Career Transition

Unhappy at work? Reflect on your values!

If you’re unhappy at work, take a moment to jot down what’s most important to you. For example:

🖋Connection with loved ones
🖋Autonomy in my job
🖋Making a difference
🖋Having fun
🖋Being a subject matter expert

Next, evaluate these values across three levels: the role, your manager, your company culture.

Review each value against each level and ask, is this value honored by my role, my manager, my company culture?

When your values aren’t honored by the inherent aspects of a role, this could mean career transition is in order.

When your values aren’t honored by your manager, moving to a new team in the organization could be in order.

When your values aren’t honored by the culture, departing the company could be in order.

Knowing where your values are violated is almost as important as knowing what you value.

I hope you find this as helpful as I did. This very exercise led me to quit my job and found Virtus Career Consulting.​

Changing Jobs? Avoid Buyer’s Remorse!

Changing jobs? Don’t jump from the pan to the fire!

How to pinpoint what you love and hate to avoid the same (or worse) situation.

1. LIST top DISLIKES of your job in 3 areas:
✔ Job responsibilities
✔ Manager’s shortcomings
✔ Company culture

2. LIST what you LIKE across same 3 areas, above.

Prioritize each list by most important.

✔ Create interview questions based on top priorities
✔ Research the company based on your lists (e.g. read, reviews)
✔ Have conversations with people about the company (leverage your network)
✔ Contact HR at the company with questions about the role or company

Top DISLIKES in current job:
A. Manager micromanages me
B. Project team misses deadlines; I’m held responsible, others aren’t

C. Collaboration among peers on team
D. Allowed to work from home

Sample questions to ask:
A. Can you describe your delegation/management style on a recent project?
B. How would you describe the company culture toward accountability?
C. Can you share how the team works together and give an example?
D. How is the team distributed? Is everyone in the office?

Tip: Use Google!
e.g. “Interview questions about ________”

Avoid buyer’s remorse through reflection and preparation!​

Networking Tip: Help People Help You!

​Job seeker: Your networking outreach stinks! Okay, maybe not YOU, but most others.
No-no: “I’m looking for a new opportunity so please let me know if you hear of anything.”
Do some work up front to help people help you.

📌Identify the kind of role you’re seeking.

Next, list out:
📌Your related experience and what you do best.
📌The value an employer will receive.

Finally, create your three-part networking conversation starter:
“I’m currently seeking a customer service team lead role. I have three years of operations experience improving processes and solving problems, which helps my employer provide better, consistent experiences to customers, increasing recent customer satisfaction scores by 12% .”

Short and sweet is key!

If you don’t know what you want, or what you do best, you are in the career discovery phase, not the job search phase. Take a step back to get clear.

How to Figure Out the Work You’re Wired For

The world of work, at its most fundamental level, boils down to four focus areas: Working with peopleideasthings, and data. Most people are oriented to more than one.

The first step in discovering what you’re wired to do best is decide which of these resonate most with you.

PEOPLE FOCUS (leading, caring, supporting, serving, selling)

If any of these activities appeal to you, you might have a people focus:

  • Entertain a Child
  • Listen to a friend’s personal problem
  • Teach someone how to do something
  • Help someone who is sick
  • Lead a group or club activity
  • Run for an office
  • Work with the public

(numbers, facts, filing, procedures, inspecting)

If any of these activities appeal to you, you might have a data focus:

  • Research a topic of interest to you
  • Be a treasurer of a club
  • Work with scientific experiments
  • Work with numbers/statistics
  • Figure out a car’s gas mileage
  • Balance a bank statement
  • Write a computer program

 (knowledge, theories, creativity, insights) 

If any of these activities appeal to you, you might have an idea focus:

  • Decorate a room
  • Write poems or stories
  • Publish a newsletter
  • Write lyrics
  • Perform or act in a play
  • Play a musical instrument
  • Invent a new product

 (machines, tools, animals, natural resources, creating items)

 If any of these activities appeal to you, you might have a things focus:

  • Bake a cake
  • Repair a car/machinery
  • Sew or make crafts
  • Build something from wood
  • Take care of animals
  • Do landscaping or lawn care
  • Operate camera or video equipment

As you combine categories, it starts to reveal interesting information.

