Change and when it’s needed

change

It’s coming up to me having been in my current job for 4 months, and it’s flown by, but it’s also starting to feel a little dull and repetitive. So the thing that’s on my mind at the moment is how do I know when to move on? Do I need to make more effort in my current position to get more out of it, or is it simply and genuinely not right for me and it’s ok to try something else?

In a lot of aspects of my life I don’t cope well with change. Despite recognising that I’m emotional and my emotions will pass, in the moment I still panic and regret and question my choices. However when it comes to jobs (well, my so far fairly limited experience of jobs through studying, part-time work, unpaid internships and my current role), change is everything. I always want something new – new work environment, new colleagues, new tasks, new goals, new experiences.

So I either hate change or I love change and there’s not very much in the middle. Gradual change has to be best – small steps towards a bigger goal. I need to find a balance.

I received some good advice from a blogger called Ryan Balboa almost three months ago:

One of my mentor managers at where I used to work suggested that I keep a list of the top 10 things that were important to me in my life and career, with a ‘satisfaction scale’ ranging from 1-10 next to them.

Every 6 months (roughly when performance reviews and stuff were) she’d get me to fill out the list, and compare the list I filled out from last time. I find that it really put things into perspective for me, and framed my emotions in a more objective, logical way (btw, it also helped me convince myself logically that it was time to move on).

So that’s exactly what I did, and at this relatively early stage of my career I think a review every three months works pretty well, so I’ve just updated my numbers. It’s not good news. Most of the numbers have gone down, so now I’m trying to work out whether I should wait until I’ve had an unusually good day at work to fill it out again, or to trust that, at least relative to my last numbers, this is indicating some sort of change is needed (don’t worry, I’m not planning on quitting my job just yet, but currently my 6-months-from-now plan is to find something new to move on to).

changecomplainIt feels as though being in any job for less than 12 months shows nothing more than a lack of commitment, yet from the start I knew this job wasn’t quite for me. It’s a tough one, but I don’t do settling so it’s going to need some serious thought.

The question seems to be:

Do I want change for the sake of change, or because I feel there’s little room for growth in my current role and I want to keep experimenting and growing?

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What’s blogging all about?

I was more than a little surprised to find the following, rather unfriendly and cryptic, comment in my inbox a few days ago. I was in two minds about sharing it but it’s brought up a couple of things I’d like to discuss, so here it is:

Forget the blog post. I won’t blow smoke in your face and say I’m so glad that I read your post. What I will say is that people who go by a pseudonym annoy me. No name, no way to connect on LinkedIn or follow on Twitter. As well, your subtitle is a bit self-defeating and not a good way to start the branding process. None of this would have to be said in the form of a reply if I knew who you are and how to contact you; because I would like to offer a bit of professional advice. Namely, I’m not the only professional old-timer who is going to see your talented prose but wonder, “Are you for real?” So, two things that piss me off: one) you are a talented writer, yet immature; two) I don’t know how to contact you to tell you this in front of others who are to follow your writing, including my much respected pen pal, Rebecca. Sorry if this offends you, Rebecca. Bob McIntosh http://www.linkedin.com/in/bobmcintosh1

Assault on the anonymous

I choose to blog anonymously for two main reasons:

1. I feel that it helps me to be more honest in my writing

2. I’d rather my current and potential employers didn’t come across my confused ramblings

I don’t write this blog as any form of self-promotion or marketing. I write it for myself, to help me to explore career ideas and thoughts and to share these with others, and to enable me to read the thoughts and ideas of others who I can learn from. Being anonymous allows me to do this completely freely.

A supportive community?

Until I received the comment above I was pleased to be part of what I’d so far found to be a welcoming and supportive community of like-minded people. To me blogging isn’t about always agreeing with others’ views, but it is about being constructive and supportive.

I’d love to hear your views:

– How do you feel about anonymous bloggers like myself?

– What’s blogging all about for you?

