New Year, as we all know, is a great time for a new start. But what happens if we are feeling so overwhelmed with our own set of career problems that we can’t even reach the first hurdle, let alone know how to clear it?
Careers are complex things. No one ever said it was going to be easy but that doesn’t stop us beating ourselves around the head when we reach this realisation. But too often than not, we let ourselves become overwhelmed by keeping all our ideas and worries in our heads and not actively attempting to work through them. And this can make the problem look bigger than it really is. So stop thinking and start doing.
Not all these steps below will fit everyone’s situation - one of the many frustrations when it comes to careers issues is that there are so many variables that there really is no one-size-fits-all solution. So pick the ones that fit your situation and that work for you, whether you need a new career, a new job or just to overcome a tricky work situation. By working through just some of the suggestions below you will start to feel the benefits of moving forwards and, more importantly, you should start to believe that your career goals are achievable.
Rewrite your CV
Regardless of whether you are looking for a new job or not this is just good practice. It means we are ready to go if the need arises (and, let’s face it, we don’t always have a warning of when this will be) but it also helps to remind us of what we have to offer employers. Focus on your achievements - make sure you are highlighting all the ways that you have added value to your past and present employment situations.
Embrace social media
Recruitment practices are ever-changing and the introduction of social media into the realm of job search has made this change more rapid than ever. Don’t allow yourself to get left behind. Don’t leave it until you absolutely need to as then the climb will be much steeper. Start familiarising yourself with a new social media platform - be it LinkedIn, twitter, or one of the many others - or just up your activity and know where and how to look for opportunities.
Reach out to your contacts
The tough economic situation of late has meant that networks are more essential than ever before, so make sure you are making the most of yours. Re-establish contact with colleagues of past as you never know when you may need them in the future. If you are actively seeking new work opportunities then put aside some time to brainstorm those who may be in a position to help you and follow each of them up. Use LinkedIn to grown your network and identify others who can help you.
Speak with your line manager
The easiest place to grow you career may be within your current organisation. But line-managers aren’t mind readers so take control and put time aside to have an open and honest conversation about internal options for developing your career, whether it’s a sideways move, a promotion or a training course. Alternatively, if any of your current work problems stem from tricky relationships at work - either directly with your line manager or with someone else - failure to address it head on will not make the problem go away. So be brave and seem to resolve underlying issues through communication. It could make your working life much easier.
Research the job market
Whether you are thinking about a new career or just a new employer, put some time aside to see what’s out there. Scan some of the bigger generic job boards and take a look at the jobs that exist, the salaries they pay and the skills they require. A common problem I come across is that people just don’t know the breadth of what is available to them.
Remind yourself of the skills you have
Conduct your own skills audit. Take time to look at the skills you have developed both specific to your job and those which are more generally transferable. In each case, write down an example of a time you have used this skill. This will allow you to see more clearly how you can sell yourself to future employers (or your current one) as well as any alternative careers that you may be suited to. Take stock of what you have achieved and try and identify any obvious gaps that need filling.
Consider your work values
But it’s not just about skills. In order to be truly satisfied at work you need to make sure you are in a working situation that closely reflects the values of what is important to you - the things you need from a job in order to make you happy and keep you feeling fulfilled. Write down a ‘wish list’ of your priorities. Consider things like challenge, risk, routine, promotional opportunities, time freedom, creativity etc. This is about identifying you optimal working environment in order to ultimately move towards it.
Take advice from those who know you well
If you are having problems recognising the skills you have or identifying career areas you may be suited to, why not ask other people for their input? Sometimes we cannot see the woods for the trees, but others can so asking those close to you - friends, family members - for their input can bring up some hidden gems.
Or from those who don’t
This is where the career professionals come in. It can be an extremely useful exercise to talk your situation through with someone impartial - someone who can thread together the themes, help you identify your goals and work towards them realistically.
Momentum Careers Advice is based in St Albans, Hertfordshire but works with clients, via skype, throughout the UK and beyond. Initial careers consultations cost £70.