We see many people who have had good careers with large, financially stable companies. Many have a track record of success – solid verifiable accomplishments. Unfortunately, many of these people have been cut loose for a variety of reasons, all economics related. If you find yourself or a friend in this situation, maybe you are contemplating reinventing your career.
Reinventing your career is likely to be an emotional and potentially financially challenging process. You have been doing a good job, you’ve managed your career well, you’ve been earning a decent income, maybe you had an excellent benefits package and now it’s gone. You worked hard to get where you are and have the rewards that come from hard work – house, car, kids in good schools, etc. Now the job is gone and some of you are dealing with entire industries being in severe contraction. During recent interviews we have heard from people formerly in pharmaceutical and healthcare related positions where entire sales forces were eliminated. The pain isn’t limited to automotive or housing related industries. Reality is that it might be a long time, longer than you have financial resources to cover, before those types of jobs will come back. Reinvention is no longer a day dream – it is an act of survival.
Many people confronting career reinvention approach the process with some challenging baggage. Many times we interview people who expect to be paid at the same or greater level of compensation they received in the position that no longer exists. That is an understandable but frequently unrealistic attitude. With few exceptions, reinventing your career requires an act of faith on the part of your new employer and a realistic appraisal of what you are bringing to the table.
If you are truly reinventing your career, all the cards need to be on the table. The primary objective of reinventing your career should be a job that provides more genuine satisfaction, more stimulation and ultimately makes you happier than your previous career. It is important to focus on how you feel about your work, not how much you are paid for your work. The reason is simple: if you are genuinely happy about your work, it will show in your relationships with your co-workers, interactions with customers or clients AND the quality of your work. Frequently people in great fitting positions project contagious enthusiasm.
Hopefully you have experienced contagious enthusiasm. Frequently, but not all the time, people in well fitting jobs attract above average compensation – for the job – in addition to greater job satisfaction.
Reinventing your career is personal. If you are contemplating a career change, consider using the following process:
Imagine the components of your ideal job. It is important to focus on the components – what will be the activities that make up your day. The products, the industry, and the money shouldn’t be on the list. Here are some sample questions: do you need to live in a specific location to be near family? Do you require a flexible work schedule because you care for a parent or loved one? How do you feel about PC oriented work? Highly detailed or not? Lots or little contact with people? How do you feel about phone work? What about business travel? Local or overnight? Zero, 1 or 2 or more nights per week/month? Do you want to be an individual contributor or supervise others? What type of company culture? Is visibility important to you? And so on. If there are things that you strongly feel shouldn’t be in your job – write it down. Sometimes it is just as important to know what you don’t want to do as what you do want to do. Your ideal job will probably consist of 5 to7 core components that account for the majority of days. You should not have a laundry list at the end of this process. It is a fairly simple exercise; trust your gut feelings at this point.
Now for the difficult part. After writing the components of your ideal job, keep the list with you at all times. Why? When you feel good – look at the list. Ask yourself if you still feel those are the components of your ideal job? If yes, put the list away. If not, adjust accordingly. Early in the morning and late at night – look at the list. Repeat the evaluation of every component.
When you feel neutral – look at the list. Repeat the evaluation process.
When you feel terrible – look at the list. Repeat the evaluation process.
After paying your bills – look at the list. Repeat the evaluation process.
Looking at and thinking about the list during a wide range of emotional states takes discipline. The reason for looking at your list during the various emotional states is to discover your true feelings. When you are sure you have been honest with yourself, then you will have a good way to search for and evaluate job opportunities. The list of work components should provide some direction for your job search.
Compare your list of job components against the duties and responsibilities of a given job. If the job doesn’t compare favorably with every component of your ideal job then it isn’t likely to be a good fit. When I put myself through this process, it took nearly 8 months to be convinced that I was honest with myself. I was fortunate to have a job at the time of this exercise. It nearly took another 15 months to transition into a job that consists of my preferred components. I worked part-time for almost a year to confirm my feelings before completing the transition. I have now been in the “new” position for more than 12 years. I have experienced 2 recessions in this position. There have been days when working at McDonalds looked attractive, but not many. My job satisfaction has been significantly greater than in any of my previous positions. In fact, I have realized job satisfaction in ways that I never would have imagined before this process.
This process doesn’t need to take months or years to identify your ideal job. It is, however, imperative that you are honest with yourself.