Looking To Change Careers? It’s Not Job Security, Stupid! ( Part 1 )
In the 1980's it was 'What Color Is Your Parachute?' Today it's called the Guessing Games.
I’m behind. While chatting with friends at a wedding, I learned that my closest friends are developing their third or fourth careers. One friend switched from touring singer/songwriter to personal trainer (with a stint as a software developer in the middle). Another friend started giving guided hikes in national parks, switched to banking to pay off her debt, and now spends her workdays composing tweets as a social media marketer.
Career hopping is ostensibly the trademark of the millennial generation, but statistically, it’s not.
Changing jobs and careers is no more common than it once was, but millennials (including me) are quick to recognize that job security depends on our ability to grow and change. We don’t count on company loyalty, so we dedicate ourselves to professional growth.
But professional growth is anything but easy. The highest paying, most interesting jobs 10 years from now don’t exist today, and millennials must navigate choppy career waters while we attempt to manage adulthood (or binge watch Fuller House on Netflix). We have no guiding roadmaps to help us through the career world. Even if we had maps, many of us would struggle to pick out a final destination.
I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up, but I also don’t wish to suffer from analysis paralysis.
Instead, I subscribe to a refined process that keeps me growing and learning as a professional. I guess where I want to be in ten years. A guess isn’t a contract. It’s not a commitment. A guess is a direction, and a choice to take actions that will propel me in that direction. I guess so that I can move today. My guess doesn’t have to be right to be valuable.
Over my career, I’ve made a few guesses about what I want to be next. First, I guessed that I should run a non-existent grocery delivery service for an existing retailer. I put hundreds of hours of research into this only to conclude that the lifestyle required to bring the idea to life would have sucked the life out of me.
Next, I thought I would become the next Pioneer Woman, but as I made my roadmap, I realized that I would need to work 90-hours a week to make it happen. Not to mention, celebrity has never been my forte.
These days, I aspire to continue working in quantitative marketing outside of the corporate path. Ideally, I would start a consulting firm, but that will wait.
In ten years, I’ll still want the flexibility to spend time with my kids, so my aspirations in business building remain modest. Instead of starting an empire, I aspire to be a self-employed marketing consultant with enough flexibility to attend soccer games (or my kid’s chosen activities).
Will this guess be the guess that comes to fruition? It’s tough to say, but this is how I test out my guesses.
Research: All the nerds at heart will love this step. When I establish a guess, I haven’t the faintest clue what I’m getting into. Instead, I l learn all that I can (for the low, low cost of free). I read articles and listen to podcasts. I even take a few courses to see if my heart yearns for a given direction.
Strategize: Within 60-90 days, I force myself onto the strategy step. To make real progress, I need a strategy (a route) that will allow me to move towards my guess. I develop a ten-year road map and a 90-day action plan. I don’t bother with attempting to plan the in between stages since those will change.
Evaluate: Once I have a strategy in place, I can decide if the work to achieve my guess seems worthwhile, or if I would be better off starting over at square one.
Execute: If I deem the activity worth pursuing, then I have to do it. This is the hardest part of any plan… starting it. It’s the riskiest part because I risk failure. It’s safer to start over, but failing is more valuable. I learn more (at least that is what I tell myself since I’m prone to failure).
Refine: After I’ve started pursuing a direction, I might realize that the direction I’m moving or the route I’m taking doesn’t work for me. I’m fine with that. After all, I’m pursuing a guess. I simply course correct and develop a new strategy. Rinse and repeat.
By committing to the process of guessing, I make certain that I will continue to grow and learn as a professional. My skills will stay relevant, and I will have a more stable career than if I let careers happen to me.