Finding Career Direction

Use multiple approaches to finding career direction

There are various approaches to finding career direction and each have their proponents and adversaries. Many career coaches favour a more holistic approach where a number of different approaches are used to provide a wider perspective for the client. Here are three approaches.

Personality inventories are popular and used to good effect in career finding. Better known examples are the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator (usually known as the MBTI) and the Strong Interest Inventory (SII). Personality inventories are assessment tools that help people identify their personality type and they also highlight various traits that people have in social and work situations. They can also be used to identify people’s interests, motivations and their strengths and weaknesses.

Whichever inventories a person uses, they will learn a lot about themselves. However, they are not error-proof as they are self-reporting (you answer the questions as truthfully as you decide) and are therefore best used as indicators rather than as definitive. The various factors identified by the personality inventories are used to assist a person in choosing a career that they will find personally satisfying and fulfilling, and they have much success in doing this.

Another approach to finding career direction is using a strengths-based approach. Firstly let us define a strength as a skill that you are both good at and enjoy doing. Merely focusing on skills you are good at could lead you into a job or role where you use skills you are good at but don’t actually enjoy doing – that’s a recipe for unhappiness and a short lived career. Focusing on strengths, on the other hand, attempts to find a match between the skills you enjoy doing and are good at, and a career or role that utilises all or most of your strengths. Obviously being in such a role would lead to happiness, contentment and fulfilment at work.

The process of discovering your strengths is one of reflection and self-assessment – various exercises are used to identify skills you like using, achievements you are proud of, roles you enjoy, and the type of people you like working with. To get a more objective view of your strengths, you can also ask your family, friends and colleagues what they see as your strengths. The exercise, Your Reflected Best Self, is one way of accomplishing this.

Another approach is to identify our values and relate them to possible careers and roles. Our values determine whether we are happy and content with our work and working life. They influence our behaviour and our attitude to various situations. If our work conflicts with our values, we will feel unhappy and stressed at work, so it is important to know what our values in relation to work are.

Examples of values are fairness, justice, compassion for others, integrity, attention to detail, neatness, etc. If you have to work long hours, but you value family or work-life balance, your job conflicts with your values and you will feel stressed and unhappy at work. If you value working with people and helping others, and your job involves this, you will feel happy and motivated in work. So it is important to find a career or role that is in keeping with your values.

The process of identifying your values is normally led by a career coach or counsellor, but using a long list of values and ticking off the ones that mean something to you also works.

As stated above, it is best to use more than one approach. While it is possible to do a lot of this self-assessment and self-discovery on your own, it is far more productive to seek the assistance of a career coach or specialist.

Focus on your Strengths

Compile your skills, but focus on your strengths
Compile your skills, but focus on your strengths

One of the larger and more arduous tasks involved in managing your career – whether when looking for a new job or preparing for promotion – is systematically compiling a list of your skills. In doing so, you need to focus not only on current work skills, but on skills you may have developed in school and university, in your sports or leisure pursuits, in voluntary or community work – in fact, from every and all aspects of your life to-date. A skill is a skill and it matters little where you gained it – it may well turn out to be a valuable transferable skill that you might need in a new position or role. So don’t confine yourself to only compiling work skills.

A skill is the ability to carry out a particular task. Some skills we are very good at and others we don’t do so well. In our working life, we tend to have to use a mix of skills some of which we are very good at, others ok with, and again others that are still a challenge for us – but we still manage to get the job done.

Then there are skills that we enjoy doing and others that we don’t enjoy. Again, our jobs tend to involve some of both. When we are using skills that we enjoy doing, we feel happy and motivated in our job. Conversely, when we have to use a skill we don’t enjoy, our job is challenging, boring and discouraging.

Our strengths are those skills that we are both good at and enjoy doing. Imagine a job where you only had to utilise your strengths! Think how fulfilling and motivating that would be – a job that would make you very happy indeed!

