Many of the conversations I’ve had since the start of the year have focused on people wanting to leave their jobs to do something ‘different’. Particularly at a senior level, going for the next level up (either in their current company or at another) is no longer as attractive as it was earlier in their careers. Equally, taking this as a sign that it’s time to set-up your own company is not necessarily for everyone. Having decided to move on, it can be challenging to know what to do next. Especially if you’ve worked in the same industry for most of your career and you’re not sure how transferable your skills are, or how far away from your current areas of expertise you want to go.
By understanding what would make a meaningful and satisfying difference to your current role, it becomes easier to find specific ways to reduce how much you are tolerating and the corresponding frustration and friction, and to re-establish a sense of purpose, motivation and emotional reward. These then lead to criteria upon which to base a job search and, given hiring is red-hot right now, to evaluate the job opportunities that come your way and ensure the move you make lives up to your expectations.
The first step is always the hardest; below is an approach I've found effective when helping clients to open up new lines of thought and to decide what they really want from their next role.
Your career history, voluntary activities and hobbies provide a rich source of information that goes beyond skills and areas of responsibility. Take some time out to map out a timeline of all the roles you’ve had so far, what attracted you initially to the role, what you valued about it, what you disliked, for how long were you happy/excited in the role, and ultimately why you decided to move on. You will notice some themes that keep cropping up about what gave you high levels of satisfaction and excitement and why, with hindsight, you might have stayed in a role for longer than you would have otherwise because of what you were reluctant to let go. Consider what will be important to have in the next role you take on. You may also wish to consider how this insight affects how you feel about your current role and company, and if that has changed in light of what you have noticed.
The first activity will have helped to identify where you were a few years’ ago and where you are now. The next step is to fast forward to the future. Having considered the role you had 5 years ago: what your role was, the professional relationships you had, how you were measuring success, what you didn’t like, and what ambitions you had and compared it with where you are now, it’s time to look forward to 5 years from now. How would you like to describe your role to colleagues, friends and family, what do you want to have moved away from, what new experiences and relationships do you want to have, what does success and satisfaction mean to you at this moment in the future? Notice what your priorities are and what you want to be different.
Now that you’ve identified what’s important to you, how you prefer to work, and what motivates you, it’s time to consider what will create the sense of purpose and re-ignite the passion for your work that makes the next step clear and actionable. Based on the Japanese concept of Ikigai, by considering in turn what you’re good at, what you’re passionate about, what you can realistically be paid for, and how you can contribute meaningfully to the organisation or community that you serve, you can identify areas of overlap and connection. By building on and refining these points of connection it becomes clearer how they all fit together. At the point where passion, mission, vocation, and profession all intersect is your career purpose.
By actively looking for ways you can bring your sense of purpose into the work you do, developing your experiences and the relationships around you to support your purpose, and by understanding your work-style preferences, you’re on track to find the role that will give you the most satisfaction and sense of fulfilment.