Navigating a career crossroads in 11 steps

If someone asked me out of the blue, “What were your career crossroads moments in life”, I would have to give that some thought in order to define those specific times, events and chapters that forced big decisions or adjustments.

For some people, an experience of losing a job that you desperately need and/or enjoy, must be extremely difficult, hopefully the opportunity for a change in work circumstances can also be viewed as exciting, even if tinged with a natural degree of trepidation, no matter what your situation.

I’m at a career crossroads moment at present, although fortunately I’ve been working up to it for the last two years.  Rather than a full-time job, I’ve decided to look for a range of new projects to create a portfolio if possible, however no matter what your situation, I think the requirements to make or contemplate a move, are the same.

There is certainly nothing special, necessarily different nor new about the areas below; in fact they’re super simple and rather bland. The difference just might be that if you make sure you tick them off the list and keep up with them, the next person just might not.

1) Repeat: There are people who make things happen, there are people who watch things happen, and there are people who wonder what happened….

This quote (or partial quote from Jim Lovell, NASA Astronaut) has stuck with me since first reading it in a mag more than 25 years ago and to me, it has real meaning. I guess it’s always the silent starting point in my mind, to get me focused on the real task ahead and in all honesty, it’s best to assume that no one else really cares as much as you do about what’s next.

Working out what move to make next, what will keep us happy, challenged and rewarded for the next 5-10+ years, is not to be underestimated.

Deciding on your next job is a job in itself. Personally, I’d rather not wonder what happened.

2) Talk to the right people – pick up the phone if you need to, ask for advice

I’ve mentioned this in previous articles, however those people that are worth speaking with, will accept your call if you have something relevant to ask, no matter what their job title, net worth or standing in the community. It’s great to get searching (I use LinkedIn or personal contacts), set up catch-ups or just let them know that you’re in the market. It might not happen now but it’s good to just get on the radar. 

3) Buy a book & get scribbling

Grab a blank notebook (or buy a specific ‘Dreams’ book) and reserve the first few pages to list the numbers 1 to whatever down the page, where you can make a note of each of your ideas. Then number the remaining pages with a corresponding number, in order to have a full page available to expand on each idea that you write in those first couple of pages.

Some of those might be:

– A rough idea of what your CV needs to include

– Your passions & purpose

– People that you need to speak with

– Industries that you like

– Hours you’d ideally like or general flexibility

– Brands that you like

– Job types that you think you’re qualified for

– The sorts of perks that you might like (e.g. health care, kiwisaver bonuses…)

– Where you’d like to be in 5 years

– The sort of people you’d ideally like to work with

– Individual ideas for businesses that you might like to start

As you start to fill in this book, you can scan down those first few pages and start to look for some recurring themes, then join some dots as to what is your dream job or close to it and the way that you might hop, skip and jump to get there.

Personally, I’m keen to do various projects and grow another business, so for me when I look down the page, it’s more about different ideas and problems that I’d like to solve, however it still follows the same process.

4) Sort out a CV or Bio

Rather than the traditional ‘I’ve done this and this and this between these years’, I wonder whether it’s better to pick 3-4 key areas/sets of skills or experience that define you, bring out your personality and will set you apart from the next person. This would be the core of the CV and from there you can demonstrate where you’ve gained the experience for each. That way, it also slightly alters the fact that you may have worked in a few places yet gained specific experience vs. simply seeing a list of companies that you’ve worked for down the page in isolation.

There are plenty of websites that make suggestions about the ideal CV. To add to the mix, I’m keen to write a separate article on this one over the next few weeks.

5) Sort out a LinkedIn profile

If you’re not on LinkedIn, I really think it’s worthwhile to get on it, today.

Yes for sure, people will no doubt blah, blah about all of their experience and to be frank, blow it way out of proportion compared with the reality. However it’s no different from the old CV.

It really comes down to communication and how you relate what you think you’ve done and how it might add value to others. It’s a living document, which is fantastic.

If you don’t fancy yourself as a writer, then you can always jump onto Upwork or similar and find someone who is prepared to help you out. Often this can be for under $40 an hour, which is reasonable, given how much this can assist.

Again, there are no doubt plenty of sites that suggest how to write a profile, so I’ll add to that with my two cents worth in an upcoming. My profile is always a work in progress, but they are a living CV.

6) Ask to Connect with the right people on LinkedIn

As you stumble across interesting people out there, search them up on LinkedIn. Once you find them, using your laptop/desktop rather than your phone, request to connect up whilst always using the Note function to send a quick intro message. (This function doesn’t exist on mobile).

