Changing Jobs? Take These 8 Steps to Get A Job You Love
About 3 and a half years ago I moved from my corporate job into a start up company in London. I had been at the corporate job for 5 years, was doing well, working for a fantastic firm, earning good money (it was not the highest paying job but good for London), had great peers and colleagues, but at the same time something just did not "sit well" with me. I was a qualified accountant, and was working in the best part of the company looking after technology companies in London from a finance, tax and compliance perspective. Yet, I knew I wanted to try something else.
Despite the fact we live in a generation that provides so much career information at our fingertips, deciding a career path is often exceptionally overwhelming and very disheartening. We often seek the highest paying job. This is illustrated by the rise in career coaches and work from home jobs. Even if you do know what you want to do, the whole process can feel super tedious.
The Typical Path
Like most people, I did the typical go to university, get some experience on the CV, get a first job, and before you know it, you're on the job treadmill. At each stage you think, if I just do this, then I can find another job after that, or if I just do that then I can start my own thing up later. The thing you always want to do is postponed to later. Before you know it, you have a mortgage, dependents and a job that really doesn't satisfy you (even if it is the highest paying job).
But how do you step off the treadmill, particularly if you're working super long hours and struggle to make the time to contemplate what you what to do next (super long hours also includes childcare, which I appreciate is another job).
For me the core concerns were as follows:
- What will I do now to earn money;
- What will other people think of me stepping off this job ladder; and
- How will I fill my day?
However, the two biggest challenges I faced were:
Finances: walking away from the good monthly pay cheque was hard; I had, and have a mortgage (buying a house is optional by the way. Check out my blog post here on why it's ok not to buy a house). Like everyone, I had, and have bills to pay. I had a social life that I enjoyed. I had money in my bank account for emergencies, and money to invest in stocks and shares and pensions.
A second issue I had, was just stopping.
Just Stopping: I believe the fruits of your labour truly come to fruition when you commit to something; when you apply hard work and tenacity at something; that's when, and where, you succeed. By stepping off the career ladder was I putting my future self in jeopardy at the whim of my requirements for now? I no longer was going to be committing to something.
Enter the self help blogs...
At this point I, like many people, found myself Googling "how to get a job you love", and going through the best job search sites looking for something that would interest me; I ploughed through endless articles that sum up how I was currently feeling (tired, stressed, discontented, waiting for the next holiday etc). I read A LOT about how to get a job you love. The main advice that stems from these articles is to:
- list your values
- list the times when you felt happy
- list the times when you were in mental flow;
- etc, etc, etc and then maybe pay $2,000 for an online course to get you there.
If like me, you have to Google what values you could possibly have, or you are working so many hours that your happiness list includes sleeping, eating and socialising, then you struggle to answer the above questions.
I'm not saying don't do the above (although please please please don't pay $2,000 to any course yet); knowing your values is a good thing to think about (are you a people person? are you financially motivated?). My issue with knowing your values though, is that we often don't just listen to our gut; our gut tells us so strongly if a situation is right or wrong for us or what we want to do.
I'll recap on the the challenges I mentioned above further down this article. In the mean time, here are the eight things I recommend, and did, when you know you need to change career:
1. Something has to give: you need to make time to think, to write down and to plan what you're going to do next. I know what you'll say, you don't have time. Make time. Something has to give to allow you time to work on this: whether it's the gym, that hour of Netflix before bed, reading on the bus, the lunch hour. You need to build a habit that means every day you work for a dedicated (small) period of time on it. For me, it was the gym that gave; as an avid runner this saddened me however, I remembered that this was only a temporary situation. Something else is the priority; in this case it's how to get a job I loved.
2. Put yourself in a new environment: I find that to most effectively think about something completely new, I need to be in a new place. At the moment I currently write in specific coffee shops; I've never worked out of coffee shops before so this new environment takes me away from work. When I was looking to make the career change, I actually found a library to sit and write in. It may be a park at lunchtime, a bar in the evening, a coffee shop in the morning, just go somewhere completely new.
