Steve Jobs said, “I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”
So, how are you feeling at work today? How did you feel overall about work this past year? If you were to rate your level of fulfillment on a scale of 1–10, (1 being not fulfilled at all and 10 being very fulfilled) what number would you rate your experience?
If it’s not as high as you’d like and you’re feeling stuck, bored, or just want to grow in a new way, there are some tools for reflection that can help.
It can be tempting to jump ship from a job before you have enough information about what you want. It can feel easier to just apply for random positions and see where you land. Especially if you’re really unhappy, you may just want to get out of the miserable situation you’re in. Or, you may want to avoid vulnerability that exists when you reach for something you really want. But blindly making a jump without research can be risky. Self-exploration first will build confidence that what you’re choosing is the next move you really want. Here are four areas to map out what you want before a career change. I’ve included questionnaires for each section, so that you can do some self-exploration.
01. Interests that will keep you energized daily
There are a lot of jobs you could probably do, but the question is, would you like doing them? If you base your job decisions just on what skills you have then you might end up in a job that you don’t like. Take some time to step-back and consider what energizes you. O-Net Interest Profiler is a free vocational assessment that helps you identify what your interests are and how they relate to the world of work. Do you like keeping records, laying brick, or writing plays? You get to rank each interest and get a basic report at the end around clusters of jobs that may align with your interests.
Career assessments are not magic eight balls that tell you specifically what you should do next (they can’t possibly list all the niche jobs out there), but they are tools to add to your toolkit of self-knowledge. If you use a career assessment I recommend working with a career coach to help you understand the patterns and themes that come up in your results. Talking through your interests and paying attention to what energizes you will help you find work that fulfills those interests.
02. Values in a workplace and work mission that matter most to you
What’s important to you in your work and life? Are your values reflected in your work? Take this or this work values assessment to consider if the job and employer you’re with feel like a fit. Values can be intrinsic—like feeling respected at work, opportunity to take risks, or having your work recognized—or extrinsic—like getting to travel for work, a high salary, or having autonomy at work. Other personal values are related to lifestyle. For example, do you feel your work gives space for spending time with family and friends? You get to rank what’s most important to you, there are no rights or wrongs (although society, your parents, or significant other may feel differently). Take an inventory of what your values are and this will be a basis for great questions during a formal interview or even an informational interview.
03. Skills you enjoy using and skills that burn you out quickly
Do you know what skills you enjoy using and which ones burn you out even if you have a high level of proficiency in them? Consider this exercise on charting your energy levels during a week of work. Maybe you find you’re more drained when you have to write a report but feel really in flow when you get to give a presentation. University of Chicago psychology professor, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explains in his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, that “you’re in flow when the work you're doing is effortless—you feel inner clarity, you are challenged yet confident and deeply motivated. In other words, flow is a state of high cognition where we feel fully present and deeply focused.”
Reflecting on what skills you enjoy using will give you insight into what you want to look for or steer clear of in your next position. You may be thinking, “But what if I don’t have experience using a skill that I think I’d like?” Remember, skills are transferable, so you can translate a lot of what you know how to do into any industry and company. Consider where there is an opportunity for growth: perhaps more education, training, or practice. Take one step at a time as you create an inventory of skills you feel energized using and your toolbox will fill up with more insight about what you want next.
04. Personality Preferences and their impact on workflow
You may be familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), an introspective self-report questionnaire that indicates preferences in how you perceive the world around you and make decisions. An unofficial assessment similar to the MBTI called 16 personalities helps you think about where you naturally get energy. Anyone can flex out of their preferred way of doing things; for example, an introvert can network all day long and be in big noisy events, but that will naturally be more draining for them than for an extrovert who gets energized by their outer world versus their inner world. Does your job value the way you like to work or make decisions? If you are a big picture person do you get to work on strategy, or does your work require that you stay in the weeds of details? Again, you can do all of these tasks, but it may not be your preferred way of working. If you already know your type you might enjoy this Personality Type Career Test that correlates personality types with different careers.
Keep in mind that there are probably several job paths and opportunities that meet all four of these areas, so there may not be one “right job.” As long as a position aligns with your values, interests, skills, and allows room for your personality preferences there is a good chance it could be a good fit. Take the time you deserve to reflect, research, ask questions, and build confidence before you make that next move because as Marie Forleo, entrepreneur, life coach and motivational speaker, says, “The world needs that special gift you have!”