Times are changing.
They needed to.
Ahhh! didn’t we desperately try to get a grip and gain control of that change!
We resisted taking any form of action, we stayed in the ‘wait and see’ vibe… and now we are feeling stuck, frustrated, and well…something gotta give.
The thing is, all is linked. When we feel ‘meh’ about one aspect of our lives, it has a nasty tendency to spill over the rest.
And right now, where the economy is and where it’s, unfortunately, likely heading, jobs, career and finances are back front and center in the daily checklist of ‘what now?’ and ‘what next?’
These are important questions.
Consider the amount of time you spend on the job, on and off-duty.
If you are not getting what you need or want from it, how does that affect your morale and motivation over time?
Some food for thoughts to jumpstart your internal debate:
- Is this job right for you?
- Do you feel fulfilled?
- Do you feel (positively) challenged enough to get you out of bed?
- Do you feel validated?
- Are your talents recognized?
- Have you given it your blood, sweat, and tears and getting back what you should?
Majority of ‘no’s?
Time to start working for yourself.
I am not suggesting leaving a job without any plan. Very few people can afford that.
Rather, I am inviting you to start taking your professional wishes/dreams/plans/goals to the top of your priority list.
And this starts by having a clear idea about who you are as a professional; what you have to offer; what you can monetize, and what you need to master.
1/ Figure out your own jigsaw puzzle
It’s actually much simpler than it sounds.
Let’s first deal with the potential major obstacle: the fear of change in your brain.
Instead of staring at a blank page, I propose that you start with something that you are familiar with. A sort of true and tried process that has worked for you in the past.
Such as: if you are a Chief Marketing Officer, how would you market your career as if it were a product?
Or more universally, we all have been the ‘manager’ of a project at some point in our lives. Organizing a trip, a meeting, etc.
So for the sake of this exercise, see your job or career as a project and you, as the project manager.
Where would you start?: like for any project, likely with the end in mind, i.e. the big picture.
- What do you want in your career right now?
- What kind of job?
- What industry?
- Where do you see yourself in the foreseeable future?
Dig deeper into the details as this will give more focus and direction to your brain, and get crystal clear about your career or job’s wants/would like/cannot stand this.
Allow your brain to start decluttering, organizing, and filtering the noise for you.
Put all of your brainstormings on a piece of paper or somewhere you can go back to often.
Refine, add, amend, edit after any new pertinent information;
And be open to new conversations, new media, even looking at job offers outside your usual scope of research. You never know where the ‘aha’ moment will come from.
Trust that your brain will do an outstanding job staying alert and on the lookout for you.
2 / What’s in your toolbox?
Now is a bit more fun time. Time to take a look at your toolbox, i.e. your skills, your competencies, your capabilities.
This is the time to do a thorough inventory and have a clear picture of what you have in store. And I can assure you, you have much more to offer than you think.
List your experiences, all of them. Not only back 10 years.
Anything that you have done in the past has given you something unique to you.
Go ahead, list your internships, your volunteer work, your college majors, your courses, and other certificates.
And now take a step back, literally.
Observe how much you have accomplished and the wealth of know-how you have accumulated over the years.
Let that sink in for a bit. Our brains have the unfortunate tendency to only look for what’s missing and what’s not enough.
Time to change that way of thinking!
Allow this list to be another work in progress and not be limited by your career only; non-work-related activities count too!
Have you mentored in your company? or organized a community event? or perhaps you have been sitting on the board of a charity.
Because each part is a piece of that bigger puzzle that is you, your skills, your personal qualities, and your professional (and personal) life.
What now? Time for some matchmaking!
3/ Play the matchmaker
Let’s recap our project management so far:
- You know what you want
- You know what you have.
How to bridge 1 to 2? – time to call on your own SWOT team (SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats).
To continue on the theme of productive and focused, it’s advisable to do a SWOT table for a sector in particular or a job you are eyeing.
Let’s SWOT = Strengths, Weaknesses (yours) <==> Opportunities and Threats (the market, the industry, the job you are looking for).
Create four quadrants for each category.
- 1/ First quadrant: Your strengths that match the job description or the industry requirements.
Hint here: if you are looking at a sample of job offers, add the terms they use to describe your skills because:
- i/ it will trick your brain into seeing that, yes, there is a real match, and
- ii/ you will be able to modify your resume and Linkedin skills section accordingly (and immediately).
- iii/ keep in mind the ‘what’s in it for them’ as well. The more your skills answer a job’s / sector’s / company’s needs, the better you will be at ‘selling’ your application.
- 2/ Next: same as above but this time, list all of your weaknesses, i.e. where you think you are either not compatible with the job you had in mind, or there is something missing, not quite there but almost.
No fretting here! you are only gathering informative data.
As a next step, you can match each of your data with an action you will choose to take (more on that further below).
- 3/ and 4/ Opportunities and Threats – these two categories are your invitation for more due diligence and research on the workplace you are targeting, if you haven’t done so already.
And here no time is wasted!
Everything you are doing will be valuable when you start applying to jobs and interviewing, as you will show motivation and peer knowledge.
Do this for each company you have on your desired list too. The more you see compatibility, the more motivation you will find at taking action.
4/ Build that bridge
Now is the part that will get you into more concrete action.
First, take a big step back and review where you are at, from the beginning of the process, to ‘is this realistic?, feasible?, and if not, what can I do about it?’
See how many times you ticked the boxes of compatibility.
And hint here, you don’t need to hit 100%; for the items that are missing, ask yourself whether they are that crucial to the desired job, then see how your existing skills can actually compensate or answer the job’s needs.
This will help you when crafting your custom resume and cover letter for the job itself.
As for the other items, what do you need to bridge the gap between your skills and the job’s non-negotiable requirements?
Some of these are building blocks that might be easier to access than others; such as further education that you may be able to do online.
Or it might require you to be more patient; such as formal training or on the job experience. Here again, see where you can find a bridge. Possibly via volunteering work, offering free consulting, or even freelancing as an additional side job.
And then, you know the drill!
- Research, network, ask for more information.
- Don’t assume anything and be open to being surprised.
- Remember, opportunities can show up in unexpected places.
When you put yourself back at the center of your attention, you are ready to tackle any conversation. You come across as a knowledgeable peer who did extensive research, who knows the industry’s needs and how to respond to them, rather than someone lost fishing for information and wasting people’s time.