Where to go next?
Here are 5 steps to find your next path.
by Michelle Keefe | September 29, 2020
Not everyone’s career journey is a linear one. For many of us there are far more twists, turns and sometimes it can even feel like you’re at a dead end. Fear not. That dead end is actually hiding another path. You just have to look a little harder for it.
Finding your next career path can feel intimidating especially if the work experience on your resume looks short. it might feel like you’re starting over. You are not. You just need to assess what you want.
Does this sound like you:
I left my career early on before i made it past the first couple rungs of the corporate ladder. I started a family; participated in my community; volunteered. I have worn many hats. I want to go back to work. I want to do something interesting. I believe I have a lot to offer, but my work history on my resume is a little sparse and I am not totally sure what kind of job I want or what is even out there. Not only do I feel like I’m at a dead end, I feel lost in this theoretical career forest. What is my next move?
For many of us the path is greatly different. Maybe your path was short or it’s a series of little paths. Despite a stellar academic journey and a lot of innate talent you feel like you are coming up short on work experience. This can be a frustrating place to find yourself. You might wonder who will hire me? What do I even want to do? Where do I start?
Here are your next steps.
Pause and Reflect.
Give yourself space to think about what you are looking for out of a career. Dig deep to discover what you really want and need. Ask yourself questions such as: what are my goals, what motivates me, what kind of work environment do I want? what do I need out of a job? The answers may surprise you. Then think back to the moments you enjoyed most at work and in other areas of your life. List out all of your accomplishments, skills and strengths; even the crazy or boring ones. They often reveal our greatest superpowers. Our PREP worksheets on Self Reflection and Career Assessment will help get you started. Exploring these questions will begin to point you in the right direction and lead you to step 2 or 3.
If after that initial self reflection and career assessment you are still feeling stuck and are unclear on your next direction, take action. It is easy to succumb to analysis paralysis and feel like you need all the answers to move forward. Instead consider a period of career exploration. In many ways you probably already have been doing that. Career exploration allows you to learn about yourself in a work setting. This may mean less glamorous roles but it does give you a glimpse into an industry or position you have been curious about in the past. Full disclosure: I once contemplated going back to school for interior design so I took a job as an office manager in a design firm. After a few months, I realized what was a hobby for me was not what I wanted in a full blown career. This quick and low-risk experiment saved me significant time and money. All the while I was getting paid. A position at a smaller company or a local non-profit gives you the opportunity to wear many hats, build skills in a variety of areas and see what responsibilities and industries you enjoy; whether it be bookkeeping, communication, organizing, or people-facing roles.
After these exercise in self-reflection and career exploration you probably have a good sense of your next career move. Put your energy into fulfilling that step by enhancing your skills. Not only will this get you up to date on current applications and requirements you will also build your confidence and bolster that resume to reflect this expertise. For example, you may have discovered that marketing interests you. Begin by examining what aspects of marketing you enjoy (writing, analytics…). Follow that by researching the different types of marketing roles out there today and now find out what you need to bolster your mastery. Take a class. Learn a new app. Talk to people in that role. Make it happen. Use our LevelUp worksheet to help you with this step..
Get Hands-On Experience
You have your path and your up- level’ed skills…now let’s take them for a test drive. Dip your toes by offering your services to others. Small businesses (check with that friend starting a new company) and local non-profits often need help in many different facets, whether it’s social media management, collateral creation or quickbooks help they will be more open to a less experienced and less expensive candidate and you get the advantage of experience and resume building. They may not pay a lot but it will help both your confidence and skills.
Embrace your fresh perspective
Decades in one field &/or one industry can make a person jaded or just used to the status quo. You have the benefit of offering a new viewpoint. You are open to learning new things and adapting to new environments. Your years of doing other things can be a breath of fresh air for an organization. Use this to your advantage. Be curious. Share your perspective.
When you have moments of frustration or confusion remember that you are not bound to one path. Take ego out of the equation and allow yourself exploration, education and curiosity. Have fun with it. Try new things. Learn new things. You cannot fail at this. Suddenly career exploration becomes just that – an exploration – a positive journey instead of something dreaded.