This is probably the most important question that you need to answer to yourself: where do you want to go? Dream big! Your study background and your recent experiences do not necessarily define your future career. I’m not suggesting that you should throw all your effort to the wind! If you’re reading this it might mean that you need a change, so why sticking to the career choices that you made years ago when you started your university studies or when you first entered the job market? You can do anything you want. In some cases you might need some additional training or time to gain experience and in some others you just need to use your skills. Don’t put a limit to what you want to achieve in your career!
Think of the career that you want to have in the next few years: where do you see yourself? It’s not an easy question and the answer can be even more challenging. Do you know enough about the job that you would like to do? If you’re new in the corporate world chances are that you have no clue of what it means to work full-time for a company. Don’t worry, you’ll get there soon enough! On the other side, if you already have a few years of experience in the job market, you know pros and cons of working for someone else and you might have a clear idea of what you don’t want to experience in your next role. Either way we can evaluate together some ideas to help you shape your next job.
Let’s break it down so you can have a better idea of how to answer the question.
What do you enjoy doing? Think of your hobbies, your free time with friends or family or alone: what gives you a sense of accomplishment? What would you do if you didn’t have a time limit or bills to pay at the end of the month? What would you do no matter what, whether you’re paid to do so or not? What’s your talent?
I recently read a mind opening book: “The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything” by Ken Robinson. If you’re still struggling with the idea of what to do when you grow up, then this is definitely a recommended read. I regularly wonder what I should do when I grow up even if I was a little girl a long time ago. In the last 10-15 years things have changed fast in the job market, people have invented new professions, in some cases machines have replaced some of the old professions, and the idea of a permanent job is somehow overrated. Young people need to find a solid company where they can build their first experience and then they move on, looking for a higher salary, a better work-life balance or something new to learn. Companies need to be competitive on the market and to do so they need to both exploit their products and explore new ways (recommended Ted talk: “Two reasons why companies fail – and how to avoid them” by Knut Haanaes). Companies that follow this principle need to attract the best talents, people with deep knowledge of their subject and creative individuals who can see a better future. Are you up for the challenge?
Are you a people person or do you prefer working alone? Would you rather work in a team and exchange ideas or do you methodically work on your tasks until they are complete? If you just completed your studies you can think of the most productive way for you to remember and elaborate concepts: was it with a study group or when you spent some alone time with your books in your dorm? If you’ve worked for a few years you can think of your most recent experiences: did you enjoy more the times you worked with your colleagues or when you could be left alone at your desk to write that report? It could be a combination of both, so don’t worry if you have a 50-50 in this.
Are you willing to share your knowledge and help others? This is a rhetorical question, isn’t it? It’s very likely that in your next role you will be requested to work with other colleagues, whether this is full-time or just for some of your working hours. Can you do it?
Do you have leadership skills? I’m not talking about managing skills -I’ll write a post about the difference between a leader and a manger soon. Do you have what it takes to be a leader? Think of your experience in the last couple of years: did you follow a charismatic leader or people often came to you to ask for suggestions and directions? There’s no right or wrong. There are followers and there are leaders in this world: you just need to know where you fit in and your tasks will be much easier to handle.
Can you handle stress? How do you handle due dates? The way you react to a deadline makes a difference between a healthy working life and a very stressful one. When I find a task particularly boring or when I’m sure -often wrongly- that I won’t learn anything new while doing it, I put it off until there’s no chance to postpone it any longer. At that point the situation gets risky: will I finish it on time? It often happens that I miscalculate the time that I need to complete a task due to unexpected events that cause an interruption, steps that require a deeper knowledge that is not necessary a Google click away or a consultation with a colleague who might not be available, tools that I might not have and my sense of perfection that kicks in and makes me think that “this is not good enough”. I feel my blood thick with cortisol, my hands sweating and I know that a headache is just around the corner. I have no one else to blame but me: why did I wait so long? This is a typical situation to avoid (more on this: Time management techniques).
What is most important for you? Money, work-life balance, prestige, power, satisfaction, greater good, fun… Feel free to add yours!
You need to have a clear idea of your goals before you start your job search. And be realistic, please! A goal must be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound (more on this soon, I promise!). You can still dream big but you cannot expect a 6-digit salary for an entry-level position! You will get to your 6-digit salary if you put your mind to that but it might take some time and a lot of effort…or a considerable amount of luck.
If you’re looking for a job that allows you to do something good for the world, then be specific. Would you be happy to help people at the post office or at the bank or in a shop or you’re thinking more along the line of healing the world? What would satisfy your sense of accomplishment?
Would you like to go back home to your family as soon as possible and still have some income to pay your bills? Are you thinking of a part-time job? Would you accept working in shifts?
In order to achieve your goals you need to work on them. Do you have what it takes to reach your goal? If yes, then go ahead and apply for that job of your dreams! If you think you miss some knowledge and/or experience, do you have a plan to gain what you need?
Start with a 3-5 years plan and make lists -I love lists!-: at the end of this time period what would you like to achieve? What are you willing to give up in case it’s needed? What can’t you do without? Then go back up to the beginning of this post and make lists of your talents, strengths and skills. Now read them all again and try to find practical things that you can start doing now to reach your goals.
Here’s an example: