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The First Step to Finding a New Job

One of the most common things I hear when clients are seeking a career change is either, ‘I don’t even know what I’m good at’ or ‘I don’t even know what I want to do’.

The idea of not knowing yourself might sound strange, but it’s surprisingly common, and something that I’ve also experienced first-hand.

You might ask how it’s even possible for someone to experience this level of confusion of the self. The answer usually lies in the job or environment in which we’re in at that moment, which is typically at odds with ourselves, and hence the desire for a career change in the first place.

So what is it about being in the wrong job that can cause us to become so lost?

What we do is so important to how we perceive ourselves, and over time, we can struggle to separate ourselves from the job we want to move on from. As we focus on the job at hand and become entangled in that environment, we simply lose sight of our intrinsic values, strengths, skills and motivators; our identities have essentially become blurred as our job has altered how we (and others) see ourselves.

Once we start down this path, it can be a slippery slope, where we slowly lose more and more clarity of thought over who we are, what we offer and what motivates us.

Start with you

This is why if you’re seeking a career change, it’s vital to start with the self. When you’re deeply unhappy in a role, it can be tempting to leave in a rush and hurry to a new job – surely it can only be an improvement?

Well, not exactly. If you haven’t taken the time to properly understand yourself and gauge what you really want from your next role, things can get even worse. Once the initial settling-in period is over and the novelty has worn off, the same issues can crop up and we can start to feel even further away from where we want to be.

So, if you’re reading this and desperate to move on from where you are now – here are five questions I recommend answering first. For each question, I provide guidance to help you find the answers and to help you get clarity over who you are, what you offer and where you want to go, before you start exploring career options:

1. What’s most important to me?

Understanding what you value most in your life is an absolutely critical part of the jigsaw in finding your direction. You’ll need to be honouring your most important values in order to be happy and fulfilled in your work. We all have them, but are generally unconscious of what they are.

One way to establish them is to start by listing your top ten interests or things that you enjoy doing and ask yourself in turn: ‘why do I enjoy this?’ The reasons will need to be specific – so ‘fun’ won’t be sufficient as an answer. You’ll need to define ‘fun’ as what it means to you – and you’ll also need to consider how this makes you feel.

Once you’ve identified your reasons, try looking for themes and see if you can narrow this list down to four of five key values. And with this list, ask yourself if this appears to be an authentic analysis. If it is, try comparing this list to what you are currently experiencing at work. It’s likely that you’ll begin to see the gaps appear – and this is the kind of insight you’ll need to make your next step in the right direction.

2. What are my strengths?

It’s important that your analysis is not only objective, but encompasses your range of skills, personality traits, areas of knowledge and communication style. As outlined at the start of this post, it’s easy to get confused because we typically try to evaluate ourselves within the context of our current job. But you are so much more than that!

One way of shifting perspective is to ask five people from across your circle of friends, family members or current / former colleagues what they think your top three strengths are. This is a lovely exercise that can not only help you gain perspective of your whole self, but also boost your confidence – particularly when you get some overlap in answers.

To assess your range of knowledge, think about all of the things you know about, not just the stuff you do at work. When it comes to assessing the innate strengths of your personality that your friends and family haven’t covered, there are some free personality tests out there that can also be fairly good indicators of your innate strengths. Better still, get your own DISC personality report and analysis. I offer a one-off session for DISC Profiling - if this is something that might help you, please get in touch directly for more information.

3. What motivates me?

Is it earnings potential, team work or intellectual challenge? Is it recognition, leadership or variety?

There are likely to be a few things that motivate you in the long-term, so as a first step it’s important to acknowledge what they are – a list of up to five elements is usually quite common. However, it’s also essential to be able to establish what’s most important out of this shortlist. This can change over time, so it’s important to be honest with where you’re at right now.

If money happens to be your number one, it’s good to understand what you would select instead if it wasn’t a factor. The reason for this is that money is very rarely a long-term motivator and is often the reason why people can become less happy after moving jobs primarily for an increase in salary.

4. What environment do I want to work in?

In order to answer this question, it’s important to have first answered the question on your strengths, motivators and values. The answers to these questions will very much influence the kind of environment in which you will excel in and that which will automatically be more challenging.

The key to answering this question is to be really honest with yourself and to get really, really specific. Think about everything from size and type of organisation, level of pressure in the job, amount of travel required, through to who you’d be working with, what skills you’d be using and who you’d be producing something or delivering a service to.

5. What do I want to contribute in my life?

As Stephen Covey states as being the second habit of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: begin with the end in mind.

If you don’t have a vision for what you want to achieve in your life, how can you know where to start? As a coach I help individuals set achievable goals for themselves, but the crucial element for getting started in the first place is to know where that goal will ultimately lead them. So instead of thinking short-term around what you’ll be doing in the next year, ask yourself how you’d like to be remembered. What impact do you want to have on others in the world?

Understanding your life’s purpose can feel very powerful and will ultimately serve as a north star through each chapter of your life and career.

If you're interested in learning more about how to make career change, please get in touch with me directly by scheduling a free consultation.

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