Month: September 2022

Avoiding Career Change Regret

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I would think that most people would agree that making a career change can be a little anxiety provoking at the very least, and completely terrifying at the very worst. Many people will make a career change fairly easily, but unfortunately, there will be many people who will be unsuccessful. During 2021, according to some statistics almost 50 million Americans quit their jobs. They were hoping for higher pay, better benefits and/or more exciting career options. This mass employment exodus was called the “Great Resignation”. However, also according to some statistics about a quarter of these individuals, roughly 12.5 million people ended up regretting their decision to leave. For many of these employee’s the grass was not greener on the other side and were left with feelings of tremendous regret. There are as many ways to make serious mistakes during a career change, as there are to make a correct one. My intention in writing this blog is to help you make correct ones.

Many career changes will not have disastrous consequences. However, when I think of a career change for my clients, it reminds me of those stories where kids get seriously injured when they go diving. I am sure that you have heard of them. These are the stories that involve children diving in their pools, gorges, grottos, lakes or other favorite body of water and end up getting gravely hurt or even paralyzed. These kids injure themselves because they initially think that the water is clear, only to find it was too shallow or there is a large rock lying just beneath the surface. What was supposed to be a day of fun, ends up in tragedy.

I am not saying that a career change will lead to a complete tragedy. It’s certainly not advantageous to have a catastrophic mindset when attempting to initiate a career change. Having this kind of mindset is what stops people from making a career transition in the first place. Many people can get completely caught up in a mind of “doom and gloom”. On the other extreme though, it’s not wise to have “pie in the sky” thinking either. If you are unrealistic with your expectations, then similar to those children, you will not be ready for the rocks underneath the surface of the water. Before you make any transition, you need to find out what kind of industry, company and work environment you are leaping into.

It’s easy to think that everything about a company you want to join will be great. However, you also need to find out if they have suffered severe losses during prior years, and will be trimming their work force. You will also need to know if there are employees leaving because one of their managers is completely blind to low company morale. You will also need to know after investing in a change in education, only to find out that the career you chose is not in high demand or that you need to go through lower paying positions to get to a higher one. There are strategies that you need to use to avoiding hitting the bottom of the pool or cracking your head on an unseen rock.

1. Specific Career Goal

One of the biggest mistakes that you can make when changing careers is to not know what you really want. Many job changers get caught up in wanting a change for many reasons. They may have been a job too long, becoming bored. Some people encounter a boss or coworkers that they don’t get along with. There are also some who don’t want the long commute to the workplace anymore or feel they the job is way too much work.  A lot of individuals simply want higher pay. In these cases, people have an idea of what they don’t want. However, getting to a better job is not about avoiding what you don’t want, it’s about having very clear and specific expectations of what a happens after you get the new job. Why is this important? This is important because there is no such thing as a “perfect” job, there are only jobs that you think are perfect. Your commute may be too long, but the jobs that are closer, may not be as fulfilling. Wanting higher pay may mean having higher education, greater responsibilities or more work hours. Finally, bosses are bosses. Leaving one company for a supervisor that you dislike, does not mean you won’t go to another company and find one more supervisor that is just as bad or even worse. So, you need to be clear on your expectations and understand your specific career goals when making any transition. You must determine what’s really important to you in your career.

2. Clarity

To avoid jumping into the complete unknown, it’s important to have a clear idea of what your new work environment will be as much as possible. Many job seekers forget to complete the most important job activity when they are changing careers: it is research. Unless you really like bad surprises, it’s well worth your time and energy to investigate companies that you want to work for. I am not just talking about your salary, although this is very important. You need to have a greater awareness of other factors and conditions that will be just as important to you. All these important factors must be kept in mind along the entire spectrum of your entire career change. Important decisions start from the very beginning of your transition, as you consider moving into a new job role, right up to the interviewing stage where you are deciding on whether to join a company or not. Having the clearest picture of what lies ahead during your transition is vital. Some important factors and considerations to keep in mind include:

* Specific Job Responsibilities

* Financial Health of the Company and Industry Sector

* Salary Progression / Additional Benefits and Perks

* Training, Development and Growth Opportunities

* Work-Life Balance/Flexibility

* Organization / Team Culture and Morale

* Organizational Stability

* Management (Current Teams and Bosses)