In NZ we are fortunate with the ~3 degrees of separation and the fact that people usually want to help, so give that a nudge, think about your short intro as to why you should connect and ask away.

Like you I’m sure, you get many requests each day from people that you don’t know and have no idea why they might feel that they should connect.

Quality connections over quantity – well that’s my mantra at present anyhow. If you have a different one, go for it. Usually, if a person can’t be bothered to add a note as to why they’d like to connect (and I don’t already know them), I don’t connect.

7) Read or listen

This has really changed my outlook and excitement for what’s ahead. It’s also helped with productivity and satisfied a real hunger to again experience what it feels like to learn.

This might sound counter-productive, however sometimes theory rather than on the job is actually pretty useful I think. Just to refresh.

The sort of books and podcasts that I listen to will no doubt not be for everyone however I really enjoy those about successful businesses and how they’ve navigated their course. It’s never ever as easy as it looks of course. Thrown in are a few really good ‘life’ books as well.

However one of the best books I’ve got (a physical copy in this case as you can scribble), which was suggested to me by a recruiter mate a couple of years ago, is http://businessmodelyou.com/. This looks at you as a ‘business’.   It’s quite an eye opener and is very compelling. You can simply Google it and download the one pager to be honest, although the book has so much great info in it.

Some other recent books off Audible and also podcasts are – The 5 Second Rule, Own The Day, The Everything Store, Delivering Happiness, Principles, Tim Ferriss, Masters of Scale…the list goes on.

8) Seek out and attend some relevant functions and events

Search these out. Read some LinkedIn posts and follow people who hold events. In many cases, they don’t have to cost anything and are after hours. Check with a local university, community ed programme or industry publications.

It’s not just for the networking opportunities as these are often very tough, nerve wracking, awkward etc. – if you can put yourself out there great, but for me, if you can immerse yourself in it if it’s interesting, then you feel so good learning something new towards your passion.

9) Find & meet up with good recruiters or HR Departments

I’ve got a list of what I’d say are respected recruiters around town, but I’m hesitant to list those here, which is not helpful I realise!

However ask around, look around, find those that are industry specific if possible and make some calls. See who makes you feel like they know what they’re talking about and who will look for your place with a business that fits you best, not just one that delivers them a quick commission.

10) Work out your Value in the marketplace
This can be found in many ways and primarily via the Recruiters that you speak with. Hays Recruitment salary guide is a good start also, but just start asking around and talking to those in the industry of your choice.

11) Time is ticking.  Repeat 1-10

Thanks and good luck out there.

Richard Poole

Clock

What is Success?

The other day, I was listening to an audiobook in the car, when the narrator mentioned the word ‘success’.

Continuing what seems to be a ‘reflective’ part of life currently, it got me thinking about how I might define the word success or indeed whether I felt successful.

As a word or state, it’s very subjective and usually defaults to having a financial association – e.g. how much money you’ve got, haven’t got or feel like you should have.

Often, success is not considered in isolation, because in this busy life that we tend to lead, many people compare themselves with the next person in the street. In fact financially, it’s not unusual for people to compare themselves with everyone in the street. At worst, you might also worry about what the people in the street are thinking about you and how they measure you.

My reaction when thinking about this, is that it’s all a bit of a shame. We’re never really going to win that one, as there will always be someone with more. Whatever you judge more to be.

At the end of the day, it’s your life. Do you feel successful? How do you measure success?

It’s only fair that I try and answer what I consider to be some of those things that come to mind, that mean success to me. If I get to achieve the following or somewhere along the path, then on balance, I feel like I’m being successful.

Waking up in the morning & getting out of bed
It’s not a bad way to start the day and it’s more often than not, better than the alternative!  It’s fairly important to wake up.  So tick that one off every day and you’re winning already.

Having gratitude
It’s a recurring theme in my ramblings, but then I genuinely feel it’s so important to kick start my day this way and think about all the good things that I might have going on. You might feel that you do yoga, meditation or have an early morning walk in order to feel gratitude for life. Whatever works.

Having something to do once I wake up (A daily plan/purpose)
The ‘Why’ that is bandied around so much these days and although potentially overdone, it’s a viable question to ask ourselves. It’s good to have a think about what the day looks like and what would be good to achieve by the time my head hits the pillow again.

A happy family
This goes without saying and it’s imperative to not take both the parts and the sum of its parts for granted. It might not always be easy nor a straight line to achieve, but as long as you’re in Drive and not Reverse, you’re making progress. (Even if you do feel like a taxi driver for the kids.)

