By Gerald Walsh ©
Does this sound like you?
You’re at mid-career. You have a respectable job with a steady income and nice benefits – yet you still feel dissatisfied with what you’re doing.
You find yourself looking back over your career and feeling regret about what you could have done if you had made different choices.
You remember promising yourself that you would not be like those before you and work in the same job for decades until retirement.
You’re shocked at how quickly the late 20 or 25 years has flown by and how much of your time and energy was spent on advancing your career, positioning yourself to get better jobs and promotions.
You enjoy making money, of course, but lately money has become less of a motivator. You know now that money doesn’t bring happiness and you shake your head in disbelief when you think about the crummy jobs you took (or stayed in) because of the money.
You’re bored, exhausted and restless. You spend much of your day at work thinking about doing something else – something that would be really fun. Staying in the same job for another ten or twenty years … well, that feels like a prison sentence to you.
You know logically that a change would be good and could lead to exciting personal growth. But it’s still scary and you find yourself rationalizing that things aren’t so bad. You wonder if you should just ‘suck it up’ and stay where you are.
What should you do?
This is not a simple question to answer. Change is scary, I know, but it can be done if well planned. First, you will have to do a lot of research, discussion, reflection, and discovery to figure out what is possible. Here are five exercises you can complete to guide you down that path:
1. Learn more about yourself by taking various personality and aptitude tests. Up to this point in your life, a busy schedule with family and work has probably prevented you from taking a deeper look at yourself. These tests will help you identify your skills, strengths, weaknesses, preferences, values, and interests and could suggest career possibilities you might not have thought were possible before. Many of these tests are available online and some are free.
2. Develop a list of the top 10 most important things you need in a job in order to be fulfilled. To do this, rate each of the following items using this scale:
(A) Absolutely essential that I have these in a job;
(B) Very important to me but not absolutely essential;
(C) Of lesser importance, but still nice to have;
(D) Not important to me.
Status and title
Scope of responsibility
As a rough guide, you should select about five for each category. Once you’ve completed the individual scoring, decide on which 10 are most important to you and rank them from most important to least important.
3. Prepare a list of your transferable skills that you could readily apply in another job. Too often, we restrict ourselves to what we’ve done before. On the flip side, many people make successful transitions into very different jobs by identifying and marketing their transferable skills: accountants become bankers; managers in industry become executive directors in not-for-profit; sales reps become fundraisers; and lawyers become teachers. Skills can most certainly be transferred between two very different jobs.
4. Create a list of jobs you would love to do, assuming money was not an obstacle. For sure, this activity might seem impractical at first. The thought of giving up the financial security of your job is frightening. But it will help you to isolate characteristics of a job that excite you.
5. Finally, seek advice from experts in the field you are considering. Contrary to what you might think, you will find that people are willing to share their thoughts and opinions on your career options. Their advice could be invaluable.
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Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and author. He is the author of “PINNACLE: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfillment in Your Career.” You can follow Gerry on Twitter @Gerald_Walsh