‘Your work is going to fill a large part of your life and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work, and the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking, and don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.’
Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement Speech, 2005.
I see a trend amongst many professionals with young kids – they settle for working in a less-than-perfect job because they don’t want to embrace the risk of searching for another – potentially more lucrative and more fulfilling – role.
I understand that. It’s easy to settle for safety and security in an unfulfilling job, especially with the added responsibilities that children bring.
It’s natural that your priorities change once you’ve had children, and being able to provide for them as they grow up is generally at the top of the list.
But – and there’s a big “but” – this often leads to sacrificing too much for that perceived blanket safety and security.
Security, however, shouldn’t come at the cost of a fulfilling career, financial reward and personal growth – and it doesn’t have to.
It’s like that classic relationship analogy. Your partner isn’t perfect .. but who is, right? Maybe they don’t make you happy anymore, but being single again, now?
Well, I encourage you to apply the same logic to both your professional life and your personal life: don’t sell yourself out.
So, how do you know when to break off the less-than-perfect work situation? Here’s my 5-step action plan.
1. Get Brutally Honest With Yourself
You probably know if you’re lying to yourself. We can surround ourselves with rationalisations, but at the end of the day, the truth will always out.
It’s a head vs. heart thing – you can tell yourself that your job makes sense, but if your heart isn’t in it you’ll feel flat and unfulfilled.
I could quote almost every line of Steve Jobs’ famous Stanford commencement speech, but perhaps the aptest:
“If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today? And whenever the answer has been no for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something”.
Look in the mirror and really confront yourself – if you don’t love what you do, it’s time to move on. Life really is too short.
2. Find Your Flow
As Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explains in this seminal Ted Talk, ‘flow’ is a state of passion, of total immersion, that comes from doing what makes you happy.
Ultimately, finding your flow leads you to be happier and more successful.
‘That’s all very well’, I can almost hear you thinking, ‘but what if I don’t know what I’d love to do?’.
You’re not alone if you feel that way. Many people are held back from pursuing their passions because they don’t know what their passions are, certainly in a professional capacity.
The key to converting personal passions into professional passions is to look at the mechanism, not the action.
Say you’re a passionate cook. You love nothing more than spending an evening by yourself in the kitchen, perfecting a masterpiece which you found on the pages of Jamie Oliver’s latest book.
Now, you don’t need to drop everything and become a chef (although you could). Instead, examine your passion from an underlying perspective. What do you enjoy about cooking a grand meal?
- do you like working towards a clear, final goal?
- do you enjoy creatively tying elements together to form a complete whole?
- do you appreciate the power of process?
- do you enjoy the solitude?
Now, once you’re clear on what makes you tick, you can extrapolate. Many of these traits will help you enjoy not only cooking but writing, project management, design and so on.
When you evaluate your career options in this way, you begin to see that there are quite a few that you’d enjoy.
3. Get The Right Tools
The first step to pursuing a more fulfilling career is to make sure your initial presentation is up to scratch.
Idealism aside, it is a challenging job market at the moment and even more so if you’re hoping to transition into a different sector.
Whether you’re looking for a vertical or lateral move you need a consistent, professional, standout set of personal branding documents that convey exactly what you bring to the table.
Here’s a secret: you don’t need to be the best-qualified person for the job to get the job.
There’s no magic wand – you’re not going to suddenly walk into a C-Level role from mid-manager level, for example – but having a great personal brand elevates your presentation, aligns your skills and experience with the roles you’re aiming for, and ensures that your move “makes sense”, which ultimately gives you a better shot at making that move.
4. Become A Passive Job Seeker
In the world of personal relationships this is definitely something to avoid, but luckily in a professional context it’s de rigeur: line up opportunities before you resign from your current role.
LinkedIn isn’t just an online resume site – although a lot of people still treat it that way.
Use LinkedIn strategically to put your feelers out there. Make LinkedIn your daily habit – reach out to recruiters and HR managers at target companies, maintain an active presence in Groups and start connecting to influencers within your niche.
You don’t need to hand in your resignation and sweat it out at home to find your dream role – by being a passive job seeker you buy yourself time to find something perfect and minimise the risks associated with a career move.
5. Sharpen Up Your Interview Skills
A great resume and online presence will get you a foot in the door, but you’ll have to close the deal yourself in the interview room.
There are plenty of practical interview tips to help, but the real key to interview success is clarity.
Let’s come back to personal brand: your brand is more than a set of documents – it’s a statement of value. It’s your USP. It’s a narrative of who you are, what you add and where you’re going. It’s an authentic, consistent story that interviewers connect with.
Succeeding in interview begins long before the interview process. If you’re considering a career move, it’s time for some introspection.
Dig deep into areas like your goals and your motivations and reflect on consistent behaviour throughout your career – What are you good at? What are you not so good at?
Identify the strands that run through every role you’ve had – they’re what really defines you.
Key Points To Remember:
You can follow these 5 steps to a happier, more successful career: it sounds too good to be true, right?
Except it really isn’t.
For many professionals, job security can seem like the be-all and end-all but ultimately, settling for less than you’re worth will only ever lead to frustration and disillusionment.
You owe it to yourself to be the best you can be.
Irene McConnell is the founder of Arielle Careers, Australia’s sole digital agency dedicated to branding executives and their leadership teams. Arielle specialises in resume writing, LinkedIn profile writing and online influence management.
Offering a portfolio of products born from our deep understanding of the global talent market overlaid with forward-thinking and reinvented digital marketing capabilities, a passion for words and their ability to capture attention, Arielle processes are tailored to work within executives’ busy schedules, delivering bespoke, painless and professional service, and individualised products that garner results, quickly. Arielle strives to produce engaging and impactful human experiences.