Picture this: for the last six months you’ve felt miserable, demotivated and almost cry at the thought of getting up for the job that crushes you each morning. One evening you head out with a friend to find solace in a drink and with the hope of gaining some useful career advice. Your friend can see the dead, grey-tone of your skin and the lack of enthusiasm in your speech. But according to your friend, it’s mandatory to ‘stay there for a bit longer, things might pick up and the opportunities will come’.
This type of generalised career advice is peddled by those who have no idea how to find the right fit for you in the current job market. This goes for too many traditional career consultants, recruiters and wishy-washy online-blogs.
Get the right help and find your perfect career fit.
Don’t waste time on recruiters
No seriously, don't. When it comes to recruiters, the bottom line is simple - they mostly want to earn a quick buck. See past the faux enthusiasm and the daily mothering phone calls arranging twenty-odd weekly interviews that you either don’t qualify for or have no interest in re-entering a field from which you’re trying to escape. Not just your precious time is being wasted, but each deflating phone interview will sap your belief that there is something better out there. You could be about to make one of the biggest changes in your life, so tailored career advice is exactly what you need right now.
Try them out when you’re clear on what type of role you want based on your experiences, strengths and interests. This will enable you to tell a coherent story about yourself and be credible.
Dismiss misleading advice
The internet is the biggest time sink around. It’s awash with non-evidenced based, click-bait articles. We are all told who we are, what we should do, how to sing like Richard Branson in the shower, yet we still continue to click, click, click. Being bombarded by so-called career experts is time-consuming and confusing.
Here’s some of the most misleading cliches.
- “Follow your passion”. Get real: 80% of people reportedly admit to not having a passion in the first place. Many are passionate about art, sports and travel, yet the number of job offerings in these fields are miniscule. By all means go for it if you’re prepared to fail.
- “Get a master's degree or an MBA to get ahead”. Further qualifications are too often used to delay any decisions about the work you really want to do. Those who do this get career planning the wrong way around. First you have to find direction, then pick the right qualifications to get you there.
- “Keep all of your options open” is such appealing career advice because you then don’t have to make any decisions. But if you’re honest with yourself, you know this only makes sense so long as you’re learning transferable skills likely to be valuable in your next move (think management and leadership skills not deep industry knowledge). After this point, you’re stalling.
Pick a coach who actually knows the job market
Traditional career coaches are notorious for their time-consuming contact hours and hefty price tags, yet still no job guarantee. So most people won’t take the risk.
The most important thing they can do is provide a structure and timeline to change and hold you to account. No excuses. The most pressing issue is whether they actually know the relevant job market with the tools and career databases to help you access it. Without this fresh-faced coaches and grey-haired counsellors both suffer from the same problem - they can’t give you career advice on what will really be a good fit.
How many people have blundered into a job based on an a positive experience or inspiring conversation? Sadly these dizzy moments of inspiration are not sustainable enough to form the basis of your whole prospective career.
In short, grow your own passion, don’t follow somebody else’s. Watch out for the red flag signs - whose passions are these? Are they realistic? Always be aware and critical on your career decision making, despite how tingly some feelings of inspiration might be.
That said, experts, the people who know the reality of the job, are the best guide you can get. You have to learn how to use his or her greater knowledge and understanding of this specific work or workplace to support your decision making as an inexperienced newbie. You want someone to ‘tell it how it is’ and help you imagine what it will be for you, not tell you what to do.
Avoid judging your prospective career success on somebody else's and what they might tell you. Just because it's worked for them doesn't mean it will necessarily work for you. A more careful appraisal of the jobs markets and your opportunities will yield these.
Take a step back from the advice of family and friends
Whilst family and friends might express their worries with your best interests at heart, they're in no position to evaluate your career objectivity. One career path might have worked for them. They’re worried about the profound uncertainty that follows admitting you’re on the wrong track. They want you to play it safe.
Close friends might know your personality and interests, but according to research this accounts for way less than half of your satisfaction and performance at work. Most aren't usually clued up on your experiences and strengths, let alone the best opportunities - it’s better to present options to them before making use of their perspective
Just because you ask for advice doesn’t mean you have to follow it. We’re all likely to have three different careers so get used to getting help and pivoting your career.
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As a strong believer in the career design thinking model, Martin draws on his successful career change to be Head of HR and Recruitment where he doubled the team and learnt what it takes to get hired. Qualified in psychometric testing and career coaching, and Career Consultant to a top university, he has helped 1000s of people with their career.