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Finding a New Career in the New Year

Finding a New Career in the New Year

New Year’s resolutions often fall by the wayside come January 2nd, but if you’ve decided it’s time for a new career in 2014, we’d encourage you to stick with it a few days (or months or years) longer. If you’ve been feeling stagnated, frustrated, bored, or simply like you’ve risen as far as you want to (or can) go, a new career might be just what you need to regain your passion, creativity and joy — all very good things for your personal life as well.

That said, a successful career shift isn’t done overnight, and you’ll want to make sure you’ve really taken the time and effort to discover what it is you want and need before you make the leap. Doing so does mean more work upfront, but it’s bound to pay off as you find yourself more fulfilled and creatively challenged. Here are a few great ways to get started.

1. Go Through Pros and Cons

Before you make any big changes, it’s important to pinpoint what it is that you don’t like about your current role and what you might want to change. This is crucial, because, presumably, you picked your current career path for a reason, so it’s important to know whether or not your dissatisfaction lies in a deep dislike of what you do on a daily basis or if it has to do with something more circumstantial, like a bad boss, no life-work balance or the instability of the industry. The last thing you want is to make this huge life change, only to realize you’re back to feeling just like you do now.

Start with a basic pros and cons list for your current role. If you’ve got a dream career path in mind, make one for that as well, and even one for your transitional period, so you can really see what’s on the horizon and determine whether or not a change is worth it.

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2. Take a Career Aptitude Test

If you’re like most people, you probably have some sense of what you’re good at and like doing, but your affinities and abilities are either too broad or you simply don’t know to what kind of careers they might be relevant. You may also have hobbies or more “side capabilities” (i.e. organizational skills, decision making, etc.) that could actually take center stage in the right context. If you see yourself in this description, you may want to start with a career aptitude test.

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    Click image to open interactive version (via Rasmussen College).

    This will give you a baseline for your research, so you can see just where your skills might map and what you can expect salary-wise should you head that way — especially important as you get down to the more practical matter of determining how much of an investment you can make in this change in order for it quite literally to pay off.

    3. Connect on Social Media and Start Networking

    LinkedIn is a great place to start your career search for many reasons. First, use the platform simply to see what former classmates and colleagues are doing, as they might be up to something you find inspiring. Then, start connecting or rekindling relationships with both on LinkedIn and beyond with a simple reach out email. If they seem willing, take contacts out to coffee for an informational interview so you can learn all about their field, their job and what they do on a daily basis.

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    As you start to narrow your targets, scour MeetUp, LinkedIn and Facebook groups and professional groups to learn about and attend networking events. Keep your approach casual as you simply learn about what’s out there, find more people to take out to coffee, and always follow-up with a nice thank-you.

    4. Start Taking Courses

    Sometimes, changing your career means heading back to school for a four-year degree, while other times, you’ll just need a certificate course. Even if not required, community college classes can look great on your resume if you haven’t worked in your new chosen field before, and they’ll give you a great introduction to the work so you can determine whether or not it’s something you’d like to do.

    5. Work With Your Role Models

    You’d be surprised how many people in your network will be open to job shadowing. Whether you go for a day or a week, this can be a great way to see what a job looks like in real time. Alternatively, if there is a particular leading figure in your field, you might reach out to them to let them know you love what they do and offer your skills as an assistant at a low rate. While this can easily slip into an exploitative situation, if you’re careful this can be a great way to get your foot in the door with someone powerful in your new industry and to learn firsthand from the person whose career you want to emulate. It’s also still a relatively rare tactic, and if your reach-out email is well crafted, you’d be surprised how many people will take you up on the offer.

    6. Explore and Network With Volunteering

    When we think of volunteering our time with a nonprofit, we naturally focus on the charitable nature of the work. But nonprofits, which are always in need of skilled people, are also a great way to network with other talented people and to give your skills and capabilities a test run in a lower pressure situation. For example, this is something I’ve personally seen a lot of new copywriters do to build up their resumes and demonstrate what they can do in a real setting amongst some of the most motivated and connected people in their communities.

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    Volunteering also brings you into contact with a wide range of people, some of whom might show you an entirely different way of working that you may never have encountered had you simply carried on in your current role. This can be a great way to broaden your horizons about what’s possible for your career.

    7. Be Strategic About Framing Your Story

    Both as you network and definitely as you start to apply to jobs, it’s important that you think carefully about how you frame your past career experiences. While you may feel that you’re still in exploratory mode, the best approach is to tell your story almost like it’s an adventure that’s bringing you to this culminating point. That doesn’t mean lying about your past; it means tying everything together with tight threads, rather than saying something like, “First I tried this but didn’t like it, so now I’m trying this.”

