How happy can you be if your job makes you miserable? Millions of people go to work every day dreading the next 8 hours. This doesn't have to be you! Believe it or not, it's possible to enjoy your job and to get paid for it.
Starting the Transition
- Try to stay at your current job while beginning the search for a new job. The search for a new job can take quite a while — by some measures, one month for each $10k in expected salary. If you're looking for a well-paying job, that's a lot of time to be out of work. If your job is truly horrendous and you can't take it anymore, consider quitting. Otherwise, try to stick it out. Your wallet will thank you, as will your future employer: It's easier to get a job if you already have a job, as you're considered "employable."
- Make sure the grass isn't dead. You know the saying: "The grass is always greener on the other side." A lot of people dislike their jobs for good reason, but some believe the grass is always greener on the other side, and get a rude awakening when they switch jobs, only to find their situation worse on the other side.
- It's extremely tough to gauge whether your future job could be worse than your current one. The fact that you want to switch jobs should tip you off that you're unhappy; just make sure you're unhappy for good reason, not some unrealistic expectation of what the work world is like.
- Start thinking about what kind of job you'd like to switch to. Are you merely switching jobs within the same sector, or are you switching careers? There's a pretty big difference. Switching jobs in the same industry doesn't require nearly as much planning and legwork as switching careers.
- Imagine what you'd do if you had all the money in the world. What would you spend your time doing? Would you spend your time traveling and writing about the experience? Would you spend your days cooking? A lot of our most enjoyable pursuits don't pay as well as the "lucrative" ones, but if you're truly good at what you love to do, you probably stand to make a good deal of money and have fun doing it at the same time.
- Recall your most enjoyable accomplishments and experiences, especially those that are deeply felt and emotionally fulfilling. What are you good at doing? Many people find that they enjoy doing the things they're naturally good at.
- Start keeping a career journal or diary. It may sound cheesy, but a journal is a pursuit that will force you to collect your thoughts and start to be honest about your feelings and aspirations (which is a tough thing to do). Use your journal to collect all your positive thoughts, insights, and leads that you gather over the course of your job search.
- Stoke your natural curiosity. Be Curious. There are several reasons why it pays to be curious. For one, the curious person is usually a learning person, and employers are looking for candidates who are eager, not just willing, to learn on the job. Second, the curious person is more likely to find a better job fit for him- or herself by asking "why?"
- Ask yourself why you like what you do. Begin to probe. Perhaps you're passionate about sprinting, for example, but don't excel at it. If you tried to become a sprinter, you probably wouldn't succeed. But if you realized that you loved the physiology behind sprinting, you might choose to become a sports doctor. The curious person constantly tries to understand more about the both the world and themselves, making the job/career switch easier.
- Decide whether to tell your boss that you'll be looking for a new job. This is one of those really tough decisions that crops up as you switch jobs. There are advantages and disadvantages to telling your boss. Ultimately, it'll be up to you to make an informed decision about what's best to do in your case:
- Advantages: You could get a counter-offer to stay which would make your job more bearable, although not necessarily more meaningful; you give your boss ample time to find a replacement; you leave your current company not having burned bridges and having been honest about your feelings.
- Disadvantages: You could not get a job offer for several months, leaving you in a "transitional" period permanently; your boss may think you're simply angling for a pay bump; your boss may begin to distrust your work and make you feel less relevant as time goes on.
Pounding the Pavement
- Sort out all the personal documents you need to start applying to different jobs. Get all the administrivia out of the way pretty early on. Touch up your resume or spruce up your CV. Bone up on how to write a cover letter if you need to. Begin diplomatically soliciting letters of recommendation from people who know you well and are positively disposed to saying something nice about you. Other things to think about:
- Start networking. Networking is probably the single most important step in your new job search. That's because referrals and personal connections (and, let's face it, nepotism) make up the bulk of how people land jobs these days. Why? Referred candidates tend to perform better than random hires and stay on the job longer. So the next time you drag yourself to a networking event when you know you could be sitting at home in your PJs eating ice cream, tell yourself it's for your new, unrealized job.
- Remember that people hire people, not resumes. Making an impression in a face to face human exchange is extremely important. People hire people that they like, not necessarily those with the best resume or even qualifications.
- Networking can seem pretty daunting, especially for introverts. The most important things to remember are that the other person is probably nervous, too, and that no one thinks about you as much as you think about yourself. If you mess up, no biggie; just brush it off! They're probably thinking about themselves, not about you.
- Identify and speak to people who do what you think you'd like to do. Say you want to switch jobs and become a parole officer, for example. Well, try to find someone (a friend of a friend will do) who's a parole officer and ask them out to lunch for an informational interview. It might even be a good idea to talk to a warden and ask them the qualities of a good parole officer, for example. More often that you might guess, informational interviews lead directly or indirectly to job offers.
