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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The 4 career-searching personalities

LongleatMaze_ROW2078107117_20100808

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.

Which would you regret more?

what ifYou regret more the things you didn’t do than the things you did. No, really, you do.

It’s taken me a very long time to even begin to accept this.

Let me give you an example. When I was offered a paid internship that I was really unsure about taking, one of the first things I asked myself – and one of the first things many others asked me when discussing my dilemma – was which choice would I regret more?

Having worked, unpaid, for the company, I knew lots of the good things about them, but also lots of things I didn’t like so much. I’m very much drawn to variety and new things; I’m bad at commitment. And my expectations for a first job were too high.

I tried to picture myself in the role, and rightly or wrongly felt that I would regret taking on something which I felt so very little enthusiasm for. I knew the company was looking for someone to stay on after the internship and I didn’t want to take the position fully intending to leave after the three months and to be actively looking for other opportunities while in the role. I thought I would feel guilty. I thought that would be taking advantage. Except that’s what opportunities are there for – taking advantage of.

Yes, looking back my thinking didn’t make much sense. Even now I have to remind myself that companies don’t have feelings. You can start a job and quit in a month. It’s about you, not them. And you know what else, I might have changed my mind. I might even have grown to like it – first impressions can be wrong. But let’s keep this balanced, intuition can also be pretty accurate, it might not have worked out. But that’s not the point I’m trying to make here.

I turned it around in my head and asked myself – would I regret more taking something with so little conviction, or would I regret more not taking a risk to continue to look for something better. Of course this is rubbish – I could have worked and searched.

We regret more the things we don’t do than the things we do, because it’s the not knowing that drives us crazy, not making a mistake. We can deal with mistakes because we can learn lots from them. All we can learn from ‘what ifs’ is next time,  just give it a go.

Life lessons from the job hunt

hearty-cloud-roadIt’s only now that I have a job that I appreciate not just how frustrating it was not to have one, but also how wildly idealistic I was while searching for one. At the time I clung on to hope, blindly believing that something just right would turn up out of the blue if I waited long enough, but it’s only now that I realise just how overly optimistic I was being (well, overly optimistic in between the odd “no-one is ever going to hire me, I’m going to be unhappily unemployed forever!” breakdown).

Since finally being offered a job that I chose to accept, I’ve continued to check the same job sites (not quite as obsessively and excessively frequently!) but it’s as if my eyes have finally been opened to the fact that it really is just the same old roles coming up again and again. Perfect positions don’t just miraculously appear – and even if one did, I can almost guarantee I wouldn’t recognise it!

Maybe the lack of variety in openings is partly due to the economic climate, but it doesn’t change the fact that I never really knew what I was searching for, yet I still expected to find it.

The number of options out there is ridiculous, and I struggle to see how graduates could be fully prepared for the working world when faced with what feels like endless possibilities. Maybe there isn’t much more that can be done. Maybe it’s just one of those periods of life that you have to go through to work out the realities of adult life for yourself.

I’m ever hopeful, but sometimes I think that maybe I’m a little too hopeful. I said in a recent post that you’ve got to believe things will work out. And I believe that you do. But you’ve also got to accept that they’re going to work out imperfectly, and that it’s going to take time, some risks and a lot of learning and adapting.

There are no wrong decisions

I was aware of the book I’ve just finished for a long time before I decided to read it. I guess I thought the title said it all, but it’s actually been a really positive and encouraging read, and it’s got me thinking more about whether I push myself outside of my comfort zone enough.

8. Just say yes – you can’t losefeelthefear

(Feel the fear and do it anyway, by Susan Cain)

Often I feel the fear, do it anyway (once) and then be done with it, feel good, but generally I don’t keep pushing the same boundary. It’s like I can superficially do the fear thing, but only for a limited amount of time (maybe that’s got something to do with my introverted energy levels).

A couple of things stood out to me while reading – the key one relating to my usual dilemma: decision-making. We often see choices as black and white, right and wrong, but each option will just lead to different opportunities, no better and no worse in the long run. I find this hard to accept. Being the maximising perfectionist that I am I feel that one path must have even a slightly better outcome than another. But I can’t think like that – the paths are different, there is no good or bad, just one set of future opportunities versus another, neither of which can be known at the time of making the decision.

The other key point that stood out to me was, and at first this does sound a bit mystic, ‘saying yes to your universe’. All this really means is being open to life and all it has to offer. It doesn’t mean literally saying yes to everything, just accepting what comes your way knowing that you can handle it and therefore you really have nothing to fear.

The book’s about being positive and not relying on external things to make you happy. Yes a lot of it could be described as common sense, but I know I need reminding. This is a great motivational read and it makes me want to go out there and take some risks. Because we’re capable of handling so much more than we think we are, and because If you always do what you always did, you always get what you always got, and I want something new and different.

Should to could to want to would

nevertoolate

A post by Beautiful Nothingness got me thinking, this quote in particular stood out:

“The more time you spend thinking about where you should be, what you should be doing and who you should be doing it with, the more disappointed you will be with your life. When you finally start concentrating on what you WANT out of life, and the things that need to change for you to get what you want, the closer you get to true happiness and overcoming your quarterlife crisis.”

I’d like to add a couple