- Take time to consider what you want
Okay, you’re not satisfied with your current position. But do you have a job in mind to replace it? Maybe you do – but it’s perfectly normal to not have one in mind. Sometimes we need a little time to work out what will really make us happy. Better pay? An improved work-life balance? Interesting work?
Or perhaps it’s something less obvious? In his book, Drive, Daniel H. Pink – author, Yale Law School graduate, and former political speechwriter – argues that most professional workers are not driven by the things traditionally thought to be important, like salary and bonuses. Instead, they are sparked by three main motivators: autonomy (being able to do your job in your own way, rather than according to a formula), purpose (a sense of fulfillment and being part of a larger whole), and mastery (having the tools to become increasingly competent and skilled). Is one of those the missing element in your current role?
And when you think about what you want, don’t forget to consider at the same time what you’re prepared to give up to get it. For example, I’d like to become a good surfer: I think it would be wonderful to skim gracefully across the waves, master of my board, and the seas. However, am I prepared to wake up at 5 am every Saturday, drive two hours to the coast and plunge into cold water to practice? Honest answer: No. In other words, it’s easy to come up with a list of things we want, but can we really say we want them until we’ve acknowledged the costs of getting them, and we're ready to pay?
- Try things out before you decide your goals
When I was a young lawyer, I thought I knew which field was for me – I wanted to become a litigator. I imagined myself boldly pacing across the courtroom, delivering knock-out questions, and dropping dramatic bombshells.
Of course, I knew that everything isn’t exactly like on TV. But it wasn’t until I spent some time in my firm’s debt recovery litigation team that I discovered the lead partner there – a litigator of at least a decade’s experience – had only been to court four times in his career. Instead, the job seemed to consist mainly of monitoring a thousand cases from a desk and – for me at least – waking up at 2 am in a panic in case I’d forgotten to mail that letter by the deadline.
I then went on to complete a period in my firm’s private client department, and to my surprise I found myself greatly enjoying it. I’d found property and succession dull at law school, but in practice I loved that the field allowed you to build up real long-term relationships with clients and to play a role at important moments in their lives.
In other words, keep an open mind! You don’t know if you'll like something until you try it out.
- Build up slowly
You know your dream job. So how do you get there? Well, you’re probably going to need some entries on your resumé that show you have the skills, knowledge, and motivation to succeed in the job. You’re also likely to need some well-placed contacts. These two things go together: contacts help you reach the opportunities you need to develop your resumé while pursuing the experiences that will help you improve your skills will involve making further contacts in the process.
In terms of contacts, why not start out with people you already know – perhaps you could reconnect with some old friends or former colleagues? Or, you can access your university’s alumni network?
If you’re missing the skills you need, could you take a short course in a well-picked subject? If you want to get into a field within which your current company operates, is there anyone in your own office with whome you could help out? Perhaps they need some help with part of their work, or organizing a collaboration?
Unfortunately, these things aren’t going to appear overnight. But the good news is that you can build up in these areas slowly and steadily. And with a little patience, you’ll be progressing towards that dream job faster than you think!