3. Network

Most career experts will tell you to “never stop networking”, even when you are employed. In fact, the best time to network is when you are working, because building a network takes time, energy and consistency. These three elements are very scarce during an active job search. The primary way of finding a new successful career opportunity will not come through an application, posting or internet, it will come through a contact. As the saying goes, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” A network is critical to your job search success and having to build an entirely new network during a search can dramatically increase the time in finding your next position. So, having a pre-existing network will be an extremely valuable resource. Unfortunately, many job changers rely way too heavily on searching through job postings, finding many dead ends. A successful career change will be dependent on your ability to reach out and make connections.

4. Know Your True Value

Many career changers believe that experience and education are valuable selling points to employers, and to a degree they are. However, what’s more important is your knowledge and skills for being able to successful manage all assigned responsibilities, while also effectively resolving all the problems and issues that come with the role that you are being considered for. In many ways, education alone may not be enough to make an employer view you as a suitable candidate for a position, and this is one reason why new graduates have many challenges during the initial part of their career. I once encountered an individual who decided to leave teaching and wanted to get into the HR field in training and development. She had many years of teaching, but none in the HR field. She was shocked to find out that her starting salary in the HR field would not be the same as being a teacher. She did not anticipate a decrease in wage and was stuck. So, if you are considering changing from one role into an entirely new role, you will need to gain clarity on your true worth in the labour market. Not only will you need to consider the appropriate education, you must properly use and leverage your prior career experience. Being able to effectively market and sell your experience and knowledge towards a new role will be a critical aspect in influencing the decisions of any hiring manager.

Are Career Assessments Actually Useful?

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I have heard many client stories about taking assessments. Some clients mention taking a “test” in high school, which told them to become Forest Ranger, when they hate the outdoors. Many of these people start to reject assessments because results like this one seem ridiculous. Other people have taken personality assessments such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, commonly referred to as the MBTI for short. I always inquire into these results, if a client has taken it prior to working with me. Many will vaguely recall some of the “letters” but are not able to tell me what the interpretation of the assessment means. All of these incidents beg the question, do career assessments have any value at all? There is certainly debate within the career field, with many professionals administering many batteries of assessments, whereas some will never use a single one. These counsellors believe assessments have no value at all, preferring to rely on their own counselling methods and approaches.

So, what’s the clearer picture, when it comes to using career assessments? The bottom-line is that career assessments are simply tools, and similar to most tools they are designed to be used in very specific situations and elicit very specific results. They are like a surgeon’s scalpel. In the right hands, they can be used in the most complex and delicate surgeries, producing valuable results. However, in the wrong hands, a scalpel can lead to catastrophic disaster and/or death. Fortunately, the use of most psychometric instruments (this is what psychologists call assessments) will not lead to disaster or death. However, there are many complex assessments where only highly trained and certified practitioners can administer them. These are usually advanced clinical diagnostic assessments. Unfortunately, with the internet, there has now been a proliferation of assessments, some very useful, while others not so much. Many of these poorer assessments are as useful as reading tea leaves. However, in the right hands and in the correct situation, career assessments can have very powerful benefits when using them to support a major career change or providing support to a career management program.

1. Drives Greater Self-Awareness and Self-Reflection

A career assessment is about the process of evaluating your personal attributes such as your skills, interests, motivations, values, personality and other traits, enabling you to more effectively explore, identify and find a suitable career path. Career assessments can support you in developing greater self-awareness, which is about knowing yourself better. Ultimately, it is about a deeper assessment and interpretation of your actions, thoughts and feelings.

There are people in jobs where there is a major mismatch. If you are in a mismatched job, you will never come to a full realization of your potential assets and strengths. Worse, it may cause you constant stress. Unfortunately, if you are not in touch with your true emotions and thoughts, you will be a permanent a prisoner to these situations. Being unaware of your higher skills, fulfilling interests or most authentic values will prevent you from exploring and finding better career possibilities. Ultimately, this will stop your growth.

When you have greater self-awareness and reflection, you will have a deeper understanding of the reasons for why you are in the wrong career. In general, people have differing levels of self-awareness. However, it is individuals that have a greater awareness of their authentic nature that have a greater capacity to realize when a job is a very poor fit. These individuals will be either able to adapt more effectively or leave to find a more suitable job to who they truly are.

