I could not have asked for two better articles to write about. The first one from Fast Company really ties in to some other projects I am working on that are focused on helping people identify their next step. It is a challenge to relaunch ourselves but it can be so worth it. We are constantly changing and gone are the days when you joined a company and stayed with them for your whole career - for better or worse, we rarely will find a place where we can stay for 30+ years. And really, this might be a good thing.
When I left Merrill Lynch in 2000 for an opportunity at a dot-com back in early 2000 (yes, if this was a movie, you would all be yelling, "Don't go to the dot-com! The bubble will burst!" but it is not a movie, so I did it) -- anyway, when I left, everyone was shocked and asked me "How can you leave Mother Merrill?" The company was considered to be like a mother because people grew up there and spent huge chunks of their career there. Just a few years later and the company as I knew it did not exist anymore - in large part due to the financial crisis of 2007 but also just the idea of having one employer for your whole career just disappeared, in general.
So, identifying your next step if you are unhappy in your current career or just cannot make your current career work for you can be done but it takes time and work. Timothy Butler's (author of Getting Unstuck: A Guide to Discovering Your Next Career Path; link below) thoughts on making that next step when you feel stuck and unhappy in your career are highlighted by Jane Porter. It is important to know your skills and what makes you happy - and again, this changes over time. What made you fulfilled in your 20's might not work for you in your 40's. Your skills, though, have been shaped over the years and honed by you - know how to retool those skills and make them apply to your next step. Also, having a vision is helpful - making a vision board sounds hokey but it can really work. So asking yourself such questions as:
-what are the pieces of your current industry/career that make you happy
-what are you good at
-what do you want to learn to be good at
-what makes you happiest
can help you identify what to do next.
Then, networking based on that vision can help you further identify and then find your next step. All great pieces of advice, especially the one to silence your inner critic. We can all be our own worst enemy - when you internal voice is saying "No, you are not good enough..." or anything negative, force yourself to re-frame it as a positive thought.
The excerpt in Fortune of the book Leap: Leaving a Job with No Plan B to Find the Life and Career You Really Want by Tess Vigeland (link also below) is so powerful. So much of our identity is tied into what we do for a living. It is one of the first questions you are asked when you first meet someone. Tess has powerful thoughts and is brutally honest about having had the perks of being able to say "Oh, I am a successful XYZ person" and then when in the midst of change, not having that descriptor anymore can be brutal. I think we all know how this can feel. Her book looks interesting, so I am including the link to it here. She focuses now on trying to ask other questions or people instead of "what do you do?" and she has a good point on not letting our jobs or careers define us. I have a soft spot for that line of thinking - but that being said, we spend so much time on our careers particularly here in the US that what we do will always be a defining characteristic for us. My friends in Europe, though, have a totally different perspective. To them, they work to live not live to work and their identities are not at all tied into what "pays the bills" but what their passions are - golf, being in a band, following live music bands, etc, etc.
What do you think about the advice on finding your next step? What do you think about leaping without having a next step planned? How do you define yourself? What career advice works for you out of the above? Have you read either book posted below? What did you think of the books? If you have not read either of them, check out the links to the Amazon listing below. Happy Hunting!
Fast Company How to Change Careers When You Don't Know What You Want to Do Next
Fortune Tess Vigeland on why you are not your job (even if you are famous)
Lisa Vento Nielsen