The perception of many people today
is that the days when you could “choose” what you wanted to do are largely gone. Sound familiar?
Most people spend somewhere between 40 and 60 hours week at work. That translates to around 2000-3000 hours year. The only other task that absorbs as much time is sleeping.
Anyone not actively “choosing” work that is personally satisfying is in effect choosing to spend nearly half their life unhappy or bored – hardly sensible choice!
If the way to survive and succeed in such competitive and challenging times is through the performance of people – and we know performance goes hand in hand with satisfaction – then it is good business to ensure staff are in control of their careers and lives.
The experience of many successful people is that control is not only possible, it is essential for satisfying work life.
The key is knowing what you want and taking appropriate action. The following simple exercise looking at current “choices” is good place to start. Take the time to work out what you really want – what excites you? What do you enjoy doing? Don’t be bounded by your current job – how do you like to spend leisure time? If there were no limitations, what would you choose to do?
Next assess your current job to see how it compares with the above.
? Is it an exact match?
? Do parts reflect what you really want to do?
? Is it stepping stone to what you really want?
If you current job is an exact match – congratulations, you have chosen well!
If it’s only partial match or stepping stone, think how it can be brought closer. If it can’t, then it is time to take action.
Begin by identifying preferred areas of work. Talk to supervisors or managers about your interests and see if you can take on new responsibilities.
It is surprising what opportunities exist. It might be project or small piece of work, or it might even be secondment to another part of the organisation – if you don’t ask, nothing will happen!
Think also about your preferred working environment. Does the way your team or area operate suit your style and personality? If not, what would you change?
Once again, talk to colleagues, supervisors or managers. Often the most surprising thing is how little we know about each other’s preferences and how easily they can often be accommodated.
If the analysis points to changing jobs, then thought and planning can prevent emotive knee-jerk reactions that see people swapping one form of dissatisfaction for another.
Research the “ideal” position and start by talking to person in your ideal job. They don’t have to be personally known – most people like talking about their job, will be flattered by the interest and are willing to help those with aspirations in their chosen field.
The key is to find out what type and level of skills and experience are needed to do the job. What is the normal pathway to this job and what is the simplest, quickest and easiest way for you?
Once the pathway is identified, take it step by step. The first step does not have to be changing jobs – it might be retraining within the organisation or after work. In general it is better to upskill before moving.
Upskilling not only improves the chances of securing the ideal job, it also shows prospective employers commitment to make changes.
The modern day angst about career choice is great leveller that touches everyone in an organisation, irrespective of where they sit.
On personal level it’s about fulfilment at work and about partners and families that share the dissatisfaction and bad temper that flows from ill-fitting jobs and careers.
Organisationally, it’s about personal performance and an obligation to ensure staff are in the right frame of mind and job to achieve their potential.
There are always choices – the trick is knowing what you want.
Sue Tucker is consultant with human resource consultancy, Greene Hanson.