So when you are thinking about your career direction or looking for a new position, don’t just identify your skills but rather focus on your strengths. When you have identified and written down your strengths, ask yourself (and others) “what job or role would involve using these strengths?” See if you can group or theme some of your strengths – do these suggest a job or role? Research these strengths in as much depth as you can – what you are trying to identify are all those jobs, roles or positions that use your strengths. You may not find a job or role that uses all of your strengths, but if you find one that utilises many of them, wouldn’t that be a job worth pursuing?

Our work takes up a large portion of our life, so shouldn’t we try as much as possible to ensure that we are happy at work – that our work is fulfilling and motivating. The way to do this is find a job or role that utilises our strengths.

What should we do when our job only uses some of our strengths (besides looking for one that requires more of our strengths!)? It is important for our inner happiness and contentment that we find the opportunity to use as many of our strengths as possible. So for those strengths that are unused in our work, look for other avenues to use them. Does a local charity or voluntary organisation need help that involves using some of your strengths? Would taking a committee position in your sports or leisure club facilitate using some of those unused strengths?

4 Excellent New Books For Your Career

best career books 2017

To help your career in 2017, here is a selection of new books that provide guidance on topics such as changing careers, finding a good job, professional development, networking and achieving your goals.

“Pivot: The Only Move That Matters is Your Next One”

Former Google career development manager and current career coach Jenny Blake explains a four-step, incremental method to change your career in “Pivot.” The steps include:

  • Planning your career and goals for the future.
  • Getting a good idea of your strengths.
  • Figuring our how to get from where you are, to where you want to be.

Blake offers dozens of how-to exercises to illustrate how you make small changes in the right direction. She advocates making small changes in succession until you reach an ultimate career goal.

“Reinvention Roadmap”

Liz Ryan, founder and CEO of Human Workplace, gives her tips on how to reinvent yourself as you look for new opportunities and new career paths.

Her 20-plus years of experience in HR demonstrate her expertise.

Ryan has more than 1 million followers on LinkedIn, so you should listen heartily to the concepts presented in her book “Reinvention Roadmap: Break the Rules to Get the Job You Want and Career You Deserve.”

“Designing Your Life”

“Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life,” by professors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans of Stanford University’s design department, explores how interior design principles can be used to improve your life and career.

The authors talk about a five-step, life/career design process. The trick to design the life you want lies in continually testing things in small yet impactful ways until you discover what works best.

For example, the pair say you should explore your next move by conducting interviews with someone who made the same decision in their past that you’re pondering for your future.

In the midst of the interviews, you get a feel for the reality of your possible path and whether it measures up to your expectations, effort and expertise.

“Build Your Dream Network”

We all know that developing meaningful connections, both off and online, is important for our careers.

However, many of us don’t make the time to do so. We also don’t go about it in a well planned and strategic way.

Author J. Kelly Hoey provides great tips, expert interviews and checklists, to help you make the process easier and effective.

Happy reading!

My Big Career Change From The Corporate World To Online Freelancing

how to change careers

I always believed in the notion of succeeding most at your career when doing something that you are really passionate about which is why, a few years back, I decided to make the shift from the corporate world into online freelancing.

I can’t say that it was an easy ride, but it was definitely one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.

Below are a few reasons why:

I Earn More Money On Average

When I first started online freelancing, to be quite honest, I was earning peanuts but my salary was doubling in the first few months, something that would never happen in the corporate world.

Until now, my income is not doubling each month, but it sure is increasing at a rate that would never happen had I still been an employee doing something that I was not passionate about.

I Am My Own Boss

Being your own boss means working at your convenience including choosing when and where you work.

For me, this has always translated into more independence and piece of mind, which allows me to appreciate my work more.

I am a big travel junkie, so the ability to travel the world while working is something that I find to be a big advantage of being an online freelancer.

Online Freelancing Perfectly Fits My Personality

It’s been said that people should choose their jobs based on their personalities.

I am personally introverted which makes working online and not having to communicate much with other people (not face to face or over the phone much, at least) a big advantage.

It’s not that I don’t like other people, but rather I work better by myself and do not like to make a social effort during my working hours.

