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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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    Published on September 18, 2018

    17 Proven Tactics for Motivating Employees and Building a Stronger Team

    17 Proven Tactics for Motivating Employees and Building a Stronger Team

    Have there been instances when you noted a drop in your team’s productivity or observed a behavioral change in someone who used to be an excellent performer?

    Before you blame the team for not being motivated enough or worse still, choose to ignore these warning signs, look inwards and ask yourself if YOU are doing enough to keep your team motivated in the first place.

    Motivating employees is extremely crucial. As the leader of the pack, it is your responsibility to ensure each and every member of your team feels valued, driven and motivated.

    After all, you cannot expect a bunch of disengaged and demotivated people to deliver results and grow your business, can you?

    Here are 17 surefire tactics for motivating your employees and building a productive team:

    1. Show your appreciation

    In the whole race to achieve external business goals, leaders often forget to value their most important assets — their employees.

    The least you can do to boost performance and morale is to appreciate your employees, recognize their efforts and give them credit when it is due.

    Whether it’s sending a personalized note, recognizing achievements publicly during team huddles or even rewarding top performers at the end of every month, you will be surprised to see how these small acts of appreciation can go a long way.

    2. Communicate effectively

    Effective communication can do wonders in motivating employees. Who is a strong communicator? Someone who knows what they are talking about and are able to convey their message accurately.

    Communication is a lot more than just language and talking. Factors such as eye contact, active listening, hand gestures and postures also say a lot about a person’s communication skills.

    3. Be open to dialogue

    Gone are the days when leading through fear and putting on the tough, distant leader act would work.

    New age leadership is all about instilling trust by being accessible and encouraging discussions. Your team needs to feel comfortable speaking to you and you need to set the tone for such a camaraderie.

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    In spite of having a busy schedule, you can still show you care through simple, effective acts.

    For instance, having an open door policy, showing genuine interest while interacting with your employees or even greeting your team members helps breaking barriers and projects you as an accessible leader.

    4. Provide constructive criticism

    Giving negative feedback is always tricky — you don’t want to hurt feelings nor do you want the feedback to be taken lightly.

    So, what do you do? The idea is to offer criticism such that it inspires change and delivers results.

    Firstly, take criticism behind closed doors because nothing breaks self esteem the way calling out employees in public does.

    Have a one-on-one discussion with the concerned person and make your feedback very specific. Be clear about your expectations and offer guidance on how they can improve.

    Most importantly, give them the chance to explain their side of the story too instead of jumping to conclusions.

    5. Conduct one-on-ones

    Yes, you conduct weekly meetings with the team but how well do you know them on a personal level?

    While you may think this isn’t an important practice to follow, it is one of the best ways to engage with your employees and identify what drives them.

    Conduct a one-one-one session every month and use it to understand how your employees are doing and if they are facing any roadblocks.

    More than reviewing performances, consider this as a relationship building tool to ensure you are aligned with your team and are working towards a shared, common goal.

    6. Build training programs

    In this ever-changing business landscape, it is important to ensure your employees are updated with the latest, relevant skills that can help boost productivity and performance.

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    From imparting technical and soft skills to offering mentoring programs – investing in training and development significantly helps in motivating employees and keeps the learning going.

    While conducting training programs, remember to keep them engaging and interactive. They need to ultimately drive value and reinforce learnings.

    7. Offer growth opportunities

    Every employee envisions a different career path for themselves and demotivation strikes the day they feel they have reached stagnation. As a leader, you need to first be aligned with their goals and offer ample growth opportunities that constantly keeps them engaged and motivated.

    Growth opportunities go beyond just financial growth. While money is a huge driving factor, what makes most people tick is making progress in the company and going up the career ladder.

    Being faced with new challenges and responsibilities lets them push the envelope and broaden their knowledge and skills.

    8. Reward them

    Go beyond verbal recognition and reward employees for their notable work. You can start an incentive program and reward top performers. This ensures increased productivity and brings out the best in them.

    If you don’t have enough budgets for that, you can also reward top performers with movie tickets, a paid vacation or something as simple as giving them the option to work from home.

    Rewarding employees promotes healthy competition and motivates them while meeting business goals.

    9. Encourage team outings

    Employee motivation also stems from how connected the team is. Invest time in team building because a team that works collaboratively is likely to deliver better results.

    From bowling nights to hosting team dinners – team outings are a great way to get to know each other and bond. Assign someone from your team to be in charge of organizing these monthly outings and make sure you join them too!

    10. Involve them

    Involve your employees in decision making because when they are involved, they feel more valued and part of a larger cause.

    Seek your team’s opinion and encourage healthy debates within the team. This boosts employee morale and challenges them to work harder as they know they are in a position to make an impact and will be taken seriously.

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    11. Set meaningful goals

    In the beginning of the financial year, make sure you sit down with each employee to set meaningful and realistic goals. The goal-setting conversation is an extremely crucial one and needs to be a two-way street.

    Whether your employee feels burdened or doesn’t feel inspired enough by the assigned goals – this is the time to come to a consensus and assign goals derived from business objectives that foster individual development while keeping in mind their strengths and weaknesses.

    12. Empower them

    You cannot expect employees to be motivated for long if you micro manage the team and do all the talking.

    Trust your employees and empower them to take decisions. Mistakes will happen but that is the only way they will learn.

    Be open to discussions, delegate effectively, set your expectations and give your team the freedom to do it their way.

    13. Deal with conflict

    A conducive work environment is one wherein there is open communication and trust, but every once in a while, you do encounter people in the team who indulge in office politics and spread negativity.

    How much ever fulfilled an employee feels with their work, gossiping co-workers are bound to ruin it for them. Workplace gossip if not tackled hampers productivity and soils working relations.

    As a responsible leader, you need to maintain a conducive work environment and act as a mediator in such cases. Don’t be the leader who is locked up in his/her cabin and is unaware of what is brewing within the team.

    14. Implement a flexible work culture

    Flexible work cultures are a growing trend and are here to stay.

    Whether it is offering flexible working hours or allowing employees to work from home once in a month – a flexible work culture promotes work-life balance and aids in employee satisfaction.

    It shows that the management is sensitive to employees’ schedules and is thereby highly appreciated.

    15. Host engaging activities

    All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and we cannot agree more! So, why not devote one day of the week to employee engagement activities?

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    From hosting baking competitions to introducing wellness programs in the office – let your team have some fun beyond work. This keeps the environment engaging, light-hearted and interesting, giving them all the more reason to look forward to coming to work.

    16. Maintain a positive work space

    Your employees spend more than half their day at work and in order to keep them energized and motivated, it is important to maintain a positive and inspiring work space.

    Have a recreation center where employees can unwind after a hard day’s work, offer free snacks and beverages and invest in an open office design that promotes socializing and conversations.

    These are simple yet effective ways to create a space your employees will love coming to.

    17. Avoid discrimination

    Any kind of discrimination, be it due to age, gender, religion or race hugely impacts employee motivation and performance.

    In order to avoid such cases, you must lay down rules against discrimination and take strict action against accused employees. Lead by example and make sure no one in the team is a victim of bias and discrimination.

    The bottom line

    Don’t underestimate the power of motivating employees. Understand that the more engaged and motivated they are, the better their performance will be.

    It is also a good idea to send out a survey and get feedback from your employees on the company culture, work environment and their motivation levels.

    This will help you be more aligned with their expectations and further improve your efforts in building a stronger, engaged team.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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