- During your informational interview, ask them questions about their personal career path and their current job:
- How did you find the job?
- What did you do before you were a [occupation]?
- What's the most satisfying part of your job? The least?
- What's a typical day look like for you?
- What's your advice for someone trying to break into the field?
- During your informational interview, ask them questions about their personal career path and their current job:
- Establish personal relationships with companies or organizations you determine you'd like to work for. It's not called "pounding the pavement" for nothing. Going in to companies in person and asking to speak to HR about job openings isn't as high success as networking or getting a referral, but it's higher success than blindly stabbing in the dark with online applications. Here's what you do:
- Reach out to HR directly and describe your experience or your desired job. Market yourself — briefly. Then ask: "Are there any positions open that might align with my skills and expertise?" Prepare to leave your contact info and/or a resume or CV with the HR department.
- Don't be discouraged if HR effectively says no. Ask if you can be updated if/when a position comes up and leave your contact info. If you're still interested in the organization after a month or two, follow up with HR and show renewed interest. Not a lot of people do this, and it shows real courage and persistence — two great traits to have.
- Apply to different jobs online. Applying to different jobs online via jobs bulletins is impersonal and easy, which explains why so many people do it. It's fine if you apply to jobs online, but you should probably couple your online search with more personal interactions to up your chances of success. The goal is to distinguish yourself from the herd, not blend in!
- Volunteer, if necessary, to try out a job or career on for size. If you're not finding much luck searching for leads, volunteer in your free time for a position you care about. It doesn't have to be long hours, but it should be something that exposes you to the real meat of the job. Volunteering looks great on resumes and occasionally turns into a paid position.
Finalizing the Transition
- Practice job interviewing before the real deal. You can practice with a friend or mentor, or simply try to secure as many interviews as possible and learn as you go. Getting a few practice interviews in is really good practice; you'll be surprised how good the mileage is when it comes time to ace your interview.
- Ace the interview. Whether it's a group interview, Ace Telephone Interviews, behavioral interview, or something in between, interviews can be daunting because we're asked to distill our personalities and skills into bite-size sound bytes while appearing relaxed and personable all the while. Few things in life can seem as difficult as your first job interview. Here are a couple pointers to remember as you get ready to jump into the world of interviewing again:
- Just like networking, the person interviewing you is probably nervous as well. They want to make a good impression, too. They want you to think favorably of their company. The stakes might not be as high for them, but don't for a second think that being in the driver's seat for an interview is a piece of cake. Part of their performance is going to be judged on the merit of the candidates that they bring in.
- Pay attention to your body language during the interview. If you get an interview, it means there's something about you that the potential employer thinks might fit in their system. That's great. And while you can't change your skills and your expertise mid-stride in the interview, you can change how you present yourself. Look the interviewer in the eye; remember to smile; work on your handshake; be polite and err on the side of modesty without being totally abnegating.
- Keep your interview answers succinct. When you're under the heat of the microscope, time starts to dilate, and a lot of people feel like they're not talking enough when in fact they're talking too much. Pause after you feel like you've incisively addressed the question. If the interviewer maintains eye contact without speaking, that's probably a cue that they expect further elaboration; if the interviewer launches into the next question, you've kept your answer at a good length.
- Keep a positive attitude during and after the interview. There will be interviews that you bomb — that's just a fact of life. Don't get down on yourself for a poor interview. Instead, learn from your mistakes and apply those lessons to future interviews. During the interview, especially, don't let negativity affect your approach. Many people think they do much worse than they come off.
- Follow up with all the interviewers — job and informational — you sit down with. Show continued interest in the people you've talked with. After your interview, shoot off a quick email saying how pleasant it was to meet the person. If you didn't clarify how long you were expected to wait during the interview, clarify now.
- People respond to other people, not necessarily to paper. Making sure you treat the interviewer like a person, first and foremost, will go a long way toward cementing your eligibility as a top candidate.
- When you get your job offer, negotiate a salary and benefits. A lot of applicants are a little meek when it comes to negotiating their salary because they're just happy they have jobs. Believe in your self worth, and translate that faith to your financial worth. Research the starting salaries of similarly-experienced candidates in similar fields and geographic regions. Then, when it comes to naming a number, name a specific figure like $62,925 instead of merely saying $60k — it will make you appear like you've really done your homework.
