? What’s fourth? What’s fifth? Normally, the top five is enough, but you may need six or even eight items. Whatever the number, you need to figure out what the critical items are for you and then what the preferred things could be.
Making the Decision
This will become your guide when it becomes time to decide because there’s hopefully going to come a point where you’re going to have a choice between two and five opportunities. Wouldn’t that be great? Firms wanting you and calling you up and saying, “You’re the one we’ve chosen. We’ve interviewed 150 people and we’ve picked you.” Now, imagine five firms are doing that. You have to know how to choose the one that’s right for you. So check what each company offers you against your priorities.
I remember a time several years ago when I was working with a young woman named Lorraine, who in the stress of having to make a decision, almost made a horrible one. I’d gotten an offer for her that met every one of her objectives and then her old firm came back to her with a counter-offer.
Her boss sat her down and said, “Lorraine, we love you. You’re so important to us. Please stay. We need you! How about if we increase your salary by $10,000?” They flattered her so much, she almost decided to go back on all these things that were important to her making her commitment.
So I had a meeting with her and we discussed the counter offer. We reviewed the faults she’d found with her employer to see if anything had changed. Ultimately we found that she almost made a terrible decision based upon her emotions at the moment. She’d forgotten about her original thinking because she was flattered so much. After a brief coaching session, she wound up taking the job I introduced her to and growing greatly in her career. She thanked me every year for five years afterward for having helped her.
You have to really be true to what your heart AND HEAD is telling you. You have be true to what you truly want, even though your parents, or your current job situation, or other outer influences, are telling you otherwise. You’re not stuck. You have options.
Imagine for a second you are standing in the middle of the road with your arms out and balanced in place. Now, someone takes your left hand and starts pulling on it, and then someone takes your right hand and starts pulling on it. And then someone starts pulling your right leg, and another person starts pulling your left. Eventually, you’re being tugged in all sorts of directions. Well, that’s a good image of what going on a job search sometimes feels like.
You really start to feel the pressure of being pulled in a lot of different ways and unless you have that base of identified values, it’s really hard to figure out what the right decision is—not for your mom, not for your dad, not for your best friend, but for you.
We spent some time talking about the self-evaluation phase and where you want to get to. Now, in planning for change, is there anything that you can do to move closer to your goal? What training can you take? What mentoring or coaching can you obtain that will move you closer to meeting your ambition with this job change?
You are not a robot that’s going to execute tasks in a job. You are a living, breathing human being with needs, wants, desires, and ambitions. I want to help you meet as many of them as possible.
Ⓒ The Big Game Hunter, Inc., Asheville, NC 2020
ABOUT JEFF ALTMAN, THE BIG GAME HUNTER
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves career coaching, all as well as executive job search coaching, job coaching, and interview coaching. He is the host of “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 1900 episodes, and is a member of The Forbes Coaches Council.
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