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How to Switch Careers and Get Closer to Your Dream Job

How to Switch Careers and Get Closer to Your Dream Job

You’ve been going to “that job” for many years now. You go to your office, do your projects, have lunch with your colleagues, and take your commute home.

How did you get there?

Was this the job you thought you were going to be doing at age 30, 40…50? Is this the work you had wanted to do back in college when the sky was the limit?

It’s not, huh? What happened?

Like many of us, we did the responsible thing by finishing college and getting a job. We’re the people who show up and work. We have the “lunch-pail-roll-up-the-sleeves” work ethic.[1]

But we shouldn’t hate it. We should be loving every minute of it, and knowing that our vocation serves our purpose.

“It’s too late for me. I’ll never have my dream job.” That’s nonsense. We NEED to pursue our dream job.

According to Business Insider:[2]

The average American spends 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime. But 87% of Americans have no passion for their jobs. And nearly 60% say their jobs are making them insomniacs.The average American spends more than 100 hours commuting every year. And a quarter of Americans say work is their No. 1 source of stress.

Of the country’s approximately 100 million full-time employees, 51 percent aren’t engaged at work — meaning they feel no real connection to their jobs, and thus they tend to do the bare minimum.[3]

Switching careers is hard – but it can be done. Here’s how to get started:

1. Visualize Your Dream Job

You can probably Google a plethora of “dream job meditation” or “dream job visualization” recordings that you can download for free. If that’s too much work, then just do this:

Sit in a chair with your eyes closed, and visualize yourself getting into your car (or on the train, or your carpool) and heading to work.

Where are you headed? Where do you park? What are you wearing? Where do you work? Who’s there waiting for you? What time is your first meeting and who is it with?

Do you get the picture? Think of all the pieces that would get incorporated into your Dream Job and really see them. Write down what you see. Keep this handwritten document with you at all times so you can revisit that visualization.

It’s corny, I know…but it will really help you on the way to finding that vocation you seek.

2. Determine Your Major Strengths and Skill Sets

This activity can help you clearly identify your strengths and skill sets so you know how to represent them on a functional resume.

If you are going to make a change, potential employers want to know what you can do more so than what you have already done.

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Pull out your resume and look at your various positions. You probably have a bullet-point list for each job of your various responsibilities. If that’s the case, start by identifying the skill set you needed to complete each task.

For example:

Let’s say you have been working for ten years as an accountant. You might spend your days working with different clients’ books, preparing reports, and conducting audits. What skills are required to perform those tasks? Self motivation? Business acumen and interest? Organizational skills? Managing deadlines? All of the above?

From the various jobs on your resume, pin point all your skills and then place them into themed groups.

My resume features skills groups such as Management, Supervision, Event Planning, and Budget Management. You can find a guide to ultimate work skills needed for career change here: The Ultimate Work Skills List to Help You Change Careers

Finally, come up with 3 to 5 “career highlights” that can go with these skills. These are the various Feathers in Your Cap that you have initiated or facilitated during your employment that would not have existed without you. Now you’re ready to update that resume!

3. Switch to a Functional (Skills-Based) Resume

If you are truly going to make the big leap and actually change careers, then you are going to need a resume that, once again, shows what you can do for them. If you are a teacher looking to get out of the classroom but stay in education, you may be looking for an instructional coordinator or librarian position. Your skills should reflect the position that you want rather than your resume reflecting what you had.

I recommend 3/4 to one full page of your Functional Skills. Each skill group is a heading, and you follow it with bullet points of the tasks that back that up. Here’s a look at one of mine:

Communications, Social Media and Technology

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  • Proficient in MS Word, Excel, Publisher, Power Point, Outlook; PC and Mac hardware
  • Create/update web content for marketing efforts in student affairs and advancement
  • Collaborate with graphic designer, writers, and Public Relations departments on marketing efforts
  • Utilization of social media for recruitment, programming, fundraising, and collaboration
  • Facebook, WACUHO Forum, Twitter, LinkedIn

Once you have your Skills and Competencies in place, then take 1/4 to 1/2 page on Career Highlights. These are those outstanding contributions that you made to one of your previous (or current) employers. Like this:

Redesigned Operations for PCC Foundation

  • Create process for scholarship awarding and implement new Academic Works software
  • Oversee Foundation committee structure and provide training documents for new chairpersons
  • Manage grant awarding process and realignment

Finally, you can list your previous experience in order from most recent or current position to the oldest one. List only the position title, employer, and dates employed. You can follow that with your education, and then list any references at the bottom.