    Not sure what this means? Let’s say you’re currently a lab tech who used to be a waitress and now wants to be a web designer. In cover letters and pitches, you might discuss how you love the detail-oriented nature of your lab work, but you miss the human-to-human interactions you had as a waitress and the time you had then to work on your art, which, naturally, has lead you to an artistic role that has serving clients at its core (web design). See what I mean? Take a look at the character traits that will serve you well in your desired role, see if you can find examples of you using similar traits in the past, and frame them accordingly.

    8. Be Prepared to Make a Few Adjustments

    So you’ve begun to transition into your new ideal career, but it doesn’t feel as fantastic as you thought it would. Hang in there. There are learning curves for everything, and even if you love the work, it’s still incredibly draining and stressful to swap one ingrained pattern for another, even if you hated the original. Hopefully at this point you’ve set a goal in mind, which should help spur you past all of those less than ideal, lower-level hurdles to get you going where you want to go. Remember, even if you began at the greatest heights in your old career, starting anew means really starting from the bottom. But don’t worry; if you’ve taken the time to really figure out what you want and you’re willing to work hard, you’ll most likely get there much faster than if you were right out of college and only half-heartedly pursuing your goal.

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    A Few Job Hunting Resources

    Your local professional or alumni association. Both are great ways to connect with people with whom you have a natural affinity and who might have connections and educational resources to help get you on your way. They also often have job boards.
    Wage websites. Websites like Glassdoor give you a great glimpse into what people earn where and how they feel about their jobs. Career One Stop provides a similar and even more extensive service. Sites like Career Bliss focus more on the overall happiness expressed within a career, with the clear goal of getting you situated in a job that makes you grin.
    Interview help sites. Sites like Big Interview provide an extensive amount of coaching for the big day.

    Final Thoughts

    Changing your career can feel intimidating, but with a little work, it’s well within your grasp. How would you change your career if you had the chance? Let us know in the comments below.

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    How to Increase Work Productivity: 9 Ground Rules

    How to Increase Work Productivity: 9 Ground Rules

    We all have those days when completing our assigned tasks seems beyond reach. With the temptation of social media, mobile games, and the internet in general—not to mention the constant bustle of people in the office—it’s easy to fall prey to disruptions and distractions at work.

    So, what can we do about it? How to be productive at work?

    While we don’t have a foolproof system that can completely eliminate disturbances and diversions, we do have 9 ground rules that can be applied to help give your productivity levels a boost.

    Keep reading to find out our tips on work productivity.

    What Does It Mean to Be Productive?

    How to be productive at work?” is the age-old question plaguing employees and employers alike around the world. Regardless of where you work and what you do, everyone is always looking for new ways to be more efficient and effective.

    But what does being productive actually entail?

    Completing more tasks on your list or working longer hours doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being more productive. It just means you’re more busy, and productivity shouldn’t be confused with busyness.

    Productivity means achieving effective results in as short amount of time as possible, leaving you with more time to enjoy freely.

    It involves working smarter, not harder. It means refining processes, speeding up workflows, and reducing the chances of interruptions.

    Productivity is best achieved when looking at your current way of working, identifying the bottlenecks, flaws, and hindrances, and then finding ways to improve.

    9 Ground Rules on How to Be Productive at Work

    1. Avoid Multitasking

    Multitasking can give the impression that more tasks can be accomplished as you’re doing multiple things at once. However, the opposite is true.

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    Research has shown that attempting to do several things at the same time takes a toll on productivity and that shifting between tasks can cost up to 40 percent of someone’s time.[1] That’s because your focus and concentration is constantly hindered due to having to switch between tasks.

    If you have a lot of tasks on your plate, determine your priorities and allocate enough time for each task. That way you can work on what’s urgent first and have enough time to complete the rest of your tasks.

    2. Turn off Notifications

    According to a Gallup poll, more than 50 percent of US smartphone owners admit to checking their phones a few times an hour.[2]

    Switching off your phone—or at least your notifications—during work hours is a good way to prevent you from checking your phone all the time.

    The same applies to your computer. If you have the privilege of accessing social media on your work desktop, switch off the notifications on there.

    Another good tip is to logout from your social media accounts. Therefore when you feel the urge to check it, you might be swayed because your page isn’t so easily accessible.

    3. Manage Interruptions

    There are certain disruptions in the office that are unavoidable such as your manager requesting a quick meeting or your colleague asking for assistance. In order to deal with this, your best approach is to know how to handle interruptions like a pro.

    Be proactive and inform the people around you of your need to focus. Turn your status on as “busy/unavailable” on your work chat app.

    If you’re on a deadline, let your colleagues know that you need to concentrate and would really appreciate not being interrupted for the moment, or even work from home if that’s a feasible option for you.

    By anticipating and having a plan in place to manage them, this will minimize your chances of being affected by interruptions.