If you want to make a big career change in your life but are unsure of how to do it, consider talking to someone with similar experience, do a bit of research or find a life coach to help you mitigate the career transition.

If you want to be an entrepreneur for instance, talking to someone with similar experience – or who has made it into a successful entrepreneur can help you. Likewise, if you want to become an online freelancer, for instance, you can do some research on freelancing and the best online freelancing platforms to have an idea about the concept and how to go along doing it.

Finally, hiring a career coach is very popular nowadays. A career/life coach can help you navigate the obstacles that you will face when attempting to attain your career goals.

CV of Failures – What Can It Do For You?

Application Rejected

Let the wild schadenfreude (pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others) rumpus begin!

Professor Johannes Haushofer, who teaches psychology and public affairs at Princeton, recently published a CV documenting every failure in his career to date. He listed the jobs he failed to land. The papers that never got published. The fellowships that went to someone else. The university programs he did not get into. This “CV of failures” was a Twitter sensation and was picked up by newspapers globally. It was so popular that the good professor complained that it was a “meta failure” as it attracted far more attention than his entire academic achievements combined! You will see his failures listed below this article.

He confesses he’s not the first academic to publish his failures; he cites a few others who have. And credits Professor Melanie Stefan of the University of Edinburgh for the idea, first published in the journal Nature in 2010. “As scientists, we construct a narrative of success that renders our setbacks invisible both to ourselves and to others,” she writes. “Often, other scientists’ careers seem to be a constant, streamlined series of triumphs. Therefore, whenever we experience an individual failure, we feel alone and dejected.”

She recommends we keep a CV of failures, to remind ourselves that failure is an essential part of what it means to be successful, and possibly inspire a disheartened colleague or friend along the way. Prof. Stefan also mentions that academic fellowships have a success rate of about 15 percent – meaning that for every hour spent writing a successful application, she probably spent six hours for nothing.

And as you will see below, a rejection can save your life.

How can this help me?

  • Self-awareness. We are not saying failures are are important as successes! However, self-awareness is an important component of Emotional Intelligence (EI). We have been looking at CVs of our accomplishments for years, that ignores the bulk of our efforts. Having a better awareness of our past successes and failures could improve our self-awareness, EI, future success and performance.
  • Taking Enough Risk. Also, noting the frequency of our failures has something to do with whether we are taking enough risks. While you can expect that frequency to go down after age 35, as you change jobs less frequently, it is important to see how often you’re putting yourself out there. If you’re not taking a chance to fail, you’re not taking a chance to succeed.
  • True Grit. You will marvel at how resilient you have been and can inspire others on how to weather setbacks.
  • New Opportunities. As you look at all the organizations that rejected you, you might reconnect with a recruiter who now, impressed with what you have done since then, has something better in store for you.
  • Blessings in Disguise. If nothing else, it will be an interesting trip down memory lane, and you can feel thankful for all those paths you did not go down, and are now blessed with the friends and family you have!  One of my first rejections after college was in 1998, at Sandler O’Neill, a financial services company. It was on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center in Manhattan; the view from its conference room was spectacular, with all of Manhattan at your feet. Sixty-six of its employees perished on September 11. It’s hard to even call that serendipitous rejection a failure. The long view matters, and failure is very subjective.

Professor Haushofer’s own CV of Failures

CV of Failures Page 1
CV of Failures Page 2

Is it possible to make a Career Change in your 40s?

career change 40s

Many people in their forties have the mindset that a late career change can be disastrous.

Thankfully, finding a satisfying and higher paying job late in your career is much more obtainable than you might believe.

The American Institute for Economic Research recently discovered in their report “New Careers for Older Workers,” that a whopping 82% of individuals who transitioned into a new career after 45 were successful. With numbers like that, there is simply no reason to accept the wise tale of the jump being nearly impossible.

According to the study, those workers who pursued new career paths that leveraged their existing work skills had the most success. On the other hand, individuals trying to jump into careers that they had little to no skills for fared poorly. However, it is important to note that this is common with such career pursuits in general.