The two previous steps are going to take some time. Don’t expect to be finished in a day. Make sure to share your updated resume with colleagues who support your career change and get their feedback as well.

You can also find tips on Career Change Resumes here: How to Write a Career Change Resume (With Examples)

Now it’s time to get out there and look!

4. Work Your Personal Network

Through your visualization work, you hopefully came up with some places and experiences that feel right for you. So it’s time now to step up and find those opportunities.

Start with your personal network. This would include current Vital Work Friends, colleagues in other industries, and your buddies. Do any of them work in a desired industry of yours? What about their other friends? And those friends’ friends? Make a list of possible connections and invite them to coffee.

A colleague of mine just recently embarked on a “30 Coffees in 30 Days” game plan as a strategy for finding a new job. Working your personal network for contacts can open doors and get you moving in the right direction.

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These tips can help improve your networking skills: How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life

5. Let Your Family Know What You’re Doing and Inform Your References

You’ll get additional support from your family and your references, especially previous supervisors. You may even want to talk to previous supervisors while you are working your personal network.

Letting them know that you are wanting to make a change and getting their insight can also help you get some direction. These folks once aided in your professional development and may even have been mentors to you. They know your skills and abilities as well as anyone, so make sure to use them as resources, too.

And obviously, you are notifying your references (and providing an updated resume) about any job applications and pending interviews.

The Bottom Line

Career change is scary. But it can also be incredibly rewarding when you land the gig that has just been waiting for you. And it IS out there. Make the decision and the time…do the work…and reap the benefits.

You’ve got this.

More Articles About Advancing Your Career

Featured photo credit: Tim van der Kuip via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] PETER KESERIC, 2016
[2] Busiess Insider: 17 seriously disturbing facts about your job
[3] CBS News, 2017

More by this author

Kris McPeak

Educator, Author, Career Change and Work/Life Balance Guru

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Last Updated on November 3, 2020

How to Use the Prioritization Matrix When Every Task is #1

How to Use the Prioritization Matrix When Every Task is #1

It takes being productive to get things done correctly and on time. So how do you know which tasks are essential and which can wait? The answer is in the Prioritization Matrix, also known as the Eisenhower Matrix.

The matrix took its name after Dwight David Eisenhower.

Eisenhower was a general in the US army and the 34th President of the United States from 1953 to 1961. As a five-star general and a Supreme Commander in the US Army, he drafted the strategy for an Allied invasion of Europe.[1]

Eisenhower had to make tough decisions every time about which tasks to prioritize out of many he needed to focus on daily. So, he came up with the famous Eisenhower Matrix, or the Prioritization Matrix.

What Is the Prioritization Matrix?

The Prioritization Matrix is a tool for rating your tasks based on urgency. It helps you know the critical activities and those tasks that you should bypass and can be useful in project management, small businesses, or personal tasks.

Eisenhower famously said of the matrix:

“Most tasks that are urgent are not important, and most tasks that are important are not urgent.”

This quote became the maxim for Eisenhower in managing his time.

There are four quadrants in the Prioritization Matrix, which help in comparing choices of what to do first and last, allowing you to prioritize projects and create strategic plan[2].

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Eisenhower Matrix Template

    The quadrants are:

    • Do
    • Schedule
    • Delegate
    • Eliminate

    Do

    Do is the first quadrant in the Prioritization Matrix, and it incorporates important activities. That is, those tasks you need to carry out urgently — crises, deadlines, and issues that need your urgent attention and are highly relevant to your life mission.

    Hw do you know which task falls into this quadrant?

    Start by analyzing your priorities, and then establish if it falls within the ‘do it now’ criteria. If the task is achievable within a day, or within 24 to 48 hours, it’s urgent.

    Another approach you can adopt in prioritizing tasks in this category is to adopt the “eat the frog” principle by Mark Twain. This principle recommends that you do the most urgent activities as soon as you wake up.

    Here’s a practical example.

    Let’s say you need to draft a content strategy and submit a report to your manager. It’s Saturday, and the deadline for submission is Monday. Can we say the activity is urgent? Definitely!

    Schedule

    The second quadrant of the prioritization matrix is Schedule. The Prioritization Matrix classifies tasks in this category as important but not that urgent.

    They are long-term objectives and tasks with no immediate deadline. Those tasks could include meditation, journaling, studying, family time, and exercising.