- Don't submit your letter of resignation until you've landed a job you know you're going to take. Wait until you've got an offer in writing before you go to your current — soon to be ex — boss and let him or her know that you'll be leaving. Try to schedule the start of your new job so that you give your old company at least two weeks to find a replacement. Any less time and your old company will be manically struggling to find a replacement, making them feel resentful towards you. Any more time and you'll begin to feel like a lost ducky who's overstaying their welcome and becoming increasingly irrelevant.
- Transition from one job to the next without burning any bridges. It's hard to stay focused or mask your enmity for some employees when you know you're going to leaving soon. Dig in. Here are some things that you should remember while you're waiting out your final two weeks at your old job:
- Don't pack your bags before you've left. Don't check out. Stay focused during your last days on the job. Instill trust in your manager that you're fully present and committed to doing your work for as long as you stay at the company.
- Don't speak out publicly against any of your old bosses or colleagues. This kind of public guillotining gets around and doesn't exactly keep relations tight with your old employer or reassure your new one.
- Say goodbye to your old colleagues. Shoot out an email blast to everyone (if you're leaving a small company) or those people you've worked with (if it's a larger company) letting them know you're moving on. Keep it quick and simple — no need to elaborate on why. Then write personal notes to select individuals you established a really good working relationship with. Let them know how grateful you are to have worked with them.
- Settle in to your new job! When it's time, change jobs or careers until you find the right one, the best one, the inevitable one, the one that engages you in “work that’s a worthy expression of who you are.” Then make it your own.
- You can interrupt a self-defeating strategy by naming it, and then revising it and energizing yourself, as you concentrate on your career assets. You can discipline your mind to focus on those positive thoughts that enhance and reinforce your assets. Without denying reality, you can affirm your personal assets, such as transferable skills, and you can repeat these affirmations as often as necessary. You can also learn from the career circumstances of others, and how they coped, muddled through, or triumphed.
- Many of the self-defeating career strategies listed below are alterable. You can do damage control by reminding yourself of your career transition assets. You can check off the mistakes on this list that remind you of your own thought patterns, create your own list, and label your own mistakes. You can "objectify" your transition strategies by frequent reference to this list...and by reality checks. You can change faulty thinking and re-interpret events.
- In your diary/journal, keep track of all conversations, idea-associations, leads, and available sources of information from these information-gathering interviews, and public and private leads.
- Train your mind, re-wire your brain, transform yourself.
- Don’t expect people you know (those most likely to want to help you) to know enough about ‘what you think you might want to do’ to help you. Studies show that you are most likely to locate appropriate information beyond your ‘inner circle’ of contacts, that is, separated from you by two or more ‘degrees of separation’.
- Don't stay where you are for fear of failing elsewhere.
- Don't believe you'll be hired to do something only for which you have been formally trained.
- Don't take every thing personally -- which makes you angry, guilty, or depressed.
- Don't come to conclusions prematurely, without reflection ("chicken little syndrome")
- Don't believe that success in one area automatically translates to success in every area, without the need for the same effort that led to the first success.
- Don't allow negative prophecies and despondency (the "nocebo" effect, the negative counterpart of the placebo) to overwhelm your career decisions
- Don't focus on what you should have done in the past to the exclaim of what you can do in the future ("shoulda, woulda, coulda")
- Don't expect your work life to bring you complete personal fulfillment.
- Don't aspire to be perfect in all things, especially when you set your standards unattainably high.
- Don't decide you must earn the same money, or maintain the same level of status, responsibility, or prestige in your next career or job.
- Don't get another degree when it isn't a requirement for work you'd like to do.
- Don't defer decisions until you are fired or burned out.
- Don't hope to fall into something by being a generalist.
- Don't wait, especially for opportunities to fall into your lap.
- Don't compare yourself to others and accepting a negative and discouraging contrast (who can walk in the seven-league boots of genius?)
- Don't respond "yes--but" to every positive thought, intention, or bit of good advice; dreaming up improbable rationales to excuse obvious negatives.
- Don't assume, without debate or doubt, what you imagine your critics say about you is true without bothering to determine its validity.
- Don't hold onto an irrational belief that you owe a lifestyle commitment to your current employer or career, to your next job or career, or to a sizable investment in your expertise (which can be a form of habituation or 'addiction').
- Don't imagine that you can read other people's minds without supporting evidence and corroboration.
- Don't worry about what you can't change instead of coping with what you can.
- Don't work at changing your job or career when you are unhappy only.
- Don't keep your feelings of dissatisfaction to yourself, or dumping them on your family, friends, or in angry correspondence.
- Don't burn your bridges behind you; always be able to go back to where you came from.
- Don't intellectualize about where to go and how to get there.
- Don't postpone gratification in your work.
- Do not try to convert an information-gathering interview into a job interview.
Sources and Citations