After 5 and ½ years at the same company I decided to change careers. This was not something that happened overnight, but was a process and exercise that ran over the course of many months. While it’s still very early, I feel confident and excited about the transition.
Over the past few weeks, friends and colleagues have reached out as they too are thinking about transitions. As a career coach who works with professionals who are undertaking their own job transitions, the process gave me a chance to practice what I had been preaching, and I wanted to share what and how I did it.
I realized I had done what I wanted to do
First, I realized I had gotten enough experience as a consultant.
When I first joined my company out of college, my goal was to learn and get as many experiences and skills that would help me be successful for a long career. After 5.5 years, I realized I had done enough, and felt comfortable walking away knowing that I had gotten what I wanted out of the experience.
To get there, I took a pen and paper and wrote down all the things I had worked on over the years. It made me appreciate what my company had given me but also showed me that while there is always more to learn there really wasn’t much left on my “Must Do” list. This gave me the confidence that it was the right time to start searching for my next gig.
I looked at the path in front of me, and realized I wanted something different
A piece of advice I was given early on in my career was if you want to how long to stay here, look at the person 1 or 2 levels above you and ask yourself if you would want their job and their life?
I did this exercise, and realized the answer was “No.”
Advancing as a consultant and eventually becoming Partner at a consulting firm is a fantastic career, but it was for someone else, not for me. I realized after asking myself this question and talking to individuals in those roles that while their aspirations and goals aligned to those roles, mine didn’t.
I reflected on critical questions, and developed my “future state job description”
Once I realized I was ready for a change, I started my journey with a self-reflection process to find answers to some critical questions. The key questions I wanted to answer were:
- What are my personal and professional priorities?
- What are my strengths and unique skills, and how do I want to use them in my next job?
- Where do I do my best work, and what are the critical characteristics of a job that I need to do my best work work?
- Who are the types of people I want to work with, and what are the characteristics of these people?
- How will my job and career fit within my vision and goals for my life?
I’ll admit, some of these are deep cuts when it comes to questions. They are not necessarily questions that one might ponder on a day-to-day basis, but they were important to me in getting clear on what I wanted out of my job and my career.
The goal here is not to copy my questions, but to find ones of your own that when you answer and reflect on them, will give you some clarity and ideas.
The good news is that while this did come from reflection I also got a bit of help from my friends and colleagues. In addition to answering questions on my own, I reached out to friends, colleagues, and peers from all walks of life and had them answer a 360 degree survey feedback to get objective feedback of what others thought of my strengths as well as their ideas on my career outcomes. This was an incredibly valuable exercise that gave me feedback that I used to pressure test my own views of my strengths. It also gave me ideas about what types of jobs or roles might be a good fit.
Lastly, I began to craft my future state job description. This was similar to any job description, but in my own aspirational mindset. The future state job description included aspects I discovered out of looking at my strengths and obtaining feedback from peers, and was something I used later on when I started evaluating job opportunities.
I got clear on my priorities, personally and professionally
One of the reasons that initially prompted me to leave was because I felt like my priorities were not necessarily aligned to how I was spending my time. It was a hypothesis, but to know for sure, I actually went ahead and laid out my priorities.
Professionally, it meant things like:
- A company whose mission and values aligned with my mission and values
- A function/role that leveraged my strengths and expertise
- A manager who I respected first as a person, and who had a track record of developing her employees
- Colleagues who were supportive, hard-working, and inclusive
Personally, it meant:
- Time and resources to invest in my health, wellness and well-being
- Time to invest in my personal relationships
- Work-life balance that would allow me to spend time with friends and family
- Flexibility arrangements so I could fly back or work remotely from the east coast
As I progressed further in the process, I began evaluating potential jobs against these values to see where there was and wasn’t fit.
I removed the fear of finding the “perfect job”
I turned 30 last week, which means unless I win the lottery, I’m going to be working for awhile. This isn’t going to be my last job, so even if it’s not perfect, or even if it doesn’t turn out how I want it, I’ll be looking for a new one in the future anyway!
Yes, I still wanted a good job, and wasn’t going to take any random one, but I felt as long as it hit what I thought my priorities and values were I would be fine. This took the pressure off of trying to find the perfect one.
During the process, I made sure I did the dirty work
I trusted the process and did the dirty work to make sure I ended up in a job that I wanted. This meant identifying and researching companies and roles that I might be interested in.
It meant setting up conversations with people who worked at companies that I was interested in, or asking people in my network for favors to make connections.
It meant prepping for each interview by reading articles, analyst reports, or the social media feeds of people I was interviewing with, and figuring out how to sound like the best version of myself every single time I talked with an employee.
I developed a process, or playbook for how I wanted to approach every company I interviewed at, and did my best to execute against it. You can’t replace hustle, but making sure you are hustling for the right things is critical.
I built a team to lean on
For most of my professional career, I’ve prided myself on being someone that others could count on and go to for advice. In the job search, I had to rely on others, a lot.
Over the years, I’ve spent time building my network, and investing in relationships. I am a big fan of the book Give and Take, and I aspire to be a Giver. I was humbled by the support from those who I reached out to throughout this process.
Whether it was classmates from undergrad or business school who went out of their way to follow up recruiters. Former colleagues who reached out to hiring managers to pound the table for my candidacy, or my roommate, who would patiently listen and play psychologist as I blabbed or complained about the search while we watched football and ate ice cream, or my family who would always pick up the phone no matter the time of day, the support I got when I leaned on others was both humbling and inspiring. I wouldn’t have gotten here without this team.
Upon finding my next job, the months of reflection, research, interviewing and navigating through the highs and lows gave me a greater appreciation for the feelings and emotions that many of my clients have shared with me over the years. During the process, there were moments of frustration, doubt, or fear, but landing in a job that I feel aligns with my both my personal and professional interests gives me a sense of excitement and confidence about the direction of my career, and made the effort and work that I put in over the past few months meaningful and worthwhile.