Undoubtedly, leaving a job is easier if you have a clear idea of what you want. However, getting bogged down in what you want to do can prevent you from getting out of your current situation. If you’re unhappy in your job something needs to change. Here are six steps to get you started.
1. Take small steps
Too many people have the attitude that oh I don't know what I want to do and I'm not really passionate about anything so I'll stay at my unhappy job forever. I found it hard to see a way out when I was stuck and so unhappy in many jobs when my heart was not in it. Looking back on it now I was playing it far too safe.
I found it comfortable to stay in a job I hated because I knew it. You might feel the same now. You know what’s expected of you, you know your colleagues and you know where you stand. Even more stuck when your confidence in your abilities may be flagging because you have been under performing too long at a job you don't care enough about to be good at and your colleagues constantly remind you of this. You may think that if you can't do this then how can you plunge into something completely new and challenging. So you limit yourself to an unhappy future because it’s familiar.
Take small steps. Go on the little you do know. You don’t like your current job. Why? What aspects make you want to leave? Was there any element you enjoyed or were particularly good at? Go from there.
Find out what other people do, what jobs are out there, what their experiences have been, what have they found useful, networking to make contacts in new industries. It works both ways. People will be interested in your journey and to hear what you have done.
You might not find your dream job straightaway. Don’t rule out things because you lack experience or expertise. You didn’t get where you are now without being curious and exploring what could be. The same applies to a new profession, there will be things to learn and you are capable of doing it.
2. Be easy in the not-knowing
Maybe you’re beginning to think about making a change or admitting to yourself for the first time that your job isn’t right for you. At this point, one of the most helpful things you can do is to be easy in the not-knowing.
Jeff Brown, an ex litigator and the author of bestselling book Soulshaping - A Journey Of Self Creation, warns against confining ourselves to a predictable range of experiences. In fact the avoidance of uncomfortable, unknown or difficult situations is a very common human reaction. This ‘experiential avoidance’ means we don’t face up to the hard stuff and causes all sorts of problems in the long run.
Are you staying in a job you hate because you don’t want to confront the fact you don’t know what you want to do?
3. Think long term yet be micro-ambitious
For stuck would be career changers, it's often damaging to your health, self esteem and happiness. Start thinking long term. Making a career change now will be immediately uncomfortable; it will disrupt your routine and create insecurity and instability. Long term though, you will be happier.
We can life as an ongoing question. It is a process of active exploration. You will live through many questions and many different answers. This may be one of the most important questions you live through. Experiment and explore until you find work you love. Uncertainty is exciting. It’s interesting. How long have you been in your current job doing the same thing everyday? Enjoy doing something different.
It doesn't have to be your passion. Most fulfilled people never really had one of these big dreams. And so I advocate passionate dedication to the pursuit of short-term goals. "Be micro-ambitious. Put your head down and work with pride on whatever is in front of you… you never know where you might end up." as Tim Minchin, the comedian said.
Finding out what you want to do will be a learning curve. Everyday you will learn something new about yourself, how you work best or develop a new skill. You might enjoy something you didn’t expect to, or have a skill you didn’t realise you had. If you are held back by your seeming lack of passions to go after, bear in mind that Passions are not born but grown. when you invest your time an energy centre getting better at something.
4. Find your flow
Work you love is just round the corner when you commit to learning something where the day to day activities could be a perfect balance between challenging you and playing to your strengths. That's how you can avoid those feelings of anxiety or boredom. That's how you can feel completely absorbed in a task and feel like time is just flying by.
Strengths tests can help you uncover this like the VIA Survey Character Strengths Profile. One of the premier tools of positive psychology, this scientifically validated survey takes less than 15 minutes and is the first step in building the foundation for a better "you". Strengthsfinder 2.0 is also a good choice to find your top 5 strengths here.
Career change isn't easy yet it's simple when you have a process that you trust. Things will come together, maybe not in the way you expect.
Martin Underwood is the Head of Career Strategy at Life Productions, helping lawyers and other professionals find a better career fit and take practical action through advice, courses and networking.