Updated: Feb 19
Most of will find ourselves at a crossroads when it comes to our career path from time to time. Whether we are in a role that is leaving a lot to be desired, or out of work seeking the next move, giving some space for self awareness supports clarity and confidence in your next steps.
When it comes to working with people on their careers, the two cores areas I focus on are ALIGNMENT and even more importantly MINDSET. Focusing on these allows you to choose courage over comfort, bring more awareness to your strengths and capabilities and to allow you to see more of your own potential. And most importantly, land a job that you thrive in!
We work about 85,000 hours of our lives – it is fair to want to feel fulfilled and satisfied!
So if you’re in the market for a new job, understanding why you want a new start is a good place to start. And with this is mind, we introduce ALIGNMENT.
Alignment in career and life works in a similar way to the tyres on your car being out of alignment. If the tyres are off, it’s often a bumpy, even uncomfortable ride. They wear a lot quicker and so if you don’t get it sorted, it can lead to a tyre blow out. The same is true of ourselves, when things are off, we are less fulfilled and often find ourselves in negative, fed up, stressed spaces. And just like the tyre, if we don’t look after ourselves, we can face things like chronic stress, burn out and our physical and mental wellbeing can take a hit. All of this then affects our confidence also.
With this in mind, always remember your direction is more important than your speed. There is a lovely quote which simply says “When it comes to direction, if you don’t know where you are going in, you’ll likely end up in the wrong place” It is so important to give space to figuring this out to ensure you find that blissful career. Now, to know which path to take, it helps to take a few wrong ones. So if you are sitting here thinking about past mistakes, wasted time…stop and allow some kindness in. You can do nothing about the past except learn from it. You will absolutely take a few wrong turns and meet some dead ends but if you can understand these are all pointing you in the right direction, you are developing and growing.
Now to some steps:
PART 1 - 7 FACTORS TO EXPLORE FOR CAREER ALIGNMENT
The following are 7 core areas within the work and career environment which, when aligned, allow us to thrive and flourish. When they are inconsistent, we can wither.
Skills versus Strengths
Simply put, your skills are what you can do. Strengths are what you enjoy and would like to do more of. When it comes to career change or direction, to be fulfilled, it is important to seek roles that play to your strengths, not just your skill set. You could be the best at what you do in the world, but if you’re bored and unfulfilled, it is not a strength.
Create an excel sheet or grab a journal and start to build a list of your skills. Include physical skills, tools/softwares you can use, manual handling, craftsmanship, etc. Then explore your interpersonal and people skills, such as leadership/communication skills, and finally all mental skills, such as organisation, time management, planning etc. This may take some time to build. If necessary, pause regularly throughout your work day and bring awareness to what you have just been doing and note the skills used. Or reflect back over meetings, projects, conversations etc. If you are a recent graduate include things from school and college work.
When you have established a good skill set, the next step is identifying which skills are strengths. I suggest strengths are highlighted in green for go, and skills you would happily not use much anymore are highlighted red for stop.
Now that you have more clarity of strengths, be sure to use this awareness in your job search. The most important question to ask is not 'can I do the job?' but 'would I like to do this job?' Playing to your strengths supports this.
This particular exercise is also beneficial when it comes to interview preparation as building skills and strengths also helps with confidence and seeing your value, all of which is good to land that job!
Location - Identify where you would/wouldn't like to work
Think of places you've lived / would like to live. Get as much detail about the location down on paper, think about the weather, what is the commute like, picture your break times, who is around... Consider remote/hybrid working options. For example, where in the past you may have disregarded options due to commute times, new possibilities may exist with new working from home options.
Third up is people
People and work relationships are intrinsic to our overall happiness and wellbeing in a workplace. Remember those 85,000 hours… or 8 hours a day. You want to be with positive, uplifting people not toxic people. Research shows the majority of people who are enjoying their career have excellent work relationships. On the other hand, many who are frustrated and want to quit report a person or people are to blame.
So consider all work relationships, from management/leadership teams, anyone who reports to you or that you report to, your peers, etc. Having clarity about who lifts you up versus who brings you down supports you in next stages of your career change/new role.
Some questions to think about include:
What type of people do you enjoy spending time with?
Are you an extrovert/ introvert/ambivert?
Who inspires or motivates you in the workplace (present or past)? Is there anyone you look up to? Why?
Who makes you feel stressed/on edge and why?
Think back to your skills and strengths exercise - what learning is there for you with regard to your people strengths?
We all know the saying 'find something you love and you'll never work a day in your life'. Of course, it is not that black and white, but working in an area that you are interested in makes a significant difference to our overall fulfilment. This is one I find people often overlook when it comes to possibility. It may be you are in the right job, just the wrong type of organisation or industry.
So start by thinking about what it is that brings you joy? What fascinates you or sparks energy or curiosity? Write a list of at least 6 things you are interested in or have passion for, outside of work. Pay attention to how you feel looking at these.
Think back to your skills and strengths exercise - what learning is there for you with regard to your interests? What existing skills and strengths may crossover with interests?
Our core personal values are the essence of who we are. They are what matters to you most, the characteristics and behaviours that motivate you and guide your decisions.
If your own personal values are unclear or not identified, it can be difficult to plan and effectively create or achieve the life you want. It is also often an underlying cause for feeling unfulfilled or dissatisfied in areas of your life. Now, these change at various times in our lives so focus on where you are right now.
Take a little time to clarify what your top core values are. Examples include family happiness, autonomy, integrity, loyalty, acknowledgement, respect, financial security…
Now reflect on your career to date and see if you can spot anywhere your values were not aligned with the organisation/people you worked for and with. What would an organisation that is aligned with your values be like?
