A number of people ended up in their current careers by chance. I noticed in my generation (in particular, those in their late 20s – mid 30s), that only a handful of people went on to work in careers that relate directly to what they studied at university. I am one of those people! I studied chemical engineering and I am currently an International Tax Adviser (a tax accountant). One couldn’t differ more from the other. It all started out with me interning with my current employer and they retained me afterwards. It has now being nearly 6 and a half years. It was not too challenging transferring my skills as new trainees were required to pass both tax and accounting professional exams to qualify as a chartered tax account and a chartered accountant, so I got the necessary training.
This will usually be the case for others in my shoes. You join a big multinational firm, you are trained for weeks, months or years and also on the job, and then you are expected to get on with your work. For some, this is enough training but for others, they find themselves firefighting and struggling and not quite settling into the role. This often leads to not so good feedback during the appraisal process and little prospects of rising up the career ladder.
It is not only those with no background in their now chosen career that could face this challenge. It is also possible to have a strong affinity for something but not be very good at it. It isn’t good enough to like something, you also need to have the necessary skills to succeed at it, otherwise, you will either get frustrated, or you will be happy doing what you like without progressing!
Instead of feeling inadequate about where you are now, especially if you ended up there without much thought, I hope the suggested below will help take you to the next level where you can start feeling adequate and even become a trailblazer in what you do!
1. Self assess
Do a gap analysis. Where are you now? Where do you want to be? How can you get there? Spend time on yourself! Retreat somewhere nice and comfortable to do some thinking. It could be to a coffee shop, an early night so you can spend sometime on your bed thinking about what you want (ah! You thought I was going to encourage you to on a solo self finding holiday.. Think again). If you will rather do this with someone, arrange a catchup over lunch or dinner with a trusted friend and talk through this together. If you have a supporting partner, this could even replace pillow talk. I don’t know about you, but I love hearing what my husbands goals and aspirations are, I’m sure your supportive partner will be happy help you with this one. Just remember that at the end of it all, the decision on next steps should be all yours.
2. Focus on your findings from tip 1 above
Did the gap analysis result in you staying with your current employer? This is not impossible. If this is the case, focus on how you can improve on what you are currently doing or consider whether to stay with employer but to change roles or team.
If you gap analysis requires you to move, do your research!! Don’t fall into another per chance job. If you must, make sure it is one that you enjoy and can thrive in. You will be surprised how much information Google has! As there is currently no pressure to change jobs (seeing as you haven’t been fired!), take your time to do your research. However, set yourself a reasonable deadline and be accountable to a trusted person so that you don’t convince yourself you are okay where you are because you can’t be bothered to look or change jobs!
Speak to people who are currently in that industry and instead of focusing on the pros of the job or industry, focus on the cons. That will help you make a more informed decision. I got this tip from a really close friend recently. She said, and I am paraphrasing, it is okay to check out some of the people who currently are employed by the company you are looking work for on LinkedIn. I mean we check people out on Facebook and Instagram and so on, so why not for professional reasons! Look at their career profile, how long they have been at the company and whether they have changed roles since joining. This gives an indication of what career progression is like at the company and also its ability to retain its staff.
Short list the potential industries or employers that fit your bill.
3. What is your main driver?
Is it finances? Is it flexible hours? Is it more experience? Are you looking for something more longer term? These and other important factors are what you should be thinking about at this stage. Once you have decided what is important to you, it is now time to see if any of the industries or employers you have shortlisted above will satisfy your main drivers.
Consider also whether your skills be easily transferred to this new role. Do you see yourself excelling in this new job after you are settled in? You don’t want a job that requires no thinking at all. You will still want to challenge yourself a little, so a new job where you still have things to learn will reduce your chances of getting bored and unaccomplished, and having to go through this process again.
It doesn’t matter if you are moving from a technical position to a managerial or administrative position. I was speaking to a friend currently at this stage recently and she is considering moving to a less technical role. I encouraged her and said every successful business has a team of people at the management level. From the chairman to the CEO to the CFO, to the chief marketing officer and so on, not everyone is technical. However they are all needed to keep the wheel well oiled. Without them the business cannot be successful.
4. Speak to recruiters
I know recruiters can be a pain sometimes, especially when they call you at your desk at work, in the middle of your afternoon when your boss is sitting right next to you!
However, they have their role in society. They know who is recruiting and if they do their job well, they will only shortlist you for jobs they know you will do well in. However, beware of recruiters who haven’t done heir home work. For example, I got promoted to manager in October but some recruiters are still offiering my assistant manager roles and I’m like err NO!
This is another area where your LinkedIn account could work for you. Recruiters often head hunt on linked in and even HR departments in various companies have also contacted people in the last offering them a chance to discuss opportunities in their companies.
I’m sure you would have received one or two or more of such. Remember when you are contacted, you are in the driving seat and so you have control. Ask questions. Ask them direct questions, particularly tailored around the reason you are thinking of leaving your current job so that you don’t end up with a new boss but the same problem. It is a no obligation contact.
This is cheeky but even if you decide you don’t want to work for a company, it doesn’t hurt to get some interview practice. Who knows, you may decide at the interview that you actually like them and want to work for them. Worse case you have had some practice.
As always, good luck!