If you find yourself in this situation, know that it’s a pretty common phenomena and you have lots of company. In fact, it’s on my list of FAQs; the question goes something like this:
Question: “What do I do? . . . I don’t know what I want to do. I’ve recently lost my job and need to find a new one. But I don’t want to do what I’ve been doing - I actually hated my job and was thinking about leaving anyway. But, what do I do now?”
Answer: Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water
My short answer is this: “Not so fast. As you begin to think about finding a new job – because you feel you need one as soon as possible – slow down. While you may think you hated everything about your previous job and want to do something entirely different, that may not be the case at all. So, don’t throw out the baby with the bath water! ”
First, let’s take a look at how the situation occurs. When a job loss occurs, many job seekers I’ve worked with over the years decide this is the time to explore doing new and different things. They recall forgotten dreams of “what I used to want to do” and begin to think about exploring those forgotten career desires.
However, what actually happens in the vast majority of cases is that the job seeker finds and hires on to a job doing pretty much what they did in their recent position(s). Why?
1. For one thing, it’s the path of least resistance.
2. For another, hiring practices come into play.
When a company is looking for a candidate to fill a position, it is their goal to find the best fit possible. Makes sense. If a firm can find a candidate who meets close to 100% of their requirements, including being able to show good results or achievements, they’re hired. Look at it from the company’s point of view: Why take a chance and hire a job seeker who meets 60% or 70% of the requirements when they can hire a perfect fit.
The result is that it’s hard to break into a new field once have you have experience and a track record in another field. So, much as job seekers may want to branch out into something new and different, after searching for a while, most decide to continue doing what they’ve been doing . . . more or less.
However, a few succeed in using this opportunity to make a real career change.
- A new career: Some job seekers – a few but not the majority – successfully transition into a new career as in the illustration below.
- Challenge: A client I worked with was an electrical engineer (E.E.). After learning that his job was to be eliminated, he did some soul searching and decided he did not want to continue to work in this field. His soul searching also uncovered the fact that he “never wanted to be an engineer;” his Dad had been an E.E. and he was expected to follow in the same path . . . which he had done.
- Solution: My client did some deep thinking about what he “liked” to do and where he spent his time when not “engineering” things. He discovered that what he spent all his free time on was refinishing and refurbishing antiques, as well as making reproductions of antiques. He’d been doing it for years. He did a lot of homework and established a small and successful antiques business.
- A career change within the same field: Far more who are successful at making a change do so by (1) staying in their field but (2) by changing what they do within their field, as illustrated by the example below.
- Challenge: A client I worked with was both a successful proposal manager (and degreed E.E.). After 20+ years of managing proposals, and missing holidays, family birthdays, Christmas, and vacations due to proposal deadlines, she’d had enough. When her position was eliminated due to a downsizing, she also did some soul searching. Her decision was to stay in the field she loved, but to pursue a new direction in the field as a trainer of software process certification.
- Solution: My client did some research, including attending a training
course by the foremost trainer at the time on this topic while she was
unemployed. It was a steep price tag, but she cleverly contacted the
trainer and asked if she could assist with the logistics of the course
in exchange for tuition. To her surprise, he agreed!
She learned from her course and additional research the requirements of the new field. She looked into her own background and identified the skills, knowledge, and duties that met the requirements of a software certification trainer. These are called “transferable skills.” The rest is history. She found a position and still works in the field.
Are you in this situation?
If you find yourself in this situation of needing to find a new job to replace a job which you hated, know that:
- First, you are not alone. You have lots of company. Many employees find themselves in the situation of strongly disliking their job, needing to find a new one due to choice or circumstance, but feeling locked into doing that same type of job or work because they “don’t know how to do anything else.”
- Second, recognize that there may be multiple solutions so that you are not condemned to a future of (1) doing a job you hate or (2) staying unemployed. You just have to find them!
|Don't make this mistake|
But, what else do you do?
The other half of the equation for finding work that you DO WANT TO DO and that makes you look forward to going to work – most of the time – is to recall the many things you’ve done during your career and life that did make you happy. Then, do some critical thinking about what you enjoyed, and why. It’ll take some work, but the outcome is worth it.
How to make a successful career change
Here's an exercise to identify what you do want to do, and prevent you from “jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.” Follow these steps:
Step 1: On a sheet of paper, draw a “T” chart. Label one side of the chart “Dislikes” and the other side “Likes.”
Step 2: On the side labeled “Dislikes,” list things you KNOW you don’t want to do.
- Jot down why you found performing these jobs, job duties, or tasks (from all walks of life such as hobbies, chores, volunteer activities, etc.) distasteful, unrewarding, and problematic.
- Analyze the task or duty. Ask yourself:
- Was it the entire task or duty that you disliked, or only certain aspects of it?
- Did you enjoy and have success performing the task or duty for another employer, as a volunteer, in a hobby, etc. Again ask why?
- Watch your language, as a parent would admonish. Language is powerful. As you think through “dislikes,” ask yourself how you honestly felt about it: Did you actually “hate” doing the task, or did you just “dislike” it or find it “moderately annoying?”
- Identify job duties, tasks, activities, projects, etc. that you enjoyed and had success performing.
- Analyze the task or duty. Ask yourself:
- Was it the entire task or duty that you liked, or only certain aspects of it?
- Under what circumstances did you enjoy it, and ask yourself why?
- Again, watch your language. Did you really “love” performing a task or “love a previous job,” or are you seeing that job or those duties through “rose colored glasses?” Is your dislike of a recent position causing you to recall an earlier activity as more positive than it actually was?” It may be that you did, and it may be that you didn’t. Either way, this is important information to capture.
Step 5: Now find descriptions of positions that are advertised on jobs search engines, company websites, newsletters of organizations that host job fairs, and in employment sections of newspapers, trade association publications, etc. Compare your summary of your ideal job to job descriptions that you see. When you find a match(es) where you meet the majority of the requirements, you may have just found your ideal job. Now brush up your resume . . . Focus and highlight those duties you enjoyed performing . . . and send it in!
Using this 5-Step process will take some time and effort. Don’t expect to complete it in an afternoon. It’ll take time, and you may find yourself refining your findings over several weeks as you collect information, analyze it, and research areas of the employment market that value and hire your skill set, outlook, and capabilities.
Outcome - A job you’ll look forward to
It’s important to be realistic, and have realistic expectations. There is no job so perfect that it comes with no minor annoyances. However, for those who are willing to do the work of this exercise, the outcome can be that you find a job that is satisfying, and makes good use of your talent. And, when Monday morning arrives, going to “that place” is something you look forward to!