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Last Updated on January 9, 2019

10 Essential Career Change Questions To Ask Yourself This Year

10 Essential Career Change Questions To Ask Yourself This Year

If you are thinking about changing your career this year, then now more than ever you need to take charge. That means thinking about the direction of your career and its role in your life.

It’s important that you answer these 10 essential career change questions. They matter not only because now is a time to reflect but also because the world of work is changing rapidly and if you want to change or advance your career, you need to be prepared.

Changes in the workplace will make a difference in how we think about our work. Workplace trends in 2017 include jobs that “require human creativity, flexibility, judgment, and ‘soft skills.’ They don’t need skills that are repetitive or could be automated, so knowing how you fit in is key.

Early in 2016 Seth Godin wrote “Ten Questions for Work That Matters.” Those are helpful guidelines for creating work that matters to the world. Here are the 10 most up-to-date questions you need to ask yourself it you’re planning on changing careers this year.

1.What does your career do for you? 

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Some people work because they want the paycheck, some want the prestige, some have an end goal or level of advancement in mind. Some people believe in the mission they are working to accomplish. What does work do for you? Why do you get out of bed every day? Is it simply for the paycheck, or is there something more? Do you have career aspirations and goals?

2. Why are you making a change?

Sometimes people are sick of their boss, co-workers, office space, or the rut they’ve fallen into. In that case, what they might need is a new job. Sometimes they really do want to do something different. They are tired of the challenges at their current career and are ready to take on something new. Other times the industry they are in is no longer thriving and they want to do something that has more potential. Do you need a new job or new career? What is really motivating you to make a career change?

3. What matters to you?

Making a change to something you don’t care about might not be a great idea, but are there other things that matter to you? Maybe it is that fat bonus you bring home and your first priority is finding another job that you can tolerate that will replace it. Whatever matters most to you, define it, and then find a career that matches with these values.

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4. What makes you happy?

What matters to you might not be your happiness – it might be your family’s happiness or something else, so this question is separate. Still, you should stop and ask yourself what makes you happy. What motivates you at work? What would you bounce out of bed to do all day? You’ve likely thought about this and then dismissed it as a fantasy. Possibly only because you haven’t been able to see the path to get there, or how to take elements of that dream and make it a reality. You can find ways to have career happiness, even if it’s not exactly what you thought it would look like at first.

5. What makes you human?

When you’re a career changer, you’re likely competing against people who have been in the field and have experience you don’t. That means you have to stand out in a different way. Luckily, as we just learned, softer people skills are going to be essential while the technical skills of (almost) any career will be considered teachable. This doesn’t mean you won’t have to work your way up or that you can become a neurosurgeon tomorrow. It does mean that you have a shot at things you might not have had a few years ago.

6. What makes you stand out from the crowd at work?

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What’s your superpower? It’s essential that you know yourself well enough (and that you’re confident enough) to be able to nail down exactly what you can do better than anyone. If you don’t know, your potential employer won’t have a clue why they should hire you over the next guy.

7. What do you do that is essential?

I admit, I basically stole this question from Seth Godin, but it’s so awesome I couldn’t help it. I mean, how many times have you wanted to crush that alarm clock with your bare hands and go back to sleep but then thought, “No, I have to . . . “? Why do you do it? What do people miss if you don’t show up? Why can’t someone else just pick up the slack? Whatever your reason, THAT’s what makes you important my friend. And it’s not just that you happen to know everything about that project at that moment in time. There’s a reason you’re juggling all those balls. You’re a good juggler. Learn to talk about that and how awesome you are at it.

8. What do you do that a robot can’t do?

Automation could crush certain industries and tasks in the future, which is why focusing in on the things you do that a robot can’t, and building your skills in that direction is smart. Future-proof your career by doing something a robot can’t do.

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9. What are you learning from your work and what do you want to learn?

Your learning and creativity are key to keeping you interested and valuable in a career. Otherwise you become a disengaged worker. So, what fascinates you? What sparks your excitement? What courses do you want to take? Learn these skills and apply them to your new career.

10. Who are you serving or giving back to with your work?

Mission driven careers are not just about feelings. Did you know that conscious companies often outperform traditional companies? In fact, Firms of Endearment companies run in a specific, socially conscious way, have have out performed the S&P 500 by 14 times in a 15 year period. It matters to the success of the company that the mission matters to you. Find one you care about.

Remember, your resume isn’t a showcase of what you have done as much as it is a demonstration of how you can get the job done and why your future employer should hire you. When you have asked and answered these questions, you’ll be prepared to make a career change this year.

