Think back to the last time you decided it was time to change roles (some of you might be going through that right now).
If you are like me, oftentimes that desire for change isn't about running toward the positive. Instead, many times it was about running away from a negative, external factor – I'm working too many hours, I'm not making enough money, my boss is a jerk, etc.
And therein lies a fundamental mistake many of us make managing our careers: rather than focusing on what is working, we focus on what isn't. Or, rather than focusing on the internal, we focus on that external. That can result in a desperation to find something – anything – that provides that escape, which often leads to the same challenges.
"The biggest mistakes that I made were when career change felt like a crisis came because I was so focused on what wasn't working, what I didn't want and what I didn't know," Jenny Blake said in her LinkedIn Learning course, Figuring Out Your Next Move. "None of that propelled the conversation forward."
Often, there are external motivators that cause us to seek a new job. Maybe, you are worried about the future of the job or the paycheck isn't high enough. Or you don't like your boss. Or you don't feel like you can move forward in your current role.
That's okay, we all feel those external pains. The key is what you do to solve it.
That means, to fix those external problems, to focus internally. And that really comes down to identifying not what isn't working, but what is working, what your current strengths are and building your next move around that.
Luckily for us, Blake outlined a methodical, strategic path for doing exactly that.
In her course, Blake outlined the four stages of a successful "pivot" – i.e., deciding what to do next in your career. And while I recommend watching the individual sections within her course to get a true understanding of each stage, here's a cursory explanation of each one:
This is the introspective stage and arguably the most important. Here's where you take inventory of where you are today, your strengths and where you'd like to be in one-year.
This stage sets up the next three, as it determines where you are and where you want to go (the last three stages all help you get there). Questions to ask yourself in this stage are – what are my biggest strengths now? What has helped lead me to success in the past? What would my ideal day look like?
Once you have a good understanding of who you are and where you want to go (not an easy task), it's time to move to the scan phase. Scanning really comes down to understanding the skills and connections you need to form to reach your goal – and then forming them.
So, this could mean going to networking events, watching learning videos online, adopting a mentor, etc. It's also a good time to collect feedback from others – ask them about your weaknesses and how you can fix them.
Rather than jumping in headfirst, pilot your role change first. So, let's just say you want to move into sales. Rather than quitting your job for a sales job, find ways to get some sales experience on the side. Perhaps you could shadow a few sales calls or get a part-time job in sales on the weekends.
There's a chance you'll try this and hate it. At that time, go back to the first step again (and be happy you didn't go-for-broke).
If it is successful, it'll likely give you even more intel for your next role. Rather than identifying that you like sales, it'll help you narrow it to what exactly you like about sales: maybe you love the thrill of closing a new customer or you want to work specifically in tech sales. And that'll help you find a new role that's a closer fit to your strengths.
The last step – when you make the decision and go for it. Maybe this means quitting your job or starting that business or moving locations.
Even if you execute the first three steps perfectly, there will always be some degree of uncertainty and risk with a pivot. There's a chance it won't work out. But, there's also a chance it'll work out big time, and be one of the great decisions of your life.
If it doesn't? It might sting for a bit. But simply follow the four steps again for your next role.
Changing roles is stressful. But, if you feel that inkling inside you that it's time for something new, don't ignore it. Otherwise, you risk stagnation, which leads to bad outcomes.
That said, you don't need to make a rash decision, either. By following Blake's method above, you won't remove risk entirely (and really, who wants a life devoid of risk). But you will mitigate that risk, and smartly focus on what is working, instead of simply looking to run from what isn't.