In the study done by AIER, a career change is defined as a “change in job that involves new tasks, with either the same or a different employer in either the same or a different field.”

One of the primary goals of AIER’s study was to find the approximate number of older workers that were actively changing careers and determining what skill sets, resourses and other material best helped them make a successful transition into a new career.

Here are a few of the most interesting and valuable pieces of information the study uncovered. While the data is focused on the USA, the findings are interesting/relevant for other places in the world as well.

  • Roughly 16 to 29 million Americans attempted a career change after the age of 45.
  • Of those that successfully made a career change, 18% of workers maintained the same salary, 50% saw their salaries rise, and 31% experienced a decrease in pay.
  • Nearly 9 out of 10 of those who successfully changed careers reported being happy about the transition, while a full 65% of those same workers felt less stressed about their work situation.

While many transitions were successful, the transition itself sometimes took a while to materialize and show benefits. For example, some of the workers surveyed in AIER’s report noted that upon their initial career change, they had to take pay cuts before experiencing a higher pay rate later on.

Speaking on this issue, one respondent stated, “sometimes you have to take a little pay cut, but in the long run it will pay you more. If you feel you need a change, do it.”

Industries That Hire People Making A Career Change

welcome career change advice

If you’re thinking about moving to another industry, then LinkedIn has some useful career change advice and information for you.

Here’s what they did:

  1. They identified LinkedIn members who got a job in a new company in 2014.
  2. This list was then narrowed down to people who moved to a company in a different industry.
  3. They calculated the number of industry / career changers as a percentage of total people working in the industry.

Based on that, these are industries that hire the most number of people who are making an industry / career change.

industries hiring career change

Some additional insights on this information on industry / career change:

  • Other than technical/engineering professionals, the Internet industry hired Retail brand specialists and business development/strategy talent from Management Consulting.
  • The E-learning industry hired people making an industry / career change from Education and IT industries, to use their expertise in content development and partnership management.
  • Venture capital brought in people from almost all industries. It wasn’t just limited to ex bankers and consultants.
  • Online media grabbed talent from traditional media industries, for writing, editing and creative positions.

welcome career change advice

Why a Career Change in Your 30’s Might Be a Great Thing

singapore career change at 30

You spent the first 20 or so years of your life establishing your passions and pursuing your education.

You worked hard and got your first real job just as you got out of college.

You thought you were set for the rest of your life as far as your career goes, but then something happened. You turned 30 and, ever since then, nothing has felt right. Whether you want to accept it or not, your career defines you in many ways and being unhappy in your career makes the rest of your life miserable as well.

After putting all of that work into your current career, is it smart to suddenly say that it is time for a change? There are a lot of really good reasons why a career change in your 30s might be a great idea.

Your Life Is Changing

When you took on that first job and started your career, you were young, unmarried, excited about the upcoming journey and ready to take on the world single-handedly.

But as time goes by, you became less satisfied in the workplace, which is common for people in their 30s ( Co-worker support is important to how you feel about your job and many people feel like co-worker support falls off when they reach their mid-30s.

You also decided to start a family and now you have kids that take up a lot of your time. Since you are forced re-evaluate your life/priorities and to focus your time on the things that are important, you suddenly realize that the career you have is not what you thought it was. That is perfectly normal and it is the reason why so many people make a career change in their 30s.

There Is Plenty Of Precedent For Changing Your Career In Your 30s

Did you know that famous chef Julia Childs was actually an advertising copywriter until she hit 30 years old? Did you know that world famous vocalist Andrea Bocelli actually started a career in law until he hit his 30s and realized that he wanted to sing for a living?

Maybe you are in a career that just doesn’t excite you and you want a change. Since there is plenty of precedence for people successfully changing careers in their 30s, you have no reason to think that you cannot make the change.

singapore career change at 30
Being confused about your career in your 30s is normal.

You Are Much More In Touch With Yourself In Your 30s

In your youth, none of your career aspirations and ideas had been tried out in real-world situations. You may have done an internship here and there, but that doesn’t really count 😉 .

