For the early part of my career, I job hopped. From the time I graduated college in 2003 to the year I took the leap and became self employed in 2010, I worked a total of 4 jobs. Two years seemed to be the magic number of years that I could stay in any job. Once the 2nd year creeped up, I got that familiar itch to explore what else was out there for me. Some would say this is par for the course for people of my generation. Research shows that millenials tend to stay in a job for less than three years compared to 4.4 years of the average worker. While it’s said that job hopping allows us to cultivate different experiences and learn new skills along the way, what I find is that, no matter what generation you belong to, underneath it all, what we’re really looking for is happiness and fulfillment within our careers. It’s like soul searching for our career.
What I hear most from the clients I work with is a strong desire to have a sense of purpose in their career. Our sense of purpose can mean so many things and can vary from person to person. A sense of purpose can mean having more creativity in your work. It can also mean teaching or empowering others whether it be your co workers or your customers. It can mean having enough freedom and flexibility to maintain a happy work-life balance. Another way we find purpose in our career is working for a cause that is meaningful to you so perhaps we may pursue a job that has a social impact component.
There really is no end to finding purpose in your work; you just have to know what is important to you. When you don’t know what is important to you or what you really want, the search for purpose can seem endless. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that when we find purpose, so ends our search. Our sense of purpose and what is important to us is constantly evolving. What you may find important to you today may change in five years. In a sense, our purpose is impermanent.
However, what I want to focus on today is the methods we use to find happiness and fulfillment in our work. No matter what that means for you, we cannot possibly hope to find it by aimless job hopping. This saying puts it quite nicely: “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” – Lewis Carroll.
The trouble I see and what was most prevalent for me when I navigated my career path early on is that when we don’t immediately find happiness in one job, we jump ship to the next one, only to be disappointed a year or two later. When we don’t address the underlying source of unhappiness in the first job, the next job will only serve as an escape, not a solution. Blindly going from one job to another is a bandaid fix that covers up the problem but does not truly heal it. Sometimes we’re more clear on what we want in a romantic partner more than we are clear of what we want out of our careers.
It’s time to get serious about what we want and turn a passive career journey into one of intention.
Step #1 – Dream big and visualize.
Don’t underestimate the power of your dreams. Consider this. What if your dreams were not just fantasies but an actual blueprint to how you truly wanted to live your life? (tweet this) The reason why dreams make such a significant impression on us is because the mind perceives images as truth. Your mind cannot tell the difference of what is real or imaginary. Have you heard of the lemon experiment? Try this: Close your eyes and imagine you had a lemon. See the lemon in your mind’s eye in close vivid detail. Picture yourself slicing through the bright yellow lemon. See yourself holding it up, feeling the weight of it in your hands, squeezing it and letting the juice splash onto your tongue. Can you feel yourself puckering or your mouth salivating in real life? This is the power of our minds.
For 10 minutes a day, hold the vision of your dreams in great detail. Paint a picture in your minds eye, seeing yourself in a career that you truly enjoy and feel passionate about. Imagine yourself getting up for work every day excited about what you’re about to do, the people you are helping, and the life you are leading.
Step #2 – Know what you stand for.
Your core values; in other words the principles that represent what is important to you and what you believe in must take a front seat to your life and career. The more aligned your values are with your actual behavior, the more they will serve as the inner compass to navigate your career.
Set aside 20 minutes and list out your top 10 values. Your list may include words like travel, freedom, spirituality, kindness, family, etc. Go through your list again and narrow it down to 5 and then 3. These are your top 3 values. As you go through the list, don’t second guess yourself, go with your first response. When you arrive at your top 3 values, define for yourself what each value means to you.
Step #3 – Start small.
Now that you’ve visualized what your dream career would look like and you’re clear on the values that are important to you, its time to take one step that will bring you closer to your vision. This step doesn’t have to be something large and terrifying, it can just be to pick up the phone and set up a meeting with someone from your network to pick their brain. A small step could be signing up for a workshop or beginners class in the area that interests you. All that matters is that you take a step because each action you take will cause a ripple effect in the direction of your dreams. Try to choose a step that would feel like a gift yourself. Each small action serves as your commitment to you and your dreams.
If you’re thinking of making a career change before you make your escape, build your map first and let your vision and your values support your actions and guide your direction to create the next milestone of your career.