2. Provides Useful and Precise Self-Descriptors

Career assessments can provide wording and phrases to accurately describe specific traits. They provide language and definitions. For example, let’s say that you describe yourself as someone who “loves being with people”. What precisely does this imply? The word “love” can mean very different things to different people. However, if you take an assessment and discover that you are “extroverted”, it can provide you with more information about why you are motivated to be around people. It may also reveal the degree to how often you enjoy being with others, and even provide ways to use your “extroversion” as a strength in your career. Assessments can turn very subjective terminology into more objective measures, which is extremely helpful to exploring and identifying suitable job roles.

3. Enhances Successful Decision-Making

You can only make a good decision, if you know what you really want. Making a “right” decision is based on your own criteria about what you need and desire for yourself. Unfortunately, if you are unaware of what your needs are, which are direct reflections of your most authentic skills, interests, personality and values then decision-making becomes increasingly difficult. It can be challenging to choose between two, three or even multiple career options, if you are unaware of how fulfilling each one will be.

One way that people will choose among different jobs is to use a trial and error approach. Many people will select a job based on what may initially appear to be very appealing, only to find out that the job was not what they were expecting. Many individuals are also tempted to focus on salary and benefits. Once again there can be many jobs that pay very well but are completely unfulfilling. This is where knowing your most authentic self becomes an essential consideration. When you know the most important factors about yourself, then choosing the right career path becomes much easier. Choosing the right career requires a careful analysis of yourself and your own unique personal development.

4. Helps You to Define Your Distinct Abilities and Refine Your Talents

Have you ever been asked in an interview, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” I have guided people through interview preparation, and this should be a relatively straightforward question to answer, but for many it’s not. Quite a few people get stumped on trying to come up with answers that are truly authentic to themselves. Many people typically resort to some very common answers such as being “organized”, “a problem solver” or “great in a team”. If you are a person that has difficulty in answering this type of interview question, then I would argue that finding your own unique and special career talents might also be very challenging.

Developing and refining your greatest talents is a vital part of achieving a successful and rewarding career. However, you must first get know your unique talents, interests, values and personality traits. This will allow you to later refine and enhance them. Within different professions, ranging from music to art, the highest performers in the world spend countless hours refining their top skills. They understand what their top skills and interests are. This allows them to be highly dedicated to their art. It’s been noted that professional guitar players can spend an average of four to eight hours of practice per day. Additional research suggests that it takes an average of four hours of practice per day over a period of ten years to achieve an expert level. So, to be able to excel in any role, you will need to have a deeper understanding of your top skills, which will enable you to further refine and develop them. Career assessments can serve as an initial point to discovering and exploring your natural talents, interests and personality traits. Getting to know exactly what traits will serve you the best in your career will not only help you to survive but thrive. This is the key to achieving a highly rewarding and successful career.

If You Think “Quiet Quitting” is an Effective Career Management Strategy, Think Again!

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

First, we heard about the “great resignation”. Today, many people are talking about “quiet quitting”. The way people are coping with work is certainly getting a lot of attention. With the pandemic significantly impacting the workplace, there has been a significant shift in the needs of both employers and employees. Having watched many videos and listened to the varying viewpoints on this topic, I wanted to understand this career phenomenon a little bit better. For those of you who have not heard about “quiet quitting”, I will elaborate. Quiet quitting is a term used to describe a person who is not outrightly quitting but has decided that he/she will not go above and beyond a job’s requirements. The person has decided to avoid performing any additional job duties, responsibilities and tasks, sticking strictly his/her job description.

For many people, they are doing this for two main reasons. First, they are in the process of being work fatigued or have completely burned out. They have reached their limit of mental, emotional or physical capacity. The other reason is that they may have already gone above and beyond what has been required but have not seen any additional rewards and recognition from the company. In the end, they have decided that putting in any extra effort to their job is not worth it. Regardless of the reasoning, at the heart of this debate centres on the differing work expectations and perspectives of the employer and employee.

