I recently updated my optical prescription. It had been quite a while. Too long. My eyes were aching when I sat at the computer, and I couldn’t see street signs clearly.
The process reminded me that every so often, recalibration is just a thing that’s necessary to keep things clear. I do it literally (as with my glasses or with the mechanics of my car), and I do it figuratively, taking stock of my goals.
But I realize that sometimes that process is something I get forced into.
That happened when we moved 400 miles to a new state in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. I not only had to logistically switch gears, but I had to figure out how to integrate myself into a new community. That took a certain amount of recalibrating how much or what I wanted people to know about me.
It was exhilarating. It was slightly terrifying, too. And it underscored something that I wasn’t unaware of before the move, but that now has become painfully obvious: I wasn’t—I’m not—the same person I had been during all of my 25 years living in Ohio.
It’s also something that I realized happens with my clients when they are looking for new employment.
So much of our identity is attached to our job titles that when we adopt a new one and move into a new work community, we have to redefine ourselves to some extent.
This is compounded by the fact of time.
That place where we started in our careers at one point (maybe just freshly out of college) isn’t usually the same point where we are at a particular moment in the future—after we have worked at the job and after we have made significant life changes that shift our personal priorities (Marriage? Kids?).
When we go back to look our resumes and think about what we want, we run smack up against the reality that we aren’t the same person we see reflected back in those bullet points.
It’s a shock. It’s like looking in a mirror and seeing a younger version of yourself.
This is probably why job changes are so tough for so many people.
Sure, there is the raw fact that the economy changes; the world changes. Conditions tend to dictate hiring patterns. But then there is also the way we fit into those patterns that also dictates our success.
Because we’ve changed, then we probably need to recalibrate our intentions to reflect those personal shifts as well as the job requirements.
Most people tend to put the emphasis on the job. “What are they asking? Do I have the right key words on my resume?”
But this is skipping a step that I have seen over and over makes a huge difference.
First, do the following before you hit “apply.”
Take time to think seriously about what you want; I mean really want.
There are a number of exercises that can help you do this. Here is a suggestion:
1. Take out a pad of paper (and I suggest handwriting this, because you will process the information differently; form a closer connection with it) and describe the last time you were doing something that made you feel “alive” and in touch with who you are. What were you doing? What did you feel?
2. Next, describe those things about your work that have been the most satisfying. What were you doing?
3. Now, Make a list of what’s important to you. What are your values today? What is important to you as a human being and what is important to you in your work? Need ideas? Here’s a giant list of values.
4. Mind the gap. Rank the values into a Top 5 overall and Top 5 for your work. Then consider whether you are honoring each of them.
Do you see a disconnect between what you value and how you are living your life right now, both at your job and at home? Note what those gaps are. Then look at these and ask yourself: What can I do to achieve alignment?
As you answer, you will inch closer to knowing what change you might have to make professionally.
5. Write down your job title, and next to it, answer the question: How could my current job or line of work fill my gaps? Can I find this increased satisfaction in a different division of my company? A different role? Could I find it doing the same or similar work at a different company? Do I need a different job entirely?
Now it’s time to start exploring. And here’s the thing: Now you will be armed with knowledge about what you value and will consider that the next job should probably align with your list.
Taking time to circle back seems like a delay. It takes time to find a new job. Why not just plunge in right now?
But the time you take actually will save you time.
You will gain clarity about your direction.
You will feel more secure about what you need from your work and how it aligns with what you need from your life.
You won’t jump at any opportunity just because it pays a certain amount, or it aligns with your college degree. And you won’t, therefore, jump ship quickly later because it doesn’t feel right.
Because: You will be more inclined to look for work that aligns with who you are right now.