Featured photo credit: freephotocc via pixabay.com

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Jessica Sweet

Career Coach

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Last Updated on April 17, 2019

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

10 Essential Soft Skills That Will Help Advance Your Career

What’s the secret of professional success? Some of it lies in the mastery of your discipline and all the technical skills you have to carry out your job; but a much bigger part lies in the soft skills list you possess.

Soft skills are your people or relationship skills—how well you get along with others and your ability to communicate and collaborate—as well as the personal characteristics you bring to the job, such as optimism, a can-do attitude and the motivation to work hard. These skills are not always easy to point out, but their absence can cause serious problems and negatively affect the whole work atmosphere.

They say that hard skills will help you get the job, but soft skills will help you get along—and get ahead. With that in mind, here’s the top-10 essential soft skills list to help you advance your career.

1. Communication Skills

Communication skills are hands-down the most sought-after soft skill that bosses want, and this one ability covers a lot of ground.

To communicate well, you have to listen carefully, interpret the context of the conversation, express yourself clearly, persuade others of your point of view, check your body language and use an engaging presentation style that won’t intimidate or bore your audience. That’s a big ask!

Your personality traits can influence the way you communicate with others. For instance, some people get straight to the point and center their arguments around facts and logic; others are cooperative and sensitive to how others feel. Both these approaches are equally valuable but there can be misunderstandings if you don’t understand where the other person is coming from.

Taking a comprehensive personality test can help you understand why you communicate the way you do and where your blind spots are. It can also help you understand other communication styles is so you can tailor your communication to the person you’re dealing with.

After all, connecting with your conversation partner is the hallmark of good communication.

2. Flexibility

Change is an essential part of any business. Companies need employees who are flexible enough to work with new initiatives, open to new ideas, and generally are able to tough it out when things don’t go as planned.

Research has found a link between job performance and flexibility over the long term because there will be times when you have to step outside your routine and rise to fresh challenges that didn’t exist before.

Being flexible doesn’t mean you have to hop into a new task or job role like an expert. Rather, it’s about showing you’re willing to accept new responsibility and learn different things.

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Bosses look for people who are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and are open to alternative solutions when their first idea doesn’t work.

3. Being a Team Player

Working on a team can be challenging but learning to do it well can definitely help you get ahead in your career. Employers look for people who can negotiate, cooperate and manage conflicts with other people to achieve a common goal. That includes the ability to build lasting relationships with customers and clients.

What makes a good team player? Essentially, it’s someone who knows the goal and knows her role. Employers look for evidence that you know your strengths, your responsibilities and how you can best contribute to the team, then put those skills into action by sharing ideas and communicating in a respectful manner. That’s the definition of being a good team player.

This is another area where taking a personality test can help you get ahead. When teams work together, each member brings a unique set of skills and qualities to the group. Research has shown that different combinations of personalities affect how teams collaborate and how productive they are.

Knowing who you are, and how you work on a team, can drive new insights and open the door to better teamwork.

4. Positive Mental Attitude

There are plenty of things you can’t change at work, like the people you work with or the fact that the printer is broken again. The one thing you can change is how much you let these things bother you.

Bosses like people who are calm, rational and upbeat—those who diffuse tensions in the workplace, not get all grouchy and go around slamming doors.

Studies show that people who maintain a sunny disposition have better relationships at work, are happier in their jobs and make better decisions than those who whine and complain. Some suggest that a positive mental attitude can also make you live longer—which means it’s beneficial for every area of your life![1]

It’s not always easy to keep a “glass half full” mentality when work is stressful and the deadlines are piling up. But there are some things you can do to help maintain a positive attitude. Laughing at your unfortunate circumstances keeps the work environment positive, and taking “sanity” breaks can help you keep your cool in high-pressure situations.

Managers look for positive mental attitude in a team member that is ready for a promotion, so it really does pay to keep your cool in challenging situations.

5. A Strong Work Ethic

People with a strong work ethic are committed to the role, persevere when things get tough and are inspired by challenge. These people are ambassadors for the organization, and will always be seen as top talent and ideal candidates.

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If you can exhibit this skill, then expect to be seen as a great candidate, eligible for new opportunities and positions throughout your career.

Since a strong work ethic can mean different things to different people, it helps to show specific examples of your exceptional work ethic during a performance appraisal or interview. For instance, you might talk about:

  • A time when you persisted in the face of challenges and did not shy away from hard work.
  • How you volunteered to help with projects even though these tasks did not form part of your job description.
  • The networking, workplace learning and skills betterment you’ve undertaken, which shows ambition and drive (people with a strong work ethic have those qualities in spades).
  • How you own your mistakes and never, ever point the finger of blame at others.

