The 7 essential steps for redesigning your career
Some people find a topic or vocation early in their lives that turns into a passion and lifelong career path. But for the majority of us, the trajectory of our careers is much less straightforward.
Most people’s early careers are guided by proximity — to their parents’ work, local industries or opportunities presented to them. As time passes, they typically make adjustments by moving away from things they don’t like about a particular position, rather than by pursuing something they want or are passionate about. And, since success in many fields depends on tenure, it can be hard to move out of a position after investing several years or reaching a comfortable salary.
According to UC Davis alumna and career expert, Robin Reshwan, founder and president of CS Advising, it’s important to remember that intentional career design is essential. We are accountable for our professional happiness; we are capable of, and responsible for, creating a career that motivates and inspires us.
Wondering how important it is to have a rewarding career? Robin cites a Gallup analysis, which shows that people who use their strengths every day are three times more likely to report having an excellent quality of life. And, thanks to advances in digital technology and communication, transforming our careers is easier than ever. If you’re ready to move forward, here are the seven steps how.
1. Identify your priorities
Why are you seeking a job? Money is a top priority for why people work. Other common reasons are seeking camaraderie outside the family, switching to a position with better work-life balance and emotional fulfillment. Once you’ve identified your priorities, list them in ranking order. Consider, for example, if you are willing to take a job that pays more but gives you less work-life balance, or vice versa. Include your values within these priorities — from how much leeway you would like to express yourself to how much authority you’d like to have. “Research shows that when employees don’t succeed within a role, it’s often because of a misalignment in values,” says Robin.
2. Articulate your drivers
What are the internal or external motivators that you need to feel satisfied in your role? These can include things like the skills you want to use at your job, the salary and benefits you hope to receive, the professional environment you thrive in and whether you want opportunities to advance. “It’s often the alignment with these drivers that makes people feel like their career is meaningful and that they’re moving forward,” Robin says.
3. Note your technical skills and natural strengths
Make a list of your “hard skills,” in other words, the specialized knowledge and training you will leverage in the workforce. These include specific business functions, software, equipment usage, languages, etc. Then, list your “soft skills” — personality traits, such as communication, critical thinking, leadership or organization. There are many online tests you can take to assess these skills, but a great place to start is by asking your loved ones. “My three sisters would say that as a child, I was always a little bossy. When things got chaotic, I was always really comfortable stepping in to take charge. I enjoyed being in a leadership role and maintaining order. In my career, I’ve found that I excel in roles that let me flex these muscles since I’ve been perfecting these skills my whole life,” says Robin.
4. Research how your skills and interests can be leveraged in the market
If you don’t know what field you want to pursue, take some time to do more career exploration, such as online career exploration exercises. You can also visit a job board and search by skill to find positions that use your skills. Or, you can explore career pathways of other alumni from your university to see the positions people with a similar academic background have chosen — and consider reaching out to peers to request an informational interview. If you already have a general idea of careers in which you see yourself, look at job postings to see what qualifications employers are looking for and where your skills align. Tap into your network, the websites of companies that interest you, LinkedIn — people, companies or alumni — keyword searches and industry associations to get ideas for your next step. When you complete this step, you should have a shortlist of roles and opportunities.
5. Set goals and take bridging steps
Make a list of your next steps, and set concrete, time-driven goals for achieving them. “Putting ideas in motion around career change can feel risky and dangerous — that’s why it’s important to hold yourself accountable,” says Robin. Consider independent actions that you can take in tandem with your search, such as partnering with a small business or fellow entrepreneur, taking on freelance work or volunteering within an industry in which you need more experience.
6. Prepare to demonstrate your value
Work is a marketplace transaction — you’ll need to demonstrate that you are qualified and will add value to a company. Even if your skills apply to a particular job, those skills must be needed within in the marketplace. Take time to ensure that you are marketable in your preferred industry, given your previous experience and age. Robin shares an example of a client who retired from the insurance industry and trained in electronic medical records filing, only to find that available positions in this new industry were primarily for traveling consultants. This career path that was inconsistent with his lifestyle and priorities.
7. Remember that work is… work
“As my mother-in-law said to my husband when he was a new college grad, ‘If it was meant to be fun and easy, they wouldn’t need to pay you,’” says Robin. “Despite the popularity of phrases like, ‘If you find the right career, you’ll never work a day in your life,’ there will likely be parts of any job that you don’t love. But you can still find a great career that has many of the attributes you need, as well as some things that you have to do/are willing to do because they get you this career.”
Finally, keep in mind that career design is a journey. You may need to try multiple pathways before you identify the right path for you. “The whole idea of the career design process is to help you to identify several different pathways in which you can use your skills in a satisfying way,” says Robin.
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