Whether or not you love your job, you’ve probably given some thought to what you’d like to do next. And, who knows? Tomorrow, your company could downsize, your boss may leave, you may reach a plateau, you may not get that expected bonus, etc., etc. – and you may feel differently about your job.
It’s all about positioning and preparing yourself, should things change. Start by asking yourself “What’s next?” so you can start to think about your next challenge.
“Given the pace of change and innovation in our economy,” said Jenny Blake, who presented the “Make Your Next Move with Confidence” PA Conference for Women teleclass recently, “we’re all going to have to ask and answer ‘What’s next?’ much more frequently than in years past. So if change is the only constant, then let’s get better at it.”
And that’s what Blake, author of Pivot: The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One (Portfolio), did – she got better at making transitions, after quitting college, quitting her first job and then quitting the “perfect on paper job” at Google until she figured out exactly what she wanted to do that gave her more fulfillment – start her own career coaching company.
For most people, a transition is not a drastic career change, says Blake, but a “pivot”– taking incremental steps that help you explore what it is you want to do next.
She’s helped thousands of people make their next career move with a 4-step plan (resources and templates available on her website):
Stage 1: Identify your strengths
“Everything you need is right under your feet,” says Blake. When making career changes, most people focus too much on what they don’t want, what’s not working and what they don’t have, she says. Instead take a look at what you do have by asking yourself:
- What are my current strengths?
- What am I most interested in?
- When do I feel the most “in the zone”?
- What experiences do I already have?
- Who do I already know?
- What’s already working?
One-year vision: Once you’ve identified your strengths, then zero in on where you want to end up by asking yourself, “What does success look like a year from now? Then you can start to bridge the gap …
Stage 2: Scan for opportunities
This is your exploration phase. Start researching new and related skills by having a wide variety of conversations with people and mapping out potential opportunities, says Blake.
Look around for:
People: Who do you already know that you can connect with? Who do you admire who would be exciting to reach out to? Who can you learn from?
Skills: What do you want to learn in the coming year? “Think of your career – not as a ladder – as a smartphone,” says Blake. “It’s up to you to download the apps that are exciting to you. So what skill apps do you want to download in the coming year to round out your career portfolio and bring you greater fulfillment?” It could be taking a class or getting an advanced degree to prepare you to…
Stage 3: Test the waters
This is the time to start dipping your toe in the water, says Blake, by running small experiments to determine your next steps. Do side projects to test ideas for your next move. This will help you gather feedback, and build the bridge between where you are now and where you want to end up.
Take on a passion project, says Blake. “I wrote my first book [Life After College] while employed full time. I got so much got done in 15 minutes a day. Ask yourself, ‘What can I do with 10% of my time each week?’” You might set up time with friends or colleagues who can provide expertise or attend an industry or networking event.
It’s best to start a few projects at once, says Blake: “Think of it like the Kentucky Derby. You don’t know exactly which ones are going to pull ahead or gain the most momentum. So you set them all up and see what happens.”
Then you’ll begin to become clearer on what you can do efficiently and effectively. Two things to ask yourself:
- Do I enjoy this new area?
- Can I become an expert at it and do I want to?
“The first three stages you can repeat as many times as necessary,” says Blake, until you feel comfortable to …
Stage 4: Launch in a new direction
At a certain point it becomes time to say publicly, “I’m doing this. I’m all in,” says Blake. The first three stages take you 80-90% of the way toward your goal. Launch is where you pull the trigger on the remaining 10-20%.
By taking a sort of career inventory here, you’ll have a clearer vision of what you might want to do next – and the skills you’ll need to get there. You might not immediately see how these projects and activities relate to your next move, but the bottom line is, you’re a step ahead.