After a few years of working, you understand yourself and the real world a lot better. You know what you are capable of and you also see what you can actually go out and accomplish. It is not uncommon for a little experience/revelation/idea to suddenly inspire people to make career changes in their 30s.

If you are in your 30s and restless about your career, then contact Sandbox Advisors to talk about making the career change that you know you need to make. Making a career change in your 30s is not only normal, we at Sandbox Advisors could help to make it the best decision you will ever make.

Career change options for people with your background

career change options

With a new year comes new beginnings. If you’re interested in changing (or choosing) careers but aren’t sure where to start, here is are some great resources:

This is pretty useful data provided by LinkedIn.

When considering a career change, a big part of the process is researching, to figure out how easy or hard it will be to enter various careers. Some people want a change but cannot spend too much time or money (for education, training, etc.) behind the process of switching careers. Others have the luxury/flexibility of spending even a few years to prepare for and enable their career change.

LinkedIn has made the research process easier for you, by analyzing millions of member profiles, to provide information on the career paths and profiles of people with a background that is similar to yours.

This is a good indication of how easy or hard different career switches will be for you. The more common the change, the easier it is to execute.

How To Prepare For A Radical Career Change

radical career change

Many employees and even freelancers at some point in their lives realize that their job does not fulfill them. If you are one of them, you might be hesitant to change your career in this environment of financial insecurity. You need to consider however that people who love their job perform much better at work and are healthier and happier individuals. If you are trying to be a great professional in a career field that does not suit you, you are likely to end up with a burnout that will not even be worth it.

What is defined as “radical” career change?

It is important to clarify at this point that if you love what you do, but you do not like the company you work for or your colleagues, you can try for an evolutionary career change. This means that you still stay within your niche, even within your company, but you try to change what bothers you. A radical or revolutionary career change is about changing not only work environment, but also the nature and/or subject of your work.

Emotional preparation for a career change

A radical career change can be the best choice of your life, but in order for that to happen you need to think thoroughly and plan carefully your next steps. Especially if you are an enthusiastic person who changes preferences every few months, you will need to do quite a bit of soul-searching and goal-setting, before embarking on a new career journey. Knowing exactly what you want from your career is the only way to work efficiently towards getting it.

The first thing you need to do is to write down what you have learned from your current job. What are the things you like about it and what are the things you hate? For example, if you work in the PR department of a large firm, you might enjoy the contact with people but not like the pressure. This way you already know that a smaller company with less pressure might be a better option for you. Writing a list of the qualities you love and hate in your current job can be an excellent guide in your job search.

Then you need to ask yourself if your plans for your new career are really what you want or just fantasies. When we get emotionally tired by something negative in our life, we tend to go the opposite way, without knowing whether that is the right direction for us. If, for example, you work 12 hours a day as a financial adviser and you are full of anxiety and stress, you might decide that you want to live peacefully on the country side and raise livestock. But would you really enjoy this lifestyle change?

Once you conclude on the career path you want to follow, you need to check that your skills are enough. You might need some extra training in order to pursue a new career and in some cases that can be provided by the company. But if your work subject is going to be very different, expect that you will need to attend at least some workshops and seminars. A mechanical engineer who wants to work as a civil engineer has all the necessary engineering background, but still needs to update his/her knowledge according to the new field.

If you have your heart set on a new career, you need to check that the people who will be affected by this change agree with your plans. This usually includes your partner and children. A career change might mean that you will be working more hours or that you will be earning less. It might even mean that you will not be working at all for a while, if you need to train on a new field. Is your partner supportive? Explain to them how important this is for you and why and you will manage to find a solution that pleases both of you.

Financial Preparation for a career change

This is the part that usually discourages most people from radical career change. Especially if you have a family and you are the one earning the most money, it is hard to decide on taking a risk. There are two ways to deal with it: saving and keep working.

If you have your heart set on a career change, you should start saving as soon as possible and have at least 6-month worth savings before resigning from your current position. You will likely find a job much sooner, but it is good to have this safety net.