For help with building a strong work ethic, check out these tips: How to Build a Reliable Work Ethic

6. Public Speaking

Who’s terrified of public speaking? Pretty much everyone, since public speaking is America’s number one fear, ahead of death at number five and loneliness at number seven.

Yet, according to Warren Buffett, mastering this one skill you could increase your personal value by 50 percent.[2] That’s huge!

If you’re not natural at public speaking, you’re in good company. Buffett had to work hard to overcome his stage fright and once dropped out of a public-speaking course before it started—because he was afraid of public speaking! He eventually realized that he needed to build up his confidence by just doing it; over and over in front of small groups.

For a more structured approach, Toastmasters International teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a variety of pathways. Membership of this non-profit looks good on your resume but the real payoff will come when you can put your newfound skills to use on the job or in the interview room.

Or, you can check out this advice: The Ultimate Public Speaking Tips to Hook and Impress Any Audience

7. Integrity

From a manager’s point of view, the two integrity skills that will set you apart are:

  • Always doing what you say you will do
  • Owning an error instead of minimizing or hiding it

…even when no one is around to check up on you.

There are lots of people who have climbed the ladder without scruples, but they are not the people who others trust, respect and support when promotion time comes around.

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Behaving with integrity is a safe and consistent way to enhance your reputation and achieve your professional goals.

8. Managing Your Time

Phone calls, texts, Slack pings, meetings, huddles, side projects, multitasking—we are busier today than any generation before us. There’s no denying the workplace is an incredibly distracting place to be.

A lot of us have traded effectiveness for busyness which we wear as a badge of honor, both as a proxy for productivity and to show our value to the company. But what bosses want, what they really, really want, is someone who actually gets stuff done on time.

Time management is not merely the art of being on time, but of managing your time so you focus on the projects that really matter and add value to the business. This means prioritizing well, sticking to schedules, delegating, and not getting distracted by tasks that are easier to perform or less important. It means planning ahead and learning when it’s appropriate to say no.

Time management can be a tough skill to maintain, but not a difficult one to pick up. Monitor your actions for a few days—how long do your tasks take to finish? What’s interrupting you? What causes you to lose focus? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can set a schedule for yourself to make sure you’re spending your time wisely and this valuable asset is never wasted.

These 20 Quick Time Management Tips to Super Boost Your Productivity are also great to try.

9. Assertiveness

In any workplace, you typically will find people with the following conflict styles:

  • Passive: Those who go out of their way to avoid conflict.
  • Passive-aggressive: Those who express their negative feelings through actions rather than words.
  • Aggressive: Those who respond to conflict in a hostile and rude manner. These people get their opinion heard but they won’t make any friends in the process.
  • Assertive: People who stick up for their rights while still respecting the rights of others.

Managers look for assertiveness above all other styles because it allows decisions to be made without conflict or alienating people.

How do you use this information for yourself?

It starts with understanding your personality so you can anticipate how you will react when conflict arises and address your own shortcomings. Then, you can start influencing the team for top results, and securing your own career advancement in the process.

Learn how to be assertive and gain respect:

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How to Be Assertive and Stand up for Yourself the Smart Way

10. Creative Thinking

LinkedIn recently analyzed over 50,000 skills that employers search for when looking for candidates to find out what skills are currently in demand.[3] Taking the number-one slot on the 2019 soft skills list was creativity: the ability to solve problems and think outside the box.

Creativity is about bringing fresh, and sometimes unorthodox, ideas to the table. This helps companies to innovate, and companies that do not innovate will not survive very long.

How do you showcase your creative thinking skills? The golden rule is to participate.

Be brave and share your ideas during group brainstorming sessions. Volunteer to run a society, networking event or recruitment drive. Ask “what if” questions: “What if we add this information to the client welcome pack?” “What if we eliminate step 3 from the process?”

These activities demonstrate that you’re prepared to go beyond “business as usual” towards creative problem solving—an ability that will serve you every day, all throughout your career.

You can learn to unleash your creativity power:

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Final Thoughts

The good news? Every item on this soft skills list can be learned. Although you may feel lacking in certain areas, taking an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses will allow you to focus in on the areas that you’ll benefit from developing.

So take an inventory of your personality, skills, and talents. This will give you a baseline for your communication style, attitude to change, conscientiousness and more. You can then identify your weak areas and develop strategies for improving your team-building, assertiveness and conflict skills.

The better news? The effort is worth it. Developing your soft skills opens the door to a new job or a promotion, and helps you succeed once you get there.

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Featured photo credit: Rachael Gorjestani via unsplash.com

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