The 4 career-searching personalities

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I’ve been thinking about different attitudes to building fulfilling career paths, and I’ve come up with these 4 categories:

Decided Undecided
Starter Know where they want to be and on the path to get there Don’t know but are exploring options proactively and linking interests
Settler Know but unsure how and/or unwilling to put the work in to get there Don’t know where they want to be and aren’t making an effort to work it out

The decided starter – you know the type, have known since childhood exactly what they want to be without even needing to consider other options out there, usually studying something vocational, e.g. medicine, teaching. These people can be pretty irritating. Who wants to hear from someone who has their whole life planned out and is completely content with their decision? Well actually it is kind of nice to know there are people in this world who know what they’re doing. Good for them.

The undecided starter – now you can’t be annoyed with this type, they don’t have a clue but they’re doing their best to work it out. I’d say these people are pretty inspiring, they admit they’re not perfect but they’re not just sitting back and hoping for the best, they’re out there trying things out and building a path for themselves. And this is one major way in which they differ from decided starters: they’re creating their own path, not following a predefined one.

The decided settler – this type is frustrating, they know what they want to be doing, you know they know what they want to be doing, but they’re not doing it. Why? Fear of failure, lack of encouragement, laziness? Whatever it is it’s not a good enough reason for them to settle for something that’s not on the path to what they really want. You want them to make the effort, to work at their dream, but it feels like they’ve just given up and are simply sitting back and waiting for something to fall into their lap.

The undecided settler – they don’t have a clue, and because of this you do feel for them, finding the right path for yourself isn’t easy. It’s discouraging to come across this type, they seem lost and unsure where to start. But it’s a small step to go from undecided settler to undecided starter.

I know which category I want to be in.

Starting vs settling

settlingAfter reading How to customise your life and not settle by Katie Robinson at Ask the Young Professional, a blog I’ve only recently discovered and look forward to following, I just had to share my own thoughts.

Katie makes such an important point, and one that I’d never considered before – understanding the difference between starting and settling. It’s really helped me to to think differently, and hopefully more clearly, about the idea of ‘settling’.

In past posts I’ve talked about striving and searching, rather than just settling for an ‘it pays the bills’ kind of job – but how do you define settling? And what’s the difference between starting out, doing what you have to do in order to reach your goals, and giving up on your dreams?

You have to start somewhere, whether you have very specific or only very vague goals in mind, but you still want to find a starter job that you enjoy (at least some of the time) and that’s on the right path towards your career goals.

The way I see it, you want to have links between your starter job and your future career ideas – a basic framework based on your current interests and skills that you can build on.

For me, these links are science, writing, communication and education. My job doesn’t cover any of these things in depth, but the fact that there are bits of all of them means I’ve got something to move forward from. These links also don’t cover all of my interests, but they’re a start. If I compare this to my previous part time work waitressing, which had just one very vague link to my goals – working with people, then I’m in a far better position to move forward now than I was then.

Settling is continuing in a job that you neither enjoy nor is moving you forward. Settling is not thinking about future career goals and convincing yourself that the job you have is good enough when you know it isn’t. Settling is giving up.

Starting is accepting that you have to pick something for now and give it a go. Starting is finding and creating links to your future career ideas and planning ahead. Starting is being realistic, but thinking forward.

So I’m not settling for a nine-to-five desk job that doesn’t include half the things I want in a job, I’m starting with a nine-to-five desk job that’s going to get me to future jobs that do include more of the things I want in a job.

10 things I like about my job

chickenlovesjobI came across this post: Ten things I love about my job, a while ago and have kept meaning to write my own list. I think it’s something everyone should do. The list can include anything, even the small things, and it’s a great way to appreciate what you have.

I may not love my job but I certainly don’t hate it, in fact I’ve realised it’s actually a lot better than I give it credit for!

