Recently, I spoke with a friend who decided he needed a change. He has been very successful in his industry for more than a decade. But, what was once a passion has become a J. O. B.
Statistics show he is not alone. Gallup’s engagement data tells us that 70% of American’s are disengaged at work. Further, other recent data shows that 60% of employees plan to pursue a new job when the economy improves.
In 2011, I stepped away from a 20 year career and began a new life. There are two questions I recommend you answer before you leave a decent job.
What do I want?
“I don’t want to be running from something. I want to be heading toward something.”
I said this in 2009, and it took me until 2011 to figure out what I wanted to head towards. I was ready for the change in 2009, but I waited two years to be sure I was not just going back to something that was comfortable.
When I decided it was time to leave, I spent a lot of time trying to determine what was next. I could have gone back to the same industry and done well for a while. But why?
Too many people leave a company only to find themselves in a similar job at another firm. After the honeymoon period of the new job wears off, they realize the fit is wrong again.
That is like changing one color button down shirt for another. It’s still the same style shirt. Now it’s white instead of blue! No wonder the fit is wrong.
The question was- What fit me now? Not what fit me in the past.
Certain questions went a long way in helping me determine how my God given gifts and passions intersected. These may help you:
- Do you think your current/most recent job will exist five years from now?
- What are the key characteristics of an ideal job or career?
- When you day dream, what do you see yourself doing?
- If nothing changed in your life over the next five years, would that be okay?
- Who are 2-3 people you know who seem to have accomplished their dreams? What do you remember about their accomplishments?
- Write down 7 experiences at work you enjoyed and list the skills you used in each case.
- In your current/most recent job, do you go home at night with a sense of meaning, purpose, and accomplishment?
- What is it you find naturally enjoyable?
- If money were not important, what would you spend your time doing?
- What strengths have others noticed in you?
- When do you find time just flying by?
As you answer these questions, what are the recurring themes that keep coming up in your thinking?
Many of these questions I got from a book that truly changed my life: 48 Days To The Work You Love by my friend Dan Miller. After I answered these questions, I had a much clearer view of what I wanted.
Once I knew how I was made and what paddled my canoe, I was ready to filter opportunities through that matrix.
I was being given an opportunity to start again! Why not find that thing I was made to do? Why would I go back and do what I had always done?
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Who do I know?
After I spent time examining myself, I began examining others. In 2009 I began to set up appointments with influential people I was acquainted with.
I wanted to hear from people who had circles different from mine, and experiences different than mine. I am a big believer in getting advice from people who are where I want to be.
I wanted to speak with the most connected people I could find. Malcolm Gladwell calls them “Connectors” in his book The Tipping Point.
These people knew a huge number of people. Each person I spoke to had business savvy and a huge contact list. They might not have had a job for me, but they knew people who might.
Anyone in sales will tell you a warm referral is exponentially more effective than a cold call. These referrals were invaluable to me and have provided fruitful relationships that I could have never imagined on my own.
At these appointments, I usually covered these topics:
- Why I am looking to change careers – I avoided complaining about my current job and focused on what I wanted to be doing next.
- A description of my accomplishments and passions – I even handed them my resume and let them ask me questions about my background. But, most importantly I showed them who I was and what I was passionate about.
- “What do you see is available for a guy like me?” – Powerful connected people love to give advice. Once they give advice, they are often invested in how that advice turns out.
- “Is there anyone you know that I should be talking to?” – Their connections were invaluable for me. I learned to always ask this question. I have met my best business contacts as a result of these secondary referrals.
We all know influential people. They do not have to be our best friends. They just need to be familiar with us. If you don’t know the person, find someone who does and ask for an introduction.
Influential and successful people became that way by helping people. They are connected because others like being connected with them.
I am a big believer that discovering what I want and sharing that with the influential people I know, is the best way prepare for leaving my current job.
The Bottom Line
In 2009 I began the process of learning about who I was, what I wanted and who I knew. As I prepared to leave a decent job, the anticipation of finding a great career grew.
My friend may or may not leave his current job. On my advice, he is reading 48 Days To The Work You Love. I am also introducing him to some influential people I know.
I guess now I get to help him like others helped me. Maybe I am now a connector!
If you are planning a career change, are you running from something or heading toward something?