If you keep working in your current job while job hunting, you are more likely to find a job as well-paying as your current one, or even more. Employers trust people who are already employed more than other job-seekers. In case you find a job that is close to the definition of your dream job, but the salary is lower than your current one, discuss with your partner if you can afford to take it. Maybe older family members can support you with your career change, until you get a raise. Happiness is priceless, after all!

10 Reasons to Change Your Job

time for a career change

As the global workforce becomes more transitory in nature, it is not uncommon for workers to change their jobs every two to three years.

If you can identify closely with two or more reasons in this list, perhaps it’s time to consider if you should change your job:-

  1. Lack of a challenge : In theory we all claim to want an easy life at work but spending every day in a slow- paced environment can induce a sense of boredom and leave you feeling uninspired and unmotivated. The ideal balance is a job that takes you out of your comfort zone around 20% of the time; constant pressure and deadlines will only result in burnout.  If you’re suffering from chronic boredom at work, it may be time to consider a move.
  2. You want to learn more : The beginning of a new job is always a learning curve. The most recent research suggests that after three years most professionals have mastered their current role and are eager for a new challenge. Employers who value their staff will have career development policies in place to help you to evolve in your career.  Eager workers seeking a new opportunity who cannot find it in their current role/company often move to a new company to ensure their skills remain up-to-date.
  3. A difficult boss (or colleagues) : At some point, every worker encounters the difficult boss – the one that will criticize to extremes and generally irritate you profusely! If that irritation affects your ability to do your job or undermines your sense of well-being it may be time move on.  In this case it is essential to identify which of your boss’s personality traits are the most disconcerting. Is it poor communication or a general negative attitude towards your work? If you fail to identify these characteristics before you change your job, you may find yourself in a similar situation with a future manager. The same principles apply with hostile co-workers.
  4. Increased earning opportunitiesIs your salary competitive? While it’s not all about money, the promise of a raise and improved career prospects are justifiable reasons for leaving your present role. By changing jobs frequently, professionals can often keep their skills up-to-date and increase their salary significantly in comparison to staying in-situ. If you’ve worked hard to get to where you are today and network within your industry, the chances are you will be noticed by other organizations looking to recruit the best talent. Review their potential and ensure it correlates with your long-term career strategy.
  5. You’re not appreciated by your current employer : If your best ideas are pinched by your employers or colleagues who express no gratitude for your innovation, it could be time to move on. There will be other employers out there who will value your enthusiasm and contribution to the company.
  6. Life change : From time to time professionals change jobs due to a change in their personal circumstances, such as relocation, marriage, health reasons or to spend time with their family.  As your career evolves your priorities will change with it. What may have seemed so important at the beginning of your working life, for example working long hours, may not seem so important at a later stage.  If your job no longer suits your personal circumstances, it may be time to change your job. 
  7. Your job focuses on your weaknesses : Ideally, you should be working in a role that allows you to play to your strengths. If you realize that your job is mainly focused on areas of weakness – excessive admin duties for a sales focused professional for example – discuss this with your employer at the earliest opportunity. Explain how you believe your skills can be of more benefit to the company in a slightly different role.  If there isn’t a suitable opening and you feel like a square peg in a round hole, it’s probably time to look elsewhere.
  8. To become an entrepreneur : Many dream of it, but few choose to pursue their goals of working for themselves. With the long-term security in the job market becoming a thing of the past, increasing numbers of workers are opting to take a self-employed role or set up their own businesses.
  9. The company is unstable : When company profits tumble and a two year pay freeze is announced, this is often a time for employees to look around for a more stable employer.  Don’t instantly jump ship unless you are left with no alternative; take your time and research available opportunities.  Don’t leave one struggling employer for another only to find yourself in a similar situation a year down the line.
  10. Downsizing or restructuring : Or to put it another way – redundancy.  Losing a job forces people to review their current career and the alternatives open to them. If personal finances allow, some will often take the opportunity to retrain for an alternative career or become self-employed, particularly older workers who find it harder to secure new employment after losing their jobs.

Wish you all the best in your efforts to change your job!