I suspect at some point we all consider leaving one job for another. Whether with the same employer, achieved through promotion, a lateral move or quitting, it’s safe to say we’ve imagined what it would be like to make a career move. It’s like the lottery; we dream of what we’d do if we won.
So if it’s a safe to say that all of us – you included – are at some point going to make a career move, would you agree that you’d like to be in the best position possible when that time arrives? Let’s work from that basic premise; putting ourselves in a position where we can legitimately compete for the jobs we want in the future.
Whether it’s because we are mistreated and want to quit, ready for a change in environments, wanting more responsibility, burnt out, moving to a new community, or changing fields entirely, we’re going to have our own reason(s) for experiencing change. So the real issue is how to actually get ourselves ready for that change at some point in the future, under circumstances that we don’t know in the here and now.
One thing you can do with great certainty is take stock of your likes and strengths. Write down what you’re good at and what makes you feel good, which may not be the same. For example you may be great at selling, but find no joy in selling items people don’t need. You may be great at counselling others, but you wish you could feel a passion for it like you do when you’re working on your car. Maybe the peace of mind and pride you feel when you’re painting the interior of your home is something you wish you could experience in the workplace.
Notice I’ve omitted recording your dislikes and your weaknesses at this point. While important to know, let’s leave those two for now. Brainstorm your positives; likes and strengths and don’t limit yourself to the paid work environment. Consider leisure and personal time, how you choose to spend your vacations, weekends, time off and your moments of greatest pleasure throughout the day. You might find the best part of your entire day is when you’re cleaning the house, adding to your journal, talking with children at the crosswalk or when you flip the, ‘open’ sign at your cash drawer in the bank. Where are you when you catch yourself smiling and feeling good?
So armed with a list of what you’re good at and what makes you feel good, the next thing to do is give yourself permission to imagine. If you have a clear picture of your desired future employment, look at the functions of that position and compare your likes and strengths lists. How well do you match up? You want a job that will be enjoyable and play to your strengths and likes after all. If it’s a good match all the better for you!
A common mistake people make is only looking at educational requirements and courses they must have to compete for their dream job and then enrolling in those courses. While logical, it’s much more important to identify the personality traits of successful people in that job and seeing how you compare. Would your natural personality be a good fit for the requirements of the job? Can you make tough decisions, exercise patience, empathize with others or remain calm under pressure?
If you aren’t sure what the future holds, you can still take steps to help yourself out in the here and now. Knowing your likes and strengths, you probably are aware of things you’d like to build on and improve. Not necessarily weaknesses in your current job you understand – but areas you’d like to develop, interests you like to fuel. What you’re doing is self-identifying areas you want to explore and skills you want to add, without necessarily going about it from the point of view of picking up skills required for a specific job. As you acquire these skills, qualifications and pursue your interests, opportunities may arise which will only come about because of your developing interests. You meet and network with people sharing your passion.
Looking ahead need not be akin to that dreaded, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” interview question. It may be that you look at the next season on the calendar instead. “What would I like to do in the coming year or this winter?” may be more realistic, tangible and therefore meaningful to you. For example getting yourself in better physical shape and feeling better about your appearance might be your main motivator, but it would also make you more attractive to some employers.
The crux of the matter is to identify and feel good about what likes and strengths you have now, and pursue the things which will build on your happiness. When you do the things that bring you joy it shouldn’t only be on your own time. The happiest people find joy not only in their personal lives but their professional lives as well. When you play to your likes and strengths, you’ll find purpose in your work and your future self will appreciate the actions your present self takes in your immediate future.
Put off this critical process and when opportunities arise, you may neither recognize them for what they are, nor be qualified to seize upon them.