This time last year I was feeling a bit stuck in my career. Now, as a careers professional, that is not always a great admission. Surely we should be able to apply our skills to ourselves and get ourselves out of any career ruts we might briefly fall into? Doctor, heal thyself, as they say.
My difficulty was that I actually liked my job. It was varied, creative, autonomous, collaborative, and gave me the work-life balance that I want. I very rarely saw other jobs advertised which looked better. But I had been doing this job for a while, and it had lost the freshness and excitement it once had. I didn’t necessarily want to get another job, I just wanted to re-discover my spark.
I decided to make 2017 a year of change. So, in a bid to see which career coaching approaches might actually work for me, I picked out a few of the most buzzy, enticing career books, all promising to help me re-invent my working life, follow my dream or achieve career success. I followed their rules to see what would happen, and low and behold, I did actually make some real changes as a result. I am still in the same job, but I am also involved a dream professional project – writing a book – with a much admired colleague, I am about to pursue another lifelong dream of doing a yoga teacher training course at the weekends – and I am doing more of the things that I really enjoy when I am in work.
Of course, it is not all perfect, and I am still at the mercy of those regular restructures which seem to be a feature of the public sector these days, but I now feel I have other options and am developing some lines of work that could create new possibilities (a portfolio career, perhaps).
So which career coaching rules really did make a difference for me?
- Meditate a lot – it’s a not necessarily a rule that many career coaches would use, but things did become much clearer for me through meditation. One day I just sat down and what I needed to do next was absolutely clear.
- See what you can do in just ten minutes a day that will plant seeds for the the future. This is a great tip for the time poor, because we can all find ten minutes a day. For me, the ten minutes was writing this blog.
- Nurture quality over quantity in your professional network. Take the trouble to keep in touch with the people you really click with, because these are the people that you will do your best professional projects with. My dream project came from someone I know pretty well, but hadn’t seen in quite a while – getting back in touch was the best thing I could have done.
- Take the trouble to give sincere appreciation to all the people who have inspired and mentored you over the years; people like to be appreciated and these are the people who are most likely to give you more help and inspiration in the future.
- Tell people, even when you have to grit your teeth to do it, if they have done something well that you admire. It is easy to praise people when you have a good relationship, but not so easy when they are the one person you seem to be constantly in conflict with. This simple tip massively improved one of my most difficult and furstrating work relationships.
- Identify the tasks that you want to do with your heart and soul (you would even do them for free or at the weekends), and then identify the tasks which you really only do because you have to (the ones that sap your energy more than they should). Keep focused on the tasks you love and try to move towards them there were you can.
- Analyse your working week and identify which tasks you really enjoy, which tasks have impact and where you waste time on low value activities. Work out how you can do more of what you enjoy, the tasks that really makes a difference, and do less of the work that drains you. For me, that was learning to delegate better so I could do more training and client-facing work. I was lucky that I had enough autonomy to be able to do this, but many managers would be supportive if they could see how it was in the best interests of the business too.
- Practice gratitude. Instead of thinking about all the things that are wrong with your current job, make a point of being grateful for all the good things. Quit moaning, because it just reinforces negativity!
- Get over expecting to control the future. You can’t – it is too complex and to unknowable. There are always going to be surprises and you can’t always know what is around the corner. So, focus on what is front of you, do it with care and enthusiasm, take whatever reasonable precautions you can, take some risks and don’t worry so much. This is a tough one, and I am still working on it!
These are the tips that worked for me. They won’t necessarily work for you, because everyone’s situation is different. I had to try quite a few different things and not all of them helped. But the more changes you try on for size, the more likely you are to find the ones that really makes a difference.