In 2010 I decided to change my career path. I left my position as a manager with a large organization and welcomed the adventures that come with being self-employed.
Before I took the plunge, I faced a period of doubt and uncertainty. Did I really want to leave my team and my job? And what was it, I hoped to get in return?
I took the decision to leave my job and face the unknown because I just could not let go of the idea of doing something that really suits me.
>> Fast forward to today
As a coach and a career coach I guide people facing the same choice I was in 2010. At the time, it took me a 7 month sabbatical in Australia to figure out what I wanted to do with my career. Luckily, the trajectory the people I now work with go through is a lot more compact.
What still remains is the most important question waiting to be answered: “How do you find out what really suits you?”
I now know that this process looks different for everyone. Yet, from experience I also know there are a number of phases and checkpoints that everyone goes through.
Why you shouldn’t start your search on LinkedIn
You are about to read all about the model I use when I help people find their new career paths. But before you do, I would like to explain something.
Many people start their search for a new work environment on LinkedIn, Monsterboard or some other job board. And it is a great way to find a new job if you know what you are after.
If you’re not sure what you want, then you shouldn’t start with the job boards. “Why?” I hear you think.
Looking at job boards takes little energy. You scroll through vacancies and with each vacancy you decide whether it suits you or not. I call this approach ‘outside-in’. In other words, what you do is respond to external stimuli – the many jobs on the job boards. The advantage to this approach is it will cost you very little energy. And you might even experience the pleasant sensation of taking small steps towards your new career.
The downside is that if you do not yet know what it is you are looking for, you won’t be able to identify the right opportunities for you. In fact, all these different options will distract you and keep you from connecting with what you really should connect with at this stage: yourself.
And finally, by starting your journey on job boards, you are actually trying to answer three different questions at the same time: “What do I want?”, “What am I capable of?” and “What options are out there for me?” This will most likely cause you to feel confused and in the end give up.
The opposite of the ‘outside-in’ approach is the ‘inside-out’ approach. Here you will start your research and preparation with yourself. I cannot stress enough how important it is to first determine what you want. What jobs are available and what the salary ranges are will come later.
The inside-out approach will let you accurately determine which work environment and position really suit you. You will know it, because it will feel right.
A proven step-by-step plan for finding a job that suits you
The model below was developed guiding dozens of people. Just like me, these people decided to follow their heart and find a career that really fits who they are. The model reads from bottom to top.
The 4 phases
The model consists of 4 consecutive phases. Each phase comes with its own set of questions that you will need to answer before continuing to the next phase.
The first phase: Search inside yourself
The first phase is all about staying close to yourself. I tend to work with my clients using a number of coaching exercises and homework assignments. But you will be able to work on this individually as well. If you get stuck, drop me a line.
The essence of this phase is finding ways that help you refresh who you are as a human being and what is most important to you.
So once more: this will only work if you leave practical matters such as salary, travel distance or what vacancies are posted on LinkedIn out of scope for now. The last thing you want at this stage is to rule out any possibility for practical reasons.
The questions you will find answers to in this phase are:
- “Who am I?”
- “Where am I from?”
- “What makes me happy?”
- “What values are most important to me?”
Once you’re able to answer these questions from the heart, it is time to get started with the 2nd phase.
The second phase: Your talents and what you hope to get out of your job
This phase is more transactional by nature. It is about what you have to offer. And what you hope to get out of your job in return.
In order to get a clear idea of the talents, knowledge and skills you have to offer, it will be helpful to make use of some external resources. You might complete a short personality questionnaire and discuss the results. Another great way is to ask people around you for feedback. Both of these are great ways to broaden your perspective and get a more complete perspective on yourself than you would by writing down a list of your talents.
Next to diving into your personal skills, this phase is also about defining what you want to get out of your job. This encompasses practical matters such as the height of your salary or length of your daily commute. And included things like company culture and/or fulfilling your need for meaning. And everything that comes in between.
The third phase: Defining new career options and testing them in practice
In the first two phases you have done valuable work preparing for the last two phases. In this third phase you define a handful of potential career directions and then test your ideas in reality.
Finishing the second phase, most of my clients have a general ideal of a potential new career direction. Usually combined with one or two less obvious options. These less obvious options might be based on a hobby or a passion that currently isn’t part of what they do for a living.
Some clients find it hard to define their options for a new career direction. And with these clients, I take some more time to work on this.
The first goal of this phase is to formulate a number of possible options. Each option is formed by a combination of a particular type of work environment and a particular type of function.
This could look something like this:
- Option A: Online marketer at a commercial company based in The Netherlands with lots of attention for professional growth
- Option B: Independent entrepreneurship as an interim marketer serving corporate organizations
- Option C: A position as a communications professional with a startup in development work in a third world country
Once you have defined three to five options for yourself, it is time to investigate whether these options really suit you. And instead of looking at your laptop screen, much of this work is done in the outside world!
Are you considering switching to a different type of organization? Bigger, smaller, not-for-profit, commercial or government? Or thinking of a position that would require you to do work completely different from what you used to do?
Then it is important to test your ideas before taking the next step.
Make sure to speak to the people that you would work with in your new role. Preferably even experience your potential new work environment, position and colleagues. Many people think that it is hard or nearly impossible to test a potential new career direction before being hired. While in practice all it takes is figuring out who will be able to best help you. And then sending them a short and polite message asking for half an hour of their time. In my experience, more than half of the people will be willing to help you.
The fourth phase: Strategy and execution
The first three phases have led you towards determining a new direction in your career. In this last phase you will work on the correct strategy to realize your new career.
This phase is essential, especially for those of you hoping to step into a role, type of organization or geographical region you haven’t worked in before. Chances are sending in your resume and motivational letter will not get you an invitation to the first round of job interviews.
In this phase it is important to identify with your new employer. Be honest about to what extent you resemble their dream candidate for this position. If your resume does not immediately show recruiters why you are a suitable candidate for the position you will have some work to do.
You will have to come up with ways to get in touch with your future new employer, without having to go through the selection process of a recruiter. There are many potential strategies you might use to get noticed. Which strategy is best suited depends on the company and the specific gaps in your knowledge and experience you are trying to bridge here. In general, many of these strategies come down to contacting one or more people at the company and meeting with them. If you do this well – and without openly applying for the job – you will find people will want to help you if they think you might be a potential asset to the company. This will help you find the right sponsor(s) allowing you to be considered for the position.
If you talk to the right people, you will be able to get an invitation for a job interview, without being rejected by a recruiter based on your resume alone.
Although these strategies are hugely helpful please note their effectiveness also depends in part on the company you’re trying to connect with.
This model has proven its worth with dozens of clients. It is safe to say that it works!
I hope that by sharing this model I have given a tool to steer your career into a new direction. If you’re curious to learn how you can best work through the different phases, send me a message. I will be happy to think along with you.