For example, if you like things, such as computers and software, and ideas, then a more creative endeavor would be in order, such as graphic design to develop creative digital content using computers and software.

Alternatively, if you like people as your secondary area of focus to your primarythings focus (using the computer example), then a desk side support technician where you’re working with computers and going to people’s workstations all day, would be more appropriate.

See how the secondary work focus preference changes the primary interest considerably? 

When you combine these four areas of work focus, you end up with six kinds of job content. They are:

Realistic,  Investigative, Conventional, Artistic, Social, and Enterprising jobs.

  • realistic job is where you work with your hands or outdoors (e.g. firefighter, mechanic, contractor).
  • An investigative job is where you solve puzzles, research, detect, or experiment (e.g. police work, scientific research, laboratory technician).
  • An artistic job involves being creative, such as writing, photography, graphic artistry, architecture, or interior decorating.
  • social job involves serving society, such as teaching, social work, counseling, health care, or a minister.
  • An enterprising job is where you would make, sell, and manage a product or service.
  • conventional job is in an office such as management, financial transactions, information technology, etc.

After you’ve identified areas of focus, you can leverage  a tool called the World of Work Map to select job families that fall within your areas of focus to gain ideas of work that’s likely to be most appealing to you. This interactive World of Work Map graphically illustrates how occupations relate to each other based on work tasks.

Here’s an example from the map. I chose the Engineering & Technologiesoption under Ideas and Things:

Once you find options of interest, you can research jobs using O*Net Online, which provides comprehensive information on what those jobs entail, from salary, education required, daily tasks, and much more. In addition, you can speak to people in that line of work to get their assessment of how they spend their day-to-day at work.

For career exploration, I use a tool called the SchoolPlace Big Five Career Guider for students 14 – 22 years of age, and WorkPlace Big Five Career Guider for adults, in conjunction with a StrengthsFinder assessment.

I hope this manual exercise I’ve put together is somewhat helpful to you, particularly to early careerists, or those in career transition.

Career Transition: 3 Important Considerations

​The mental struggle that accompanies career change decisions can be harder than actually making the change. I’m not here to tell you to jump ship and follow your star (though, that’s what I did). What I’d like to offer are important things to consider if you’re feeling an urge to make a change. And if you are, you’re not alone.

A Huffington Post poll revealed almost 80% of workers in their 20s want to change careers, followed by 64% of those in their 30s, and 54% of workers in their 40s. They also discovered 73% of these collective workers had not landed the job they expected.

Landing a job you didn’t plan or expect isn’t always a bad thing. However, Forbes reports only 19% of people surveyed by Right Management in the U.S. and Canada said they were satisfied with their jobs, while 16% said they were somewhat satisfied. The rest, a whopping 65%, said they were unhappy at work.

Here are some important considerations when making career change decisions:

1. Beware the advice of others?
Your friends, family, and co-workers can keep you stuck, so it’s important to recognize a few things about their advice:

  • Co-workers have a vested interest in you staying, and have something to lose if you leave. Whether it’s the loss of camaraderie, increased work-load, or a streak of envy they’re not in a position to leave themselves (misery loves company). Recognize that people come to the table with self-interests and bias, even if it’s operating at a subconscious level.
  • Family members also have a vested interest in your decision. They may have a self-preservation instinct that kicks in if you’re thinking of pursuing a path that’s unproven, or carries an element of risk. Even the most self-actualized people have knee-jerk reactions of self-preservation when their safety and security feel threatened. Our brains are wired to protect us, therefore, most people have a negative initial reaction to change. This doesn’t mean your career change is a bad one. People do not see things as they are–they see things as they are.
  • People who know you well may have difficulty seeing you in a different context. If you’re an accountant, and have always been an accountant, but want to pursue a passion as a self-employed children’s entertainer, recognize your accountant identity has been deeply seeded in the minds of others. Because of the strong association, people may have difficulty seeing you in a new context. There’s definitely value in the opinions of others, but if your instincts to try something new are tugging strongly at you, don’t ignore them. Valid and reliable assessments are one way to confirm your instincts, as well as talking to people who do the work you’re interested in. Don’t brush aside your dreams because others aren’t able to see the vision.

