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How to think about your next job

A common theme for people who I coach is a desire to have a meaningful and impactful career. Clients are often less sure of what that looks like or what they might want to do. I hear from people in their 30s, 40s, and even 50s who are not sure what they want to be when they grow up. More and more people are taking on side gigs as well, both for the economic benefits but also to focus on skills and interests outside of their main job.

It’s always a good idea to think deeply about your choices because of how much time you will spend at work and because of how these choices will affect your overall happiness. That importance sometimes causes people to delay making decisions or to just trust that the universe will work things out. That is not the kind of coach or leader I am and my guess is that you feel the same way.

Here are some questions and tips to help them – and you – address this important task.

It’s a good idea to start at your foundation – what values are important to you? Below is a tool to help you with this. Everything cannot be of equal importance to you. Some people prefer structure while others value freedom and change; in the same way, some people want recognition while for others the prize is in a job well done. When thinking about any new job, try to keep in mind how you can stay true to what you most value.

important values TOOL

RATE 1 - 5; 1 = very little, 5= very much.
value SCORE

Feel free to add others

Accomplishment

Autonomy

Community focus

Dedication

Empowerment

Fairness

Freedom

Fun

Growth opportunities

Honesty

Inclusion

Leadership

Participation

Personal growth

Recognition

Respect

Service

Teamwork

Trust

Why do you want a new job? What do you hope a different job will provide? Are there things you can do without changing jobs that can address some of the limitations you might be feeling? Are there additional responsibilities you can take on or new opportunities to increase your productivity or effectiveness? In many circumstances, this can not only help you feel better and more engaged, but can lead to more money in your paycheck as well. Be honest here too – are you giving your job as much attention as you should? Sometimes we start to check out a bit once we have the basics of the job down. If you were just starting your current job, what would you do differently or where would you put your focus? Can you do that now? Think about your feedback from your boss, customers, or coworkers. Are they telling you that there are some areas to work on?

Who is in your network who can help you find available jobs? Think really broadly here too. If your network seems too small, how can you expand it? Are there community groups you can join, alumni organizations to reconnect with, or people you can ask to introduce you to others in their networks? Are you on LinkedIn or other social media? Chances are there are a lot of jobs out there you don’t even know about, including some you don't even know exist. Your network can help you find out about those. And remember – a network is not one of those things you can create just when you need it. Focus on building and maintaining your network all the time and do favors for others. It might pay off for you down the road.

When you interview for a job, the hiring manager or panel wants to know if you will be a good fit for the team, if you have the skills to do the job, and if you have the drive and imagination to help their organization. The kinds of questions they ask are to get to that information. You can ask yourself similar questions to help you determine the kinds of things you want to do or for which someone will want to pay you.

What kind of team do you work well in? What traits are important to you in a coworker?

What skills do you have? Think broadly about the kinds of things you can do and have done. What can you do now to improve the skills you have and develop skills that interest you or might be helpful in a new position? What kinds of jobs could help you strengthen or develop your skills while contributing?

What are some of your accomplishments? What were your specific contributions to team success? If someone was to describe you and your working style, what would you hope they say? (NOTE – now think about what you think people really would say about you – if it does not match what you hope they would say, you may have some work to do). Think about and practice some good stories that demonstrate what you are good at doing.

If there are jobs that appeal to you but for which you don’t feel qualified, how can you gain relevant experience? Can you volunteer for special task forces at your current job? Are there opportunities with community or charitable organizations where you can do good and gain new skills? There are lots of free and inexpensive ways to learn new skills (Lynda.com is a good source and often free through your local library). Can you start up a small business on the side to develop new skills?

This all requires some deep thinking, but aren’t you worth it?

Next post I will discuss some interviewing skills for when you do identify some jobs that you want to pursue.

Now go make it happen – Tom