10 good things about my job:

  1. I get two computer screens (or is this pretty standard in modern offices?! Either way it’s great)
  2. I work in a nice building in a nice part of town
  3. It’s 5 minutes from the train station, making my commute pretty easy
  4. I get to hear about lots of interesting jobs from people who love what they do
  5. My work (hopefully) helps to inspire and encourage young people
  6. I often learn new things and interesting facts
  7. I now know more about WordPress (use it a lot at work)
  8. It’s more of an entrepreneurial rather than a corporate company
  9. My colleagues all like their jobs making it a positive place to work
  10. As my first proper job, it’s helping me to work out what I like and don’t like and what I want to do next

It’s easy to focus so much on ‘something better’ that you don’t appreciate what you currently have. I’m very guilty of this, and I’m realising that there has to be a balance between having long term goals and ambitions and working towards those, and living in the moment – allowing myself to fully appreciate my current job and situation as a good thing at this time.

Looks like I’ve joined the rat race

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I started a new job last Monday. I’ve put off writing about it due to some initial uncertainties but I’ve come to the realisation that, whatever happens, taking it was definitely the right decision and a positive step forward.

I’d had an interview the week before – a very awkward affair involving going out for lunch with the three members of staff, before an interview back at the office during which I downplayed my skills on purpose in an effort not to get offered the job. Yeah, not sure what went wrong there either.. (And note to anyone in charge of conducting interviews: Having lunch with applicants, no matter how well-intentioned, is definitely not the best way to relax a potential employee before an interview.)

This is really what inspired my last, rather drastic, post about emotion/fear versus intuition. My intuition told me I didn’t feel very comfortable with the people, and I was coming up with all sorts of reasons why this job was another wrong choice and I should do something totally different, but after giving myself some time to think I realised that it was my emotions talking and I had nothing to lose. They wanted me to start straight away and said I can give it a try for a few months and see how it goes – the perfect offer for a commitment-phobe like me!

Before I started I was thinking that I’d do it for two months and that would be it – I’d carry on looking for the ‘right’ job and this was just another good bit of experience, but just over a week in and, dare I say it, it’s actually going quite well so far.

I dislike the 9 to 5, but I don’t yet dread it. There are some things that could be better about the job, but there are many things that could be a lot worse. It’s informal, there’s variety, and it relates to some of my interests (and there’s no uniform! Though sadly no working from home in my pajamas either).

One thing that really does scare me though is how fast a working week passes. And how much faster the weekend goes. I can see how easy it would be to get stuck in a full time job, feeling like there’s no time to look for alternatives and gain other experience, and letting the weeks, months, even years, speed by. But I’m determined not to let that happen. This job is just the start.

Why career-hunting is just like house-hunting

oldnewhouseI feel like this blog has become a little too idealistic, so I want to bring it back to reality. Sometimes you need to work for money so that you can have your independence, do the things you want to do in your spare time and plan for your future, and, temporarily, that’s ok. If I can just find a reasonable full time stop gap job sometime soon, hopefully, I’ll be happy, and it doesn’t mean that I’ve given up on finding work I think is really great, it just means I’m doing what I can to get by while I’m searching for that great job (or those great jobs – still quite like the idea of a portfolio career…).

As Kirsty Allsopp says on Location, Location, Location (yes I have far too much time on my hands), when house hunting your aim is to find your, what she calls, ‘forever family home’ in as few steps as possible, because moving house is a pain: it’s expensive and time consuming. I like to think career hunting is just the same in that you want to find that great job that suits you so well in as few job changes as possible, because moving from job to job is a pain, and you don’t want to be unhappy for too long in a job that doesn’t fit with who you are and how you want to spend your time.

People can’t afford to buy that perfect house straight away, and they’re not ready to anyway, they might meet a new partner, have (more) children, get a job in a different area, find another part of town they’d prefer to live in. It’s only by experience that they can work out where they want to commit to. And it’s the same with work, very few people will stumble upon their ideal career path early on in their lives, they need to build up experience and find out what’s out there before they’ll find the best fit.

So I haven’t given up on that great job, but I have decided that right now settling is more important than searching, so fingers crossed an ok job comes up soon.

(And to make clear that I haven’t given up on the dream, Create a meaningful life through meaningful work highlights the three things a great job should be – important and meaningful a) in the long term, b) in the opinion of those whose opinion matters, and c) to you.)