The process problem.
In the last post, I made the case that leaving your current job/career to create some space to consider your next career was stacking the deck against you. I’ll be the first to agree that this can work for some people. But, in my experience the pressure that comes with this sort of move makes it more difficult to make a sound career decision. So where does this leave us? How do we move forward with career change while still holding down our regular job?
So where does this leave us? How do we move forward with career change while still holding down our regular job?
A small point of clarification, this post is not focused on how you should decide on your next career. Rather, this will focus on how best to set up your process for making this decision. As is often the case, the process is the better part of the problem. Solve the process, and the decision itself is much simpler.
5 questions to guide your process.
- What’s my schedule? Planning your next career move is your new part-time job. You need to set time aside, regularly. You should put this on your calendar. When others ask you to do something else during that time, you can’t, you’re busy. This doesn’t need to be a 4 hour block, keep it reasonable. A regular 30-minute shift is worth much more than days of aspirational thinking.
- How am I keeping track of this? Career planning is like any other big decision. If you don’t keep track of what you’ve tried and what you’ve learned you risk running in circles (gradually feeling more and more demoralized). Get a notebook, open a new folder, start a document on your phone, whatever you like, but you can’t keep this all in your head.
- How can I maintain my motivation? Remember that your motivation is a resource. It needs to be maintained to keep moving. What sort of activities motivate you to keep working on your career plan? What time of day are you more likely to take action? If you are able to keep your motivation high, you will be able to keep taking action on your plan.
- What specific steps can I take to move process forward? This is one of those obvious pieces of advice that we have all heard before. I’ll cut right to it: You need to try it. Right now. Ask yourself out loud: what could I do right now that would move me forward? Think like a reporter: Who could I talk to that would help me move forward? What information could I gather from online or in-person resources? Give your brain a break: write your specific tasks down.
- What can I learn from my current job? You have a real advantage in your career search. You are daily gaining experience in what you like about your current position and what you don’t like. This is invaluable data. When you are at work and you have a moment that feels fulfilling, enjoyable, or inspiring: write it down and add it to your notes. The same goes for moments that leave you feeling the opposite. Everything is information, make use of it.
Planning a career change is difficult. You are deciding how best to invest significant time and effort with the goal of feeling fulfilled/being useful/paying the bills/ruling the world. That’s a lot, and it gets more complicated when you realize that it isn’t always immediately clear whether or not you’ve made a good decision. There are a lot of resources out there (I offer one option here), but it is still difficult. Nonetheless, better decisions can come with some careful preparation. Good luck.