You didn’t land your dream job this year, but that’s okay. You had other things going on. If anything, it’s made your resolve to find a new job even stronger. Nothing at work has changed, except your patience to tolerate uninteresting projects and a continuously increasing workload.
You don’t want so much to land a new job—you need to get a new job this coming year. You’re sick of being underpaid. You’re tired of hearing yourself complain that you’re bored at work. You feel like you’re stuck, which is a horrible way to face each day. You’ve got that nagging feeling you’re not living up to your potential and that you’re settling for the job you have rather than going after the job you want.
This next year, you’ve decided, is going to be different. You’ve identified that the only thing standing between where you are now and a cool new job is a pesky little thing called “clarity.” If you can get some clear answers, you’ll be set to launch yourself into a serious job search. The questions that need answering might be: What should you be paid? Is it realistic to think you could find a job where you wouldn’t be bored? What’s your passion? What can someone with your experience do if you want to change industries? What’s the perfect role for you? What should your resume look like? What should you include in your LinkedIn profile?
These questions are great. But spending time finding your answers is exactly why you’re stuck and will remain so. Let’s be completely honest and candid with each other—the reason why you didn’t make a change this year wasn’t because of a lack of clarity. No, you didn’t make a change because we’ve been taught and conditioned that big changes, like changing jobs or careers, requires preparation. And a whole lot of it. In this case, preparation looks like spending time to produce a great resume or pouring over tons of online job postings to find the one or two that you’ll apply to.
Here’s the flaw in this approach—preparation is no substitution for action. Clarity actually happens as a result of taking action, not before you take action. “Bias to action” is one of the five main design principles from Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, one of my favorite books that actually helps you to change careers.
One of my clients, Sam, is a great example of what shifts when you stop focusing on preparation and you commit to action. Sam had come to me because two years ago, he had tried to find a new job but wasn’t successful. He’d put his search on the back burner, but now due to market conditions in his field, he had a new urgency to find something. The trouble with Sam is he’s a bit of a unicorn: he has a highly specialized skill set in a highly specialized industry.
Instead of working on just tweaking his resume (which is where he wanted to start), we got him talking to former colleagues, clients, and even reconnecting to a few people he had interviewed with two years ago. His action was to stay in information-gathering mode rather than putting himself out there as a job seeker. He suspended his expectations about where he was going to end up (e.g., the industry or level of responsibility) and he simply shifted his approach. He took his research from online to offline.
Sam went out and asked for advice and suggestions about what types of roles might be a fit for his unicornish background. He asked for introductions to people who were doing what he thought might work for him. He was open to their suggestions. Pretty quickly, he had some interesting doors open. After several conversations (really, he said he never felt like he was being interviewed but rather was having real conversations) with one company, they offered him a role he’s very excited about. This all happened in less than three months. And the process was way less painful than applying for a ton of jobs online and never hearing anything.
What’s the bias to action that makes sense in your situation? How can you stop sitting on the bench and instead get in the game? Maybe you sign up for a class you’ve been thinking about. Could you reach out to a former colleague who’s now working at a company doing interesting work, even though you have no idea what the “perfect approach” to them would be? Sure, you’ll probably feel uncomfortable at first and even ask yourself if you’re wasting time. But isn’t being stuck in a job that doesn’t fit one of the most uncomfortable situations there is?
If you’re looking to jump-start getting unstuck in 2020, join our Designing Your Life Experience in-person workshop in January.
Keep an eye out for more upcoming posts where I share some other design thinking principles to challenge your mindset and shake things up.