Feeling fit & healthy or at very least, having a plan that might get me there
Just doing something energetic and making it habit. The worst habit is one that consistently achieves nothing. Kick some goals. Get the help required to move forward. Then move forward.

Tick things off the list of things to do
I don’t mean just doing the shopping with a shopping list, but some meaty things or even a ton of small things that all add up to your overall meaty goal(s). Having a sense of achievement and accomplishing meaningful things, even if some of them are admin, is important to me for feeling productive and maintaining some self confidence that I matter in the world around us.

Spending time with people that you genuinely want to spend time with
Whether family, friends, workmates or acquaintances – if it feels easy, then you probably have it about right.  If it doesn’t, then re-evaluate who you’re spending time with or how you’re spending the time with them.  Make some adjustments.

Life-Work balance – making it feel like you’re gaining time
Not easy, but again, you know what you need to do. Make it habit. Once it’s a habit, it’s easy.  Work is central to life for us all to put food on the table but I believe it’s not the core of our lives.  People & time are. So  for me, it’s Life-Work balance and not the other way around.

Having things to look forward to
I swear this is the golden ticket. This, for me, is what has most times stopped the Groundhog Day feeling of being on the hamster wheel. Anticipation of something different, new and particularly outside of work, is what keeps us going. Go ahead and book that trip! Get some more experiences in your life, so that when you look back, you have memories, not just years of runway that have been gobbled up by time and nothing else.  Also not a pile of ‘stuff’.  Actual memories to smile and talk about.

Having a real laugh and having fun
How good does it make you feel? So find a way to laugh each day. Even if it’s reading a joke site or watching something funny on YouTube. About a year ago I organised a group of random mates together from around the neighbourhood, many of whom didn’t know each other beforehand, for some drinks and schnitzel at The Local. Simple stuff, basically I guess celebrating being alive when you break it down. I couldn’t recall the last time I’d had so much fun.  The very cool thing is that no one tends to mention their work.  Suffice to say they’ve become a really popular catch up.

Learning something new
For me, this has started steam rolling lately. Maybe because I’m transitioning from a job I’ve had for quite a few years, but honestly, when you start learning something new, it’s hard to quench your thirst for more. Whether it’s reading an article, listening to an audio book about a subject that you’re interested in, watching a doco or Ted talk, learning about a new technology or learning about your family’s ancestry. Whatever. If you’re not learning then what are you doing?

Feeling like you’re making a difference in someone’s life
I’m enjoying living by this sort of mantra, whereby if you think of someone,  then get in touch. Even a quick text. Let someone know that someone is thinking of him or her.  It costs nothing but your time.  It not only makes their day and it certainly can make yours. I urge you to try it once a week. Who in your circle of old mates, family or an old work colleague could maybe do with some contact out of the blue.

Saying that you’ll do something and then doing it.
No matter what. Often you make plans and then closer to the time, you can often feel like you can’t be bothered and then find an excuse. Don’t do that. Stick to it. If you don’t, then you can’t really be disappointed when others let you down. You can’t have it both ways.

Living within your means
Having a budget and an understanding of keeping things in check. You have to splash out sometimes of course and you have to spend money where it’s necessary, however I still ask myself just before going to buy something whether I really need it in life or could I get by without it, putting the cash into something else that will benefit more people than just myself – e.g. my family or friends. I try and remind myself of what I have vs. worry about what I might not have.

Getting through the day!
We all have stuff going on and it’s not as simple as going to work or doing what keeps us busy each day, then feeling satisfied. There is still ‘life’ stuff always in the background. Always give yourself a pat on the back for making it through, as it ain’t always easy is it.

Having money is a bonus
Ultimately yes, money has the potential to provide us with a sense of freedom and calm, that allows the other items above to feel even sweeter when checked off a list – there is absolutely no doubt about that.

However, the common thread running through most of the above thoughts, is that these don’t have to cost much or in some cases, anything – yet they can make you feel the most successful person in the world.

So, I’ll ask myself the question again. Do I feel successful?

Overall, by standing back and looking across the spectrum of the parts to life, yeah you bet.

And that’s the thing.  There is just no way to be at the pinnacle in everything I don’t think.  In some areas, I’m not doing a great job at all.  However if I feel that I’m helping cut a path in pretty much the right direction for both our family and myself, whilst hopefully hanging onto the good stuff along the road, then the answer has to be Yes.  Absolutely!

Thanks.

Richard Poole – LinkedIn

The Key