The summer holiday is a chance to relax and recharge your batteries. But it can also be an opportunity to sit back (perhaps on the sun lounger) and spend some time taking stock of your career, ambitions and direction. But “where am I going in my career?” can seem like a huge, intimidating question. So here are six ways to break down the career “self-audit” into more manageable chunks.
Separate your job from your career
The great thing about time away from work, whether over the summer or at Christmas (the other most common time for people to think about these things), is it gives you space to consider long-term goals and direction, as well as potentially discuss things in a relaxed environment with your nearest and dearest.
If you’re having this conversation, it’s fair to assume it’ll have been sparked by an element of disquiet or disgruntlement about something in your current job or role.
But if you’re unhappy with where you are, before you rush to the assumption that the answer must be to jack it all in and start out on a something new – which is a major step – you need to draw breath and pause.
This is because, more often than not, the reality is all you need is a new job or even just a new role within your organisation, both of which are likely to be much easier to achieve than a wholesale change of career.
So is it that you feel like a fish out of water in your organisation and have a deep desire to be doing something else? Or is it there are bits of what you do you don’t enjoy or skills you have that you don’t feel are being fully used? If it’s the former it may well be that a change of career is what’s needed. If it’s the latter it’s likely to be more about your job and role.
Don’t forget the good bits
Within any internal debate about job versus career, it’s important not to overlook the parts of your existing role that you, in fact, enjoy but which it’s all too easy to forget about when you’re focused on all the stuff wrong with your career. So recognising that, say, you enjoy not having a hugely long commute, get a buzz from being part of a team or like getting stuck into (and seeing finished) the occasional big project can help in articulating what it is you want to be doing more of going forward.
Think “how do I want to work?” rather than “what do I want to do?”
This can be a very helpful way to break down the “what do I want to be when I grow up” question we often carry through much of our working lives. Rather than thinking about specific types of career or job, think about ways in which you’d enjoy working.
So, it might be you know you want to work outside, with your hands, for yourself, with people, at home and so on. Understanding this about yourself can in turn help focus your thinking about what it is you’d rather be doing with your working day.
Give your imagination free rein (for now)
Day-to-day realities and constraints inevitably have to intrude upon any debate you may be having about a new career or change in direction. Can you, in reality, afford to give up what you do and start out afresh? How much is retraining going to cost? How will it affect any family or dependents? How much time can you realistically allow yourself to achieve your goals?
But that’s no reason, at least at the start of any internal dialogue, not to allow your imagination to run free and consider all and every option or ambition you may have, however far-fetched it may seem.
Changing career can take time and considerable effort (not to mention expense), so you’re unlikely to be able to do it that often during your working life. In which case it makes sense not to rule out your wildest ambitions, at least not straight away. You may well conclude that, in fact, they are too wild to be achievable but at least give them proper consideration before you discount and move on.
Think about your skills
It’s natural to conclude that, to change direction, you’re going to need a whole lot of new skills. This may well be the case, especially if the career you have in mind has specific training needs, but don’t discount the technical, corporate or life skills you have built up along the way. It may be many of them remain relevant (though perhaps not as centrally relevant) and can help you to make the transition from A to B. Thinking about your skills – and the skills you enjoy to use or feel you don’t have but could do with – can also help when it comes to deciding on the sort of role or direction you’d like to pursue in future.
Set some deadlines
It’s great to spend time on holiday mentally wrestling with these life challenges. But if you’re going to make things change when you come back you’ll need to set some deadlines and timeframes.
It might be, say, having taken one practical step by Christmas or achieving x, y and z by this time next year. Whatever you do, outlining specific, timed goals can help to focus the mind as well as break down what can seem like a scarily long “project” into much more manageable steps.