The average American changes careers / jobs 11 times in their lifetime, according to the Department of Labor (August, 2017). about it; you are probably well into job two or three, and there is a long road ahead – most likely with many twists and turns. Because fluidity in the marketplace is the “new normal,” it makes sense to get ahead of any changes coming your way. Smart professionals understand that these changes in their work life are inevitable and therefore carefully plan out their next steps, including their exit strategy, so they land exactly where they intended.
In my previous blog, I discussed how a plan of action is the best tool to help you get ahead, to acquire a new skill or improve your performance at work. The same is true for your career success; a plan is a must for advancing in your career. Your plan is the map of where you are and where you are going. It will inform all the career-related decisions you make. The plan will also turn career-based anxiety into energy for change.
Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.
When it’s time to leave your company, having a plan will allow you the time and forethought to exit gracefully, without burning bridges unnecessarily. You can be confident that you are investing in yourself so you can move to a better, more fulfilling role.
Why People Leave
It may seem like people leave their positions for a variety of reasons, but after having heard many stories from many professionals, I have narrowed it down to five main reasons people desire to move on:
- The Job is not the right fit: Not using my natural abilities in my current job
- Working in the industry is not rewarding; dead-end job
- Re-evaluation of values and goals in life
- Dislike of the organizational culture/manager
The top four reasons beg for some self-examination, re-centering yourself to move ahead in a meaningful way. Take a few moments to assess where you are mentally and emotionally in relation to your work. Chances are you are in a bit of a slump and didn’t even realize it. Many clients have come to me a little numb, possibly burnt out from work, not even knowing how they got where they are.
This happens frequently in sales, for example. Often the most successful sales person gets promoted to management, but sales is what they do the best, and they are usually not suited for management. Before they know it, they are three years into the management promotion and feel disconnected and unhappy, but don’t know why. It helps to talk through your situation with an objective listener, so you can get back on your feet, with fire in your belly, ready to shake off the slump dust and look around for your next great move.
Getting Back on Your Feet
No matter the reason for your departure or your state of mind (dejected/angry/motivated), you must be able to move ahead with confidence and courage. The anchors for your exit and job search are your strengths and talents.
Like a meditation guru getting centered or an athlete practicing fundamentals before the big game, as a professional you need to get in touch with your core strengths so you can be as focused and effective as possible. When you are not working with your strengths, you feel depleted. It feels like work. You get drained quickly.
If you aren’t crystal clear about what your strengths really are I highly recommend a StrengthsFinder assessment. Learn how to use your talents in the right way so you have commanding strength at work and your talents show through. Then you can create a plan of action that creates great results.
Here’s an Example:
Bonnie was a high performer at her firm. She was a CPA working at the Big Four, and after only six years out of school she was on the fast track for management.
Slowly but persistently she began to realize that she did not want to work in accounting. Being a CPA did fit her But Bonnie didn’t want to be behind the scenes. She preferred being a people facing person, with a career in HR or Recruiting. She was even willing to relocate. Bonnie really liked her company, but she felt she was between a rock and a hard place and was ready to jump ship.
She wondered how to even start making a full career change. Like many professionals Bonnie was overwhelmed with how to decide on her next step.
After our first session, Bonnie decided to have some serious conversations with her boss regarding her ultimate career goal. She spoke with him about how to move into a role that embraced both her interests and her goals. She explained in detail how the company would benefit from her staying and expressed her desire to stay, but that in order to do that, she’d need to move in a new direction. This important conversation laid the groundwork for Bonnie’s next big step.
The Company agreed with her and moved her into a recruiting role in the Bay Area. Bonnie was happy with her career change and everything was great for about a year, but then the company started changing their recruiting department. Their new direction did not fit into Bonnie’s career goals.
I coached Bonnie on how to talk to her supervisor about her concerns. Bonnie began by discussing her passion for recruiting and laying out her career goals, which was more focused towards HR, and was able to have a frank discussion about her current career trajectory. This conversation was productive and informative and although it was clear that Bonnie was not going to be able to achieve her goals with this firm, it prepared her to begin to interview elsewhere.
Meanwhile, I knew a CEO of a young company who was looking for a VP of HR. I thought Bonnie would be a great fit for the role in a few years, after all she had all the financial acumen needed and showed great potential, but she was a few years shy of the experience they required. I talked with the CEO about hiring “potential” and what that could bring to her organization. I convinced her that with a little mentoring, Bonnie would be a fantastic VP of HR. Bonnie was interviewed and hired. They gave her a seat at the table with executives to mentor her. She quickly grew into the role and helped double the size of the company in a year.
This story illustrates how a career path can split many times, and deciding which turns you will take is key. It is important to remember that making career change its never a single step, it takes multiple steps over time to change your careers. With the right planning and forethought (and help from mentors and coaches), you will land exactly where you intended to be.
Julia is a Career Strategist and Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach based in the Bay Area. She helps career-focused professionals showcase their unique abilities and talents in order to amplify their presence in their chosen fields and when re-entering the job market. Julia uses her extensive leadership experience in executive management, business development, team building and recruiting to help her clients have the career they always wanted. Learn more about Julia at www.JuliaHolian.com, www.LinkedIn.com/in/JuliaHolian, https://Twitter.com/JuliaHolian (@JuliaHolian) and www.Facebook.com/JuliaHolian.