    You can plan out activities in this quadrant for some other period. For instance, you should exercise for good health, but you can allocate time to do it.

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    Schedule these activities in such a way that they don’t transfer to the “Do” or “Urgent” quadrant. Ensure you have sufficient time to carry them out.

    Delegate

    The third quadrant of the prioritization matrix is Delegate.

    These tasks are not important to you but are quite urgent for others. This is where teamwork comes into play.

    You can technically perform tasks in this category, but it makes sense to delegate them. Delegating tasks will ensure you have more time to pursue activities in your first two quadrants.

    You should also monitor the tasks you have delegated. It will only amount to a sheer waste of time if you don’t have a tracking system for delegated tasks.

    Eliminate

    The last quadrant highlights your productivity killers. They are tasks that are not important to your goals and not urgent. The only way to boost your productivity is to eliminate them.

    Some examples are constantly checking your phone, watching movies, or playing video games.

    They could also be bad habits that you need to identify and delete from your daily and weekly schedule.

    Successful people have learned how to prioritize and stick to what’s important. They have learned to find a better person for a task or eliminate less significant tasks.

    Let’s consider two inspiring personalities that have designed their prioritization system.

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    Warren Buffet developed a two-list prioritization model to determine which task deserves his best attention. The bottom line is bypassing things that are important and useful but not top of the priorities.

    Mark Ford, a business advisor, marketer, self-made millionaire, and author devised his strategy:

    “Start work on the most crucial priority, take a break, work on the second most important task, take a break, then sort out the less important activities and any tasks he received from other individuals by afternoon.” [3]

    How to Use The Prioritization Matrix

    Using the Prioritization Matrix can be tricky if you’re new at it, but by following a few simple steps, you can learn to utilize it in the best way possible.

    1. List and Rank Your Priorities

    Highlight all the tasks you need to carry out in a day. Then, classify them with weighted criteria based on urgency and importance.

    Identify any activity that requires prompt action. I’m referring to a task that if you don’t complete that day, it could produce a grave consequence. For instance, if you don’t submit your content strategy, other content writers cannot work. It means you need to check for high-priority dependencies.

    2. Define the Value

    The next step is to examine the importance and assess which of them impacts your business or organization the most. As a rule of thumb, you can check which tasks possess higher priority over others. For instance, you need to attend to client’s requirements before you take care of any internal work.

    You can also estimate value by examining how the task impacts the people and customers in the organization. In a nutshell, the more impact a task has on people or the organization, the higher the priority.

    3. Take out the Most Challenging Task

    Procrastination is not a symptom of laziness, but avoidance is. The truth is that you will typically avoid tasks you don’t want to do. The former CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, once said he would take out the most dreaded task first thing when he got to the office.

    Brian Tracy called these tasks the frogs you need to eat. That will remove the nagging dread, which mounts pressure on you when you postpone necessary tasks[4]. This is where the Prioritization Matrix can help; eat the “Do” frogs immediately.

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    If you need help overcoming procrastination, check out this article.

    4. Know What’s Important to You

    As long as you are in this cosmos, you will always encounter different choices that may be contradictory to your goals. For instance, a fantastic promotion that requires excessive travel will isolate you from important relationships. If you are not priority-conscious, you may accept it, even though your family is your priority.

    Therefore, it makes sense to identify what is important to you and to prepare yourself not to compromise those important things for immediate pleasure or gain.

    Yogi Berra captioned it this way:

    “If you do not know your destination, you might end up somewhere else.”

    5. Establish Regular “No Work” Time

    YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki established a rule not to check her emails between 6 pm and 9 pm. According to a CNN Business report, she was the first woman to request maternity leave when Google just got started. She prioritizes dinner time with her family despite being the CEO of YouTube[5].

    Is it possible to cut out time for our relationships and interests outside of work?

    Of course, and that’s why you need to set out your “no work” time. This approach will enable you to renew your energy levels for the next task. Also, you will be in the best position to introspect as you are not in your usual work zone.

    6. Know When to Stop

    You can achieve everything on your list sometimes. After you have prioritized your workload and assessed your estimates, remove the remaining tasks from your priority list and focus on your most urgent and important tasks.

    Conclusion

    It’s not enough to be successful at work. Ensure you make out time for your family and an important relationship in your life.

    Getting started and finding time may be tricky, but with some practice using the Prioritization Matrix, you’ll find that you are more productive and better able to divide your time between the things that are important to you.

    More Tips on Prioritizing

    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

    Reference

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