Spring appears to have sprung – at least in NYC as of April 14. The new season perhaps has you thinking anew. Beyond making time to clear out your closets, clear time for some career thinking.
When I was still practicing law back in 2001, I found myself lacking motivation for the deals I was working on. That malaise sparked a soul-searching journey to discover the source of my career discontent (was it the firm? the type of work or something else?). I ultimately hit on making a total change in roles after writing down a list of all the things I LIKED about my job (mentoring junior colleagues, marketing and recruiting activities). For my career, that list was the navigational equivalent of a billboard sign! I knew I needed to find another role within the legal profession to flex my “soft skills”.*
Amusingly, years later, I felt the same “ok, now what” dumps for my management role after 4 years. How did I fall back in love with my management career? A damn performance review, that’s how!
A 360 review sparked yet another career reassessment for me – along with a renewed interest in my current career. I had moved into a management role and after a transformational few years, I had plateaued in the professional development role (to be honest, I’m not sure I saw it that way at the time). The 360 review was an eye-opener! The feedback revealed that I was a great manager (go me!) though personally, it highlighted the fact that I didn’t enjoy managing. Nope. I’m a doer and management sadly, meant I wasn’t doing, I was managing other people who go to do the doing. A career strength I discovered AND enjoyed flexing at work, was creating, being handed challenging tasks and finding innovative solutions. I fell back in love with my job when I had that “aha!” moment.
Note to reader: IF you’re shying away from a 360 review – REVERSE course! is my strong advice. Seize the opportunity to rediscover what make you YOU for the role you’re currently in or as motivation to pursue another role that allows YOU to shine.
Along with the invaluable career feedback from your peers, seek out hyper-transparent conversations with your boss. These ‘reality checks’ were invaluable for me – enabling me to separate my skills, abilities and contributions from the “realities” of the role I was in (realities = budgets, office politics, org chart, titles, hierarchy and other BS). These conversations enabled me to make changes in my career (especially a departmental move) when I had reached as far as I could go in the function I was in. Later, understanding I had a skill-set that was VALUED not only by my boss, but in the wider job market, proved the key when I was hesitating on pursuing a completely new career opportunity outside of the firm– as one colleague said to me “what’s the worst that can happen…you can return to your old job”. When you know you can take your skills back to your “old job”, well, let me tell you – it makes it much easier to take risks, and move ahead into a new, unknown career.
A spring career to-do list: For the next week, write down your work likes + dislikes (without editing!) and see what you discover. Put down on paper whatever comes to mind – from the quality of the coffee to the on-site wellness program to whatever! gets you writing stuff down. Editing can block progress – if you’re listening to your inner critic all the time, nothing will ever get down. And the type of work you are seeking has as much to do with the environment you’re operating in – so don’t discount the importance of sunlight or a warm greeting from the receptionist.
*As you can imagine, I’ve detailed my career move from attorney into professional services firm management in my book Build Your Dream Network. Find that particular networking roadmap at page 70 (The Eighteen-Month Career Transition Success Story).