3. Shut the laptop lid: all you need in life is in your head. The answers cannot be found Googling (although that might be for later when you are applying for jobs), and they cannot be found by reading mountains and mountains of literature. It's in your head; trust yourself. Also, if you're anything like me, you spend about half an hour Googling and then strangely end up on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, merrily scrolling through photos of whoever.
4. Idea generator: I love James Alcher; this is his (Medium account). He is a huge advocate for human beings being "idea generators" for when sh*t meet fan, you have an abundance of ideas to set you up on your next thing. He has also made a lot of money and lost a lot of money, and has some great musings on life in general. Alternatively, I generate my best ideas when I write. I can be writing utter crap. I can be writing really good stuff. I can have writers block, but I just keep typing until I hit upon some good ideas. Whatever works for you to get creative; write down your ideas, mind map your ideas, draw your ideas, say them out loud...write down great ideas, and tap into what you want to do. Don't just write down the highest paying jobs.
5. Network: speak to everyone you know about the ideas in your head and what you think you might want to do. Invariably a friend has a friend who has a friend, who knows what you can do or who to speak to. Don't know where to find the networks? Start with your immediate friends, family, LinkedIn connections etc. Eric Barker of "Barking Up the Wrong Tree" provides great insight into how to network appropriately (his book is just filled with wonderful ideas for success as well).
6. Time: prepare for this to take a while and prepare to be exhausted. This will not happen over night. It can take any amount of time, but invariably it takes about 6 to 9 months of talking, brainstorming and iterating to get there from the point you decide to leave.
7. Rest, but don't give up: your head will be like a snow globe of ideas and thoughts. Shake it up for a couple of weeks and then let it rest. Let the snow settle and then start the process again; the settling process often allows you to go back to the brainstorming part with a fresh look and ideas.
8. Take mini steps: as with point 6, this process will take time, but the steps are mini steps that involve the gradual build up of progress. I'm a strong believer in contracting, freelancing or part time jobs to build either experience, or time somewhere. If you can do a mini unpaid couple of weeks somewhere to get your foot in the door, do it. When I was looking to leave previously, I was restless and wanted the answer now, but the process of talking, brainstorming, trying, talking, brainstorming, trying etc slowly got me to where I wanted to be. If you do go down the freelance route, the following three sites have come highly recommended to me:
You have to have the energy for this; but you owe yourself this.
Two Primary Concerns
As mentioned earlier, I had two primary concerns about leaving.
The first was around money. This was a personal concern; as someone who is always saving for a rainy day, the following were real concerns for me:
- Financial insecurity: at the time I was looking to join a start up; I appreciated that it would not be the highest paying job but I was concerned around the job security of whether that company would still be around in 6 months time. However, in hindsight, having watched Leman Brothers, Whittards of Chelsea, HMV, Toys R Us, Blackberry, Borders fail and collapse, the corporate job is about as steady as the start up job. As least in the start up world there is transparency around funding rounds and cash positions.
- Financially making ends meet: I was at the point where I either needed to take some time out to manage the job process, look for part time jobs or I was looking to join a company with a lower pay. I was stressed about my financials, but I never actually wrote down what all my outgoings were on a monthly basis, and what I could feasibly live off of. You don't need to go to a certified financial planner, you just need to go through your own personal finance planning. Start by "getting your house in order" and writing down everything you:
- owe; and
Check out my blog on getting your house in order here. That way I could understand what I needed on a monthly basis to live.
The second big concern I had was around the fact that I was no longer committing to something; at the time I didn't realise it, but on reflection, having read Mark Manson's "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck", I was completely committed to the wrong pond. As Mark suggests; you need to commit to the right cause to give a f**k and dedicate yourself fully.
I'm now in a much better suited pond for me; I'm surround by creative and intelligent people, I have accountability of my job and work, and I care about the product we are building.
I found this whole process slightly terrifying and overwhelming at the time. Patience is not, and has never been my forte. Following the 8 steps above, I was able to strategically put one step in front of the other to get there, and to trust my own gut and instinct. I learned to accept that the process would be iterative but that I owed it to myself.
If you have changed careers, I would love to know your experience with the process.
Photo credits to the amazing unsplash.com