Be honest! What are your salary and level goals? With regard to salary, try look at it from a budget place initially. What do you NEED to comfortably pay your bills? Then establish what lifestyle you wish to afford. What disposable income would you like? Do you want to save, if so what do you want to see in the bank account saved each month?
Finally, this looks at all the other workplace factors that may need to be considered.
Start with taking note of what you dislike in your current or previous place of work? It could be lack of flexibility, poor annual leave conditions, lack of kitchen facilities... anything that made you feel dissatisfied.
Now reflect on everything you liked.
Finally take a moment to consider this. You have been offered two jobs and they are the same in terms of role, salary, people, location etc. What is the deciding factor for you to choose one over the other?
PART 2 – ACHIEVEMENTS VERSUS CONTRIBUTIONS
Now to compliment this piece of alignment work, I always recommend this next simple exercise. I say simple because it is in essence straightforward but people can struggle with it.
Start building a bank of achievements versus contributions and seeing what this can teach you. Achievements are what you feel good about, proud of… whereas contributions are more what you do that your paid to do. Both add value to the employer, but one shines light on direction. You want to be looking for a job or career that brings more opportunity for you to achieve.
Now, like the skills and strengths activity – this can cause some people challenge because we are not great at noting our accomplishments sometimes. You may be familiar with the likes of ‘sure self praise is no praise’….or ‘would you get down from your high horse…’ You know what I mean! There can be a little shame around talking about our accomplishments. We aren’t always encouraged to recognise our value, and for this reason, this is a VITAL step in building confidence in clarity. You need to start validating and recognising yourself.
PART 3 - MINDSET
Now this leads me into MINDSET. Whether it is career change, setting up your own business, seeking promotion, dealing with stress in work, or going for an interview, your mindset plays a huge role. It affects how we think, feel and behave. It influences our beliefs in our abilities, talents. We make assumptions about what people think of us and even what we deserve.
So the first question to ask yourself is this. Do I have a fixed mindset which is holding me back? Or do I have a Growth Mindset? If it is currently fixed, that’s ok. You can start to shift towards growth.
So fixed is very limiting – “I can’t do that”….”I can’t ask for help because they’ll think I am incapable.”
Where growth is limitless – “I can learn”… “It’s ok to make mistakes and ask for help”.
Take a look at the below and see where you fit today.
The second important piece around mindset is working with change. Change is scary. Both my own experience and hundreds of others I’ve spoken to have found themselves in what we call THE CHANGE TRAP.
On one hand I am so afraid of nothing changing, of still being in this situation, that is really scary…. On the other hand, I am afraid of change as I have no idea what it will bring. All that uncertainty, that really scares me. Hmmmm…. So you can see how your mind might be a little confused. And when we are conflicted this way – we get overwhelmed and that’s where we get stuck.
So to bring a little awareness in here. As humans, we have core needs…I don’t mean water and food type needs, but others such as connection, love and another being certainty. We need a high degree of certainty in our lives to feed one of the greatest core needs which is to feel safe. We like a little variety for sure, but for the most part we need that reassurance of knowing.
Now, if we think about that in terms of what we call The Comfort Zone (poorly named really as it’s really not always that comfortable). But what it is is familiar…routine…and from your minds point of view that provides certainty. It is much less concerned with how happy or fulfilled you are. Where there is certainty, there is safety and we absolutely need to feel safe.
How many of us know people who have stayed in terrible jobs, or poor relationships because the unknown was felt even scarier?
So whenever we think about change, what happens? FEAR raises its ugly head. This can show up in a number of ways, an inner critic that sabotages us, crippling us with self-doubt, worry and anxiety about what could all go horribly wrong – how will I pay my bills? And we quickly shut down the possibility of change and stay where we are.
So this is really where courage comes in to its own. As I like to say, courage comes before confidence.
Take for example the achievements exercise above. You may notice you feel uncomfortable doing it and will possibly struggle to think of anything you have achieved at first. Remember that is fear feeding the self-doubt… You want to bring a little courage in and be ok with the discomfort, knowing it will pass and as you gently explore the work, you will start to feel more confident.
If you find the thoughts are overwhelming, take a breather – catch the thought, challenge it and change it to something kinder.
A simple but powerful example is to introduce the word YET into your dialogue.
For example, you see a job advertised that sounds ok and, if you are like most people, you’ll likely scan the list of duties and check if you can do the job. You see you can do 8 out of 10 of the duties, but the likelihood is you’ll focus on the 2 you can’t and may abandon the possibility because of “I don’t have that skill” or “I don’t know how to do that”. Now shift that to ‘I can’t do that yet’ or ‘I don’t know how yet…’ and suddenly it feels much less daunting and much more possible.
We all have overcome so many challenges throughout life, and mostly we don’t even see them. When faced with this, take a moment to think about something you do well today and remind yourself you had to learn that once upon a time. From walking to talking and riding a bike as a child to the skills you have today.
So just to conclude, remember it is so worthwhile to allow yourself a little time for self-awareness to help you move forward with clarity and confidence. If you are thinking about change and in a role currently, giving some space for this will likely mean when you change, it will be for something more fulfilling and rewarding. If you are seeking a new job more urgently, even a little time exploring this may result in finding the right fit. Either way, it empowers you to find a career that will be aligned more to who you are, what you need to thrive.
And remember “I can’t do it” has never accomplished anything…. “I can try has performed wonders” (George P. Burnham)
For more on Coaching and how I can support you with change, progression and confidence in you career, reach out for a free connection call here.