- What you want to do.
- Where you want to do it.
- For whom.
If you have no idea what you want to be when you grow up (a very common feeling for career changers), try this exercise:
Close your eyes and imagine your perfect day at work.
- What would you be doing? (You don’t need to control this thought process. Just decide you will think of the most pleasant, fun things you could base a career on, and see what your mind brings up.)
- Would you work alone or with a group of people? Who are they? Who is in charge? What are they doing?
- In a traditional office? At home? Remotely? Indoors? Outdoors? Do you travel?
- What do you hear and see when you notice your surroundings?
- What makes this the best place for you to work?
If you know your general career field and just need to be a little more specific, you can obtain more information by talking to people already in the field. Most people love to talk about themselves and their work; they are flattered and pleased when someone is interested. That means as long as you are courteous and flexible, you are probably not imposing if you ask someone to talk about their work. You might even ask to shadow them for a few hours or a day.
Before you meet with them, develop a list of questions you would like answered. These might include asking about the most enjoyable parts of their job, the most difficult parts, what they would change if they could, what they appreciate about their employer or colleagues, and anything else you feel comfortable asking. (Don’t ask about salary. There are other ways of finding that out, and you will likely make your host uncomfortable.)
When you have decided on your next job or career direction, you will need to decide on several companies you would like to work for. You do not need to be concerned about whether there is an opening at any of these companies for the type of work you want to do. Sometimes, it is better when there is no opening, so the person you talk to feels no pressure to hire you.
What? But I DO want them to hire me, you think. No, not yet. What you want is information about the company.
Most people accept a job because of the job. Most people love — or leave — a job because of the people, the culture of the company. Before you sell a third of your life or more to a company, it is a good idea to find out whether you feel comfortable with their way of doing business. Can you be around them for a long time? Do they do things in a way of which you approve? Are they honorable? Are they trustworthy? Would you feel proud to tell your friends and family you work there?
Start to find out these type of things by using online sources such as Glassdoor.com and Vault.com that offer employee reviews of companies. Here’s how.
When you have found half a dozen companies that fit your criteria, use LinkedIn to find out who works there. See if you can be introduced to someone in the company, the higher the better. You are not asking for a job. You are asking for information about their company and other companies in the same industry.
When you decide on the top two or three companies you would like to work for, begin to develop relationships there. People like to hire people they know, so being recommended by a staffer is one of the best ways to break into a company.
If this process seems like the long way around, consider what it would be worth to have to do it only once or twice in your lifetime. Think about working for a company that fits your style and your ethics. Consider what it would be like to work for a company YOU choose.
If you would like assistance for this process, contact me to discuss coaching and accountability.