Since there are many differing and numerous opinions on this topic, one can take a long time discussing it. People have many different perspectives and viewpoints. However, as a career counsellor/coach, I wanted to evaluate quiet quitting from a career management point of view. As a counsellor, I am always seeking successful career management strategies to support my clients in achieving more fulfilling, empowering and progressive careers. Having attempted to view this particular approach through the lens of career management, I have concluded it may not be a real beneficial one. With the exception of a person being on the verge of burning out or experiencing severe mental health issues, I see more downsides than advantages, if you use this approach. Here are some following main points:

Your Boss Won’t Like It!

I rarely see eye-to-eye with Kevin O’Leary. However, in a video post, he proposes that quiet quitting is a really bad idea. He mentions that creativity is necessary in any workplace. People are needed to go beyond what is typically required to solve significant problems for their teams, customers, managers and the company overall. If you are going to define your responsibilities by some strict definition of your job description then you are going to fail. You are being hired to solve problems. If you and your work are going to be recognized and rewarded, you will be required to do what you are supposed to do and even more.

In this case, I agree with Kevin. Today, the market is comprised of constant industry disruption and competition, and companies will only value those who can bring an exceptional level of work performance. All companies are functioning in a highly driven and competitive environment, and the highest priorities are to not only survive, but to thrive. Most managers will not have any appreciation or respect for a “I did my job, and that should be good enough” attitude. Many managers value people who are willing to go above and beyond. These people will be the ones that garner favor, admiration and recognition. As Kevin states, “Those are the people I seek. I seek them out. I hire them. People who shut down their laptop at five… want to go to the soccer game, nine-to-five only, they don’t work for me. I can tell you that. I hope they work for my competitors.”

Are You Only Working for a Paycheque?

It’s challenging to go above and beyond, if there is minimal or no motivation to do so. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that a person’s work-life balance can be very poor or putting in extra work time, resources and effort may not be really appreciated or recognized by a manager. In the end, a person’s salary and benefits will remain the same. However, I have and will always advocate for careers that are based on more than just a paycheque. A highly fulfilling and satisfying career is created on unique passions, meaning and purpose. It’s totally understandable why many people want to clock out at five, if they have not attained these qualities in their career. However, you need to explore, identify and do things that make you happy in your work. This can awaken and better connect you to what’s professionally meaningful. Having intrinsic as opposed to extrinsic rewards will always be more beneficial to you and your career. You need to go above and beyond for you, not for anyone else. If you are going above your job requirements for external recognition and rewards, or simply trying to avoid a manger’s punishment or reprimand, it will become increasingly difficult to get through your workdays as time goes by.

It’s Not a Successful Long-Term Strategy

Changes in the labour market are constantly occurring, along with possible job opportunities. In the present labour market climate, employers are finding it very challenging to find and retain employees. This is one main reason employees feel secure in quietly quitting. However, this occurrence is by no means permanent, and to maintain a successful career you need to keep this in mind. Employers in this period may overlook a person who is not going above and beyond, thinking that it may be challenging to find someone else as a replacement. Unfortunately, this will not always be the case, and during major recessionary periods, companies undergo major restructuring. When this happens, even the most qualified, experienced and knowledgeable will be challenged in finding and maintaining work. Thus, quiet quitting may effectively work in this time period because the work climate supports it. However, when the labour market changes, your employer may take on a completely different perspective of employees that attempt to fly under the radar.   

You Won’t Develop or Grow 

Not going above and beyond may get you through your workday, but it is not a successful strategy for a long-term progressive and prosperous career. A key aspect of any successful career management strategy is growth and development. Individuals in careers need to continue to grow, or they remain stagnant or dissatisfied. I have worked with many clients who want to change because they have been in their jobs too long. They constantly perform the same repetitive tasks and responsibilities. However, there’s a saying that goes “change is inevitable, growth is optional”. This means that change will always occur, but growth is a choice. As I mentioned, disruptions and restructures dominate today’s job market. These are changes that everyone will experience, but many people will not necessarily achieve positive career growth. If you want to successfully reach your goals and achieve growth, then you must have a solid and well-defined career strategy, along with taking action. Proactively managing your career, while growing and developing your skills, knowledge and experience will give you the abilities and resources to successfully handle and respond to challenging career disruptions, while also support you in reaching your highest career potential.