To be fair, you can’t exactly go rogue and ignore the input of your loved ones if they haven’t bought into your career change. There are two simple questions you can ask to get to the bottom of their objections and land on the same page.

When I wanted to quit my Corporate job to go out on my own my husband was concerned about the leap. To move beyond surface-level objections, I asked the following questions:

1. What is the greatest, single concern you have about what I’m proposing?

2. What would it take for that threat to be removed?

My husband said if I walked away from a six figure job he was concerned we wouldn’t be able to meet our obligations. For him to be comfortable with the decision he felt I should have six months of expenses saved, above and beyond the emergency fund he had in place in case of his job loss. Also, we both agreed I needed to be willing to take another job if I wasn’t able to make ends meet with my business.

Voila! I allayed his concerns by agreeing to these simple ground rules, and I received his full support to make the change. People often present objections without stating their core concern. Once you identify their fear, you can create a plan that everyone can buy into.

2. Be aware of your own blind spots
Herminia Ibarra, a Professor of Organizational Behavior, has done extensive research on job changers. What she discovered — that I’ve also seen in my own clients — is people can tell you exactly what they don’t want to do, and why, but they usually can’t tell you what they want to do instead.

Figuring out what you don’t want is as valuable as knowing what you do want. My grandmother used to say identifying a problem is 80% of the way to a solution, so don’t be discouraged if the vision isn’t clear, yet.

The first step of any career change is recognizing your unique gifts and abilities, and how your experiences can transfer to new opportunities.

Ibarra’s research suggests the way we tend to think about what we’re good at is quite limiting and tends to be functionally specific–in other words, tied to what we’ve historically been doing. Instead, you should think of your skills as being “portable competencies” that can be applied in a wider range of contexts.

As an example, earlier in my career I worked in IT as a Lead .NET software developer, and later in Reporting. While the core tasks of my job were quite technical, I developed many transferable skills while in those positions. Here’s a sample of those skills:

  • On-boarding and training new team members
  • Training process and documentation
  • Presentation skills
  • Task delegation
  • Project life-cycle
  • Project estimation
  • Effective communication skills
  • Negotiation tactics
  • Advanced Excel skills
  • Trend analysis and analytical thinking skills
  • S.WO.T. analysis
  • Working effectively with cross-functional teams
  • Contractor/vendor relationship management
  • Meeting management
  • Process and quality improvement
  • Ramping up on new projects in a short period of time
  • Multi-project management

When you read this list, it doesn’t read like a technical job description. Research by Korn/Ferry International suggests 15% of skills are specific to a job, while 85% of skills are more general and transferable across roles. Start thinking about your breadth of experience in terms of those portable competencies, and how they might apply in new ways.

3. Recognize there’s risk in staying
If you’re staying in a role that’s sucking the joy out of you, there’s a cost to staying. Those costs are numerous and varied, but could be opportunity costs by not learning new skills or feeling fulfilled at work, increased stress and poor health outcomes, negative affect to your family life, decreased productivity, performance, or quality of your work, developing a negative attitude, and lack of motivation.

Making a leap can be hard, and even scary. A sound decision begins with becoming confident about who you are and what you can offer, learning to be discerning about the advice of others, and working to gain alignment with loved ones who are impacted by your career choices.​

All the best to you!​