Working from home has afforded many of us more time. We’re spending less time beautifying, commuting and meeting. This makes it a great time to reflect on — and perhaps reset — your career.
Are you in an organic career?
The first question to ask yourself is if your career is based on organic events — meaning you’ve moved into jobs when an opportunity presents itself. It may have originated from a recruiter, a colleague, former manager or even a promotion. Of course, all of these scenarios are fantastic. Afterall, it means you’ve built a solid professional brand and have earned respect by working hard and producing great results.
Is that a problem? Not necessarily. If you’ve loved all of your jobs and are moving in the direction you want to go, then you’re set!
However, many of us entertain these opportunities because we’re flattered or we’re ready for a change or we have a case of FOMO because it just might be the role of a lifetime. And if you’re assuming that I’m talking from experience, you’re right!
If you haven’t taken the time or made the effort to determine your career vision or North Star, then it’s difficult to know if the opportunity is right. If it isn’t, it may not fit into your career trajectory and might be something that you’re not truly passionate about. It might also mean that you’re not growing or gaining new skills.
After a series of jobs based on organic origins, you may wake up and realize you don’t love or care about your work and may be in a mid-career crisis. You start to question what you’re doing, what you’ve accomplished and how you got here.
A better way
An intentional career is one that you create based on your vision. It happens when you take a proactive approach with self reflection and intention. It requires you to dig deep and determine what’s most important to you, what you’re good at and what excites you. An intentional career leads you to a series of rich and meaningful roles and experiences.
The good news is whether you have 5, 10, 15 or more years left in the workforce, you still have time to build a career that gives you purpose and reignites your passion.
What steps can I take?
There are a few simple exercises that will help you lay the foundation for an intentional career.
Assess your experience
List all of your jobs, reflect and answer these questions:
- What did you like and dislike?
- What skills and expertise did you gain?
- What challenges did you face?
- What would’ve made the job better?
- What did you accomplish?
- How did you feel about your colleagues, the leaders, and culture?
- Did you feel proud of the company’s products and services?
Then you can zoom out and draw insights, such as if you’ve been happier at smaller companies or enjoyed scaling processes more than building them from the ground up. You can use this information to identify must-haves and dealbreakers.
Define your career vision
Your career vision or North Star can be an ultimate role you’d like to attain, but for most of us, we don’t know what that is. I encourage people to describe it at a high level because our minds can visualize it and it doesn’t tie our success to a specific title. For example, “I will lead an operations organization that scales growth for a global tech company.”
It can also be something that captures what you do now and what you want to continue to do: “I am a change agent who leads transformation initiatives at Fortune 500 company” or “I empower people to achieve personal and professional happiness and success.”
Write current story and new story
One of the most powerful tools is writing two versions of your story. The first one is your current situation and the second one is your desired situation, which I’m calling your new story.
Start with the current situation and answer these questions:
- What role do you have and at what type of company?
- What do you like and don’t you like about it?
- What is the culture like and are you satisfied with your comp and benefits?
- How do you feel about your job, your manager, your colleagues, the company?
- How do you feel about your overall career, health, relationships, finances and personal growth?
- What are you grateful for?
- What do you feel like you’re lacking or missing?
This helps paint the picture of where you’re currently at and may surface some things
that you weren’t aware of.
Then I want you to write your desired situation — your new story. Describe what it
looks and feels like and how it affects other aspects of your life. Focus on:
- The scope of the role and your core responsibilities
- New opportunities you have
- The type of company
- Your colleagues and manager
- The culture
- The leaders
- Your career, health, relationships, finances and growth
Here’s an example of a new story:
I love my new job! I’m in a leadership position that creates and executes the sales strategy across a global organization. I’m a trusted advisor to executives, my manager, colleagues and team. My company embodies and lives its core values, which are aligned to mine. I have an amazing boss who values my work and supports me. My colleagues are exceptional and are fun to work with.
I’m earning the salary I deserve and have fantastic benefits. I also have a clear career path with opportunities to move within the company. I continuously learn and grow and have many opportunities. I have deepened my sense of fulfillment and happiness.
I have great work life balance. I spend more time working out, reading and traveling. I feel more connected with my partner, family and friends. I have a positive outlook on life and look forward to the future.
Define the most important criteria
By doing all of these exercises, you’ve probably identified the criteria that’s most important to you in a role and company. It’s essential to write them down.
Here are some criteria to consider for your list for the role and company:
- Role: scope, global, visibility, team management, size of team
- Company: size, maturity, funding, industry, B2C/B2B, reputation, products, leadership, core values/culture, benefits
It’s more important to focus on the company than the role. If you select a good company, you’re more likely to be set up for success, receive the support you need and have growth opportunities.
Once you’ve done these steps, you’ll be able to better assess opportunities and ensure they’re aligned to your career vision, new story and criteria. This will significantly increase your chances of landing a dream job — which is simply one you’ll love and thrive in. Most importantly, you’ll be able to do your best work and live your best self!