    4. Eat the Frog

    Mark Twain once famously said that:

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    “if it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

    What this basically means is that you should get your biggest, most urgent task out of the way first.

    We all have that big, important task that we don’t want to do but know we have to do because it holds the biggest consequence if we don’t complete it.

    Eat the frog is a productivity technique that encourages you to do your most important, most undesirable task first. Completing this particular task before anything else will give you a huge sense of accomplishment. It will set the ball rolling for the rest of the day and motivate you to eagerly complete your other tasks.

    5. Cut Down on Meetings

    Meetings can use up a lot of time, which is time that can be used to do something useful.

    You have to wait for everyone to arrive, then after the pleasantries are out of the way, you can finally get stuck into it. And sometimes, it may take a whole hour to iron out one single issue.

    The alternative? Don’t arrange a meeting at all. You’ll be surprised at how many things can be resolved through an email or a quick phone call.

    But that doesn’t mean you should eliminate meetings altogether. There are certain circumstances where face-to-face discussions and negotiations are still necessary. Just make sure you weigh up the options prior.

    If it’s just information sharing, you’re probably better off sending an email; but if brainstorming or in-depth discussion is required, then an in-person meeting would be best.

    6. Utilize Tools

    Having the right tools to work with is crucial as you’re only really as good as the resources you have at your disposal. Not only will you be able to complete tasks as efficiently as possible, but they can streamline processes. Said processes are essential to a business as they manage tasks, keep employees connected, and hold important data.

    If you’re the manager or business owner, ensure your team has the right tools in place.

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    And if you’re an employee and think the tools you currently have to work with aren’t quite up to par, let your manager know. A good team leader understands the significance of having the right tools and how it can impact employee productivity.

    Some examples of tools that could be used:

    Communication
    • Slack for team chat and collaboration.
    • Samepage for video conference software.
    • Zendesk for customer service engagement.
    Task Management
    • Zenkit for task and project collaboration.
    • Wunderlist for listing your to-do’s.
    • Wekan for an open source option.
    Database Management
    Time Tracking
    • Clockify for a free tracker.
    • TMetric for workspace integrations.
    • TimeCamp for attendance and productivity monitoring.

    You can also take a look at these Top 10 Productivity Tools to Help You Achieve 10x More in Less Time.

    7. Declutter and Organize

    Having a disorganized and cluttered workspace can limit your ability to focus. According to researchers, physical clutter can negatively impact your ability to concentrate and take in information.[3] Which is why keeping your work environment well ordered and clutter-free is important.

    Ensure you have your own system of organization so you know what to do when the paperwork starts to pile up.

    Being organized will also ensure that you know where to find the appropriate stationery, tools, or documents when you need it. A US study reveals that the average worker can waste up to one week a year looking for misplaced items.[4]

    Here’s a useful guide to help you declutter and organize: How to Declutter Your Life and Reduce Stress (The Ultimate Guide)

    8. Take Breaks

    Taking regular breaks is essential for maintaining productivity at work. Working in front of a computer can lead to a sedentary lifestyle which can place you at a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Even a 30 second microbreak can increase your productivity levels up to 30 percent.

    As well as your physical health, breaks are also crucial for your mental and emotional wellbeing. That’s because your brain is like a muscle, the more it works without a break, the easier it is for it to get worn out.

    Ensuring you actually take your breaks can prevent you from suffering from decision fatigue. It can also help boost creativity.

    Take a look at this article and learn why you should start scheduling time for breaks: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

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    9. Drink Water

    Although we know we should, it’s easy to forget to drink enough water during the working day.

    Many of us turn to tea or coffee for the caffeine hit to keep us going. However, like taking breaks, drinking water is essential for maintaining productivity levels at work. It’s simple and effective.

    Not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration and also headaches, tiredness, and weight gain.

    A good tip to avoid dehydration is to keep a water bottle at your desk as it can serve as a reminder to constantly drink water.

    If you find the taste of water a little bland, add some fruit such as cucumber or lemon to give it a better taste.

    You can also get more ideas on how to drink more water here: How to Drink More Water (and Why You Should)

    The Bottom Line

    The preceding 9 ground rules on work productivity aren’t the be-all, end-all. You and the company you work for may have other tips on how productivity is best increased and maintained.

    After all, it’s something that can be perceived differently depending on the exact job and work environment.

    In saying that, however, the 9 ground rules serve as a good foundation for anyone finding themselves succumbing to disruption and distraction, and are looking for ways to overcome them.

    A good tip to keep in mind is that change doesn’t happen overnight. Start small and be consistent. If you slip up, just dust yourself off and try again.

    Developing habits happens gradually, so as long as you keep up with it, you’ll soon start to notice the changes you’ve been making and eventually enjoy the fruits of your labor.

    More About Boosting Productivity

    Featured photo credit: Cathryn Lavery via unsplash.com

    Reference

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