Career reflection. Go with your gut!

Late afternoon, Bondi Beach

The start of a new year is often cause for reflection, about life, our career and our current job. A holiday, some time to think: Am I doing what I want to do? Am I happy working where I am? What would I like to do differently? Do I want a complete change?

This is all pretty normal. In fact the early parts of the year is the time that businesses have the most employee turnover and also advertise the most jobs. It makes sense.

But should you change jobs? Is it time to move on and do something different? I have been reflecting about a couple of times in my career when I changed jobs or thought about changing jobs, and how important "gut feel" is when considering a new opportunity. What's this gut feel thing? To me it's that feeling in the pit of your stomach that says "this feels right" or "this doesn't feel right". It's often something you can't quantify or describe. The times when I have noticed this feeling and acted upon it, things have gone well. The times when I noticed the feeling but ignored it or rationalised it away.....disaster!

Example 1
A while ago, when I was working in retail (and I didn't want to work in retail) I auditioned for a production of Chicago, the musical. The group putting on the production had secured some state government funding to tour the production around regional Queensland. I got in and had a small part! So cool. My career in amateur theatre was not over!

Rehearsals started. It was fun, but didn't quite feel right. Things were a little disorganised but I don't think that was it. Hmmm....As the rehearsals continued the less I wanted to be involved. Why? I couldn't put my finger on it. Was I scared to resign my full time job when we went on tour? I don't think that was it. Was I scared to travel around Queensland for a number of months? Nope. 

A few more rehearsals and I left the show. My gut was screaming "don't do it!" Even though I couldn't work out the reasons why. Turned out to be a good decision. The show opened in Ipswich to terrible reviews and then continued up the coast of Queensland. About half way through the planned tour half the cast took control of the mini bus and drove back to Brisbane. The show hadn't improved, one of the producers was a kleptomaniac and was having an affair with the Director, which went sour. It all got very messy. 

It wasn't as fun as performing in a musical, but by staying on in my retail job I gained valuable communication, business and conflict management experience, and made the decision to study Human Resource Management.

Example 2
I had made the decision to leave my current job in HR. I had been with the company for 3 years and was ready for the next step in my career. I applied for a great role with a publicly listed company. I attended two interviews, one with the General Manager of HR and the other with the CEO. I also completed psychometric testing. I was offered the job! Pretty exciting. It's great to be wanted, isn't it?

I resigned my current role but felt sick about it. I couldn't put my finger on it. Rationally it was a good decision. It was a great step in my career, I was joining a newly formed HR team of specialists so I would learn heaps, it paid more money....I felt sick to the core and I ignored the feeling.

Day 1 of any new job can be scary. You don't know anyone or anything but this day 1 was different. It felt completely wrong and that feeling never left me. I tried and tried. I worked long hours. I was stressed and I put on weight. I can't say that awful gut feeling ever left me. I struggled on for 12 months because my pride wouldn't let me have a shorter period on my resume. Bad decision. I should have walked out on day 1 but we had a new mortgage so I limped on. 

On reflection I just didn't fit the culture and I didn't have my "antennae" up, during the recruitment process. Two great lessons learned for me. 
1. Culture fit is really important. Der. 
2. A recruitment process is a two way process. Obviously you want to impress the company you are interviewing with and they want to learn whether you can do the job and fit the company. But you need to learn enough to work out whether you actually want to work there!

Inspire me

Reflections on Woolgoolga Beach
Before you jump in and start applying for jobs, take some time to really work out what you want. Where do you want to take your career next? What do you want to learn? What do you love about your current job? Would you like to do more of that? What don't you enjoy? There are always parts of a job that everyone hates but sometimes you can minimise these parts.  Can you describe the company culture you want to be part of?

Develop me

If you need some extra help have a read of the post here on working out your career purpose and this post here for some extra details!

Just for me

Set some Career goals for 2013, write them down and get working!

Tell me about your career goals for 2013. Is there anything you would like me to write about?
Source: via Julien on Pinterest

Working out your purpose: 3 ways

My last post was all about understanding your "why" or your purpose. Once you can define this and really know  and understand yourself, your career and life choices become much easier.

This is not an easy process and it takes time and reflection. It can be frustrating if you know you are not enjoying where you are at, but don't know how to move forward. I once worked with a lovely colleague, who has now become my friend, even though she lives on the other side of the world. She would often say to me "If only I knew what I wanted to do, then I could work towards that". She is in her fifties and still working it out!I I think its pretty normal to not know your purpose. I received lots of comments about my last post from people who needed help working out their purpose. It seemed to make sense that I should pull together some ways to do this.

You might be fine with the first suggestion below. If you need a little more time and effort to work it out, try the third one.

1. My first suggestion is a good one if you have a fair amount of self awareness already. I have been a participant on leadership programs where I have used this technique. It works well if you take it seriously and take some time out. Find a quiet place and sit with a pen and paper. Writing is a great way to bring clarity to your thoughts. Answer the following questions:
  • How would you describe yourself?
  • When do you feel most alive?
  • What interests you most about yourself?
  • What types of situations do you feel most at ease in?
  • What types of situations do you feel most uncomfortable?
  • What situations stress you?
  • What is your definition of success?
  • What do you love doing in your spare time?
  • What do you do in your current job that you would continue to do, even if you weren't being paid?
You might like to come back to these questions over a few days, or a week. Once you have been able to answer all these questions, review your answers. Can you summarise them? Hopefully this summary will help you understand what you like and don't like, and what your purpose might be.

2. At the Simon Sinek workshop I attended one of the audience asked Simon "How do I work out my why?" and he answered with the following:

Ask this question from some of your good friends, who you respect: "Why do you like being my friend?" Your friends will sqirm and try not to answer. Keep at it. They will say things like "I don't are nice....we hang out are funny.....(it's a bit like asking your partner why they love you!) Keep at it! Keep asking. Eventually they will start saying things like "I like myself more when I'm with you" or "You inspire me". This is the good stuff! Ask some more questions like "Tell me more about that" or "How do I inspire you?"

Simon has some great online tools which you can fine here.

3. Sometimes you find great books at the airport. I was recently in Changhi airport in Singapore, waiting for my flight home to Sydney and came across this book Business Model You: A One-Page Method for Reinventing Your Career. It's a comprehensive way to work out who you are and what your career purpose is and it helps you put actions in place to make change. It's well written and thoughtfully set out with great graphics. It includes real life examples of how people have used the Personal Business Model, which is my favourite part of the book. If you are really struggling to work out your purpose you could work through this book over a number of weeks or even months and I think you would have your purpose clearly defined, as well as being inspired by the people featured in the book. There is also a great website that supports the book.
        Business Model You

Inspire me

David Kelley discovered his purpose while sick with a potentially fatal illness. I'm not suggesting you get sick to find your purpose but it often seems this is a catalyst for many people to work out very quickly what matters and what makes them happy. In a TED talk David reveals here that everyone has creativity and that you just need to build confidence to use it.

Develop me

Do you know your purpose? Well what are you waiting for!? Larry Smith knows all the excuses as to why you will fail to have a great career.

Just for me

Two Lists You Should Look at Every Morning is a Harvard Business Review blog post about staying focused in a world of distractions and the two lists are easy to implement.