I am blessed to be able to help folks with their careers. I consider it a privilege that as my hard work and good fortune have increased, more and more people have reached out to me for advice. Some are friends and many are strangers and I do my best to respond to all reasonable requests. Yet frequently, people ask variations of the same question.
I am writing about this topic, because it is the new year and people are thinking about new beginnings and I just got another email on this topic from a nice guy. He wrote:
I am unhappy with what I have accomplished and want to jumpstart my career. I want to get in to a software company. What should I do?
Does this sound familiar?
The oft-cited statistic that 70% of Americans hate their jobs is bad enough. But a Gallup poll released last year was even more disturbing. That global poll of people 18 and older across 142 countries found that worldwide, actively disengaged employees outnumbered engaged employees by nearly 2 to 1.
People are unhappy at work. That’s upsetting.
So, people ask me what to do because they think CEOs have all the answers. I have held this title three different times including now at Aha! (visual product roadmap software), and have sold two startups to public companies. I have worked with lots of great people and know a little about career progression.
But here’s the thing: I don’t know you. I don’t know what makes you tick, or what motivates you to get out of bed.
Sending me a question about how best to change jobs or pursue a new career tells me nothing about the essence of who you are or what you want. I can’t define those things for others. So when I’m asked this question, do you know what I say?
The only way to reset an unhappy career is to look deeply in yourself and figure out what motivates you and where you want to end up.
Consider filling in the following blanks.
In 5 years, I would like to be doing _____________________ because I am good at ________________________ and doing so will have the following benefits _________________________________________________________________.
Ask yourself if your current role is getting you closer to your long-term vision. You cannot reset a failing career without an idea of what you aim to achieve. And remember that success for you might be all about going back to school to become a nurse or teaching high school. It is not always about money or fame.
It is okay to not know what the exact end goal will be. Likewise, the end goal itself does not matter as much as you might think. Whether you design your career roadmap to sell the next hot startup or serve as a therapist in a homeless shelter, what matters most is that you take full ownership of your career decisions and have a plan.
People will tell you that you can meander along. I am here to tell you that’s BS. It works on hikes, but not for careers. You spend more time at work than you do with your family. Are you willing to waste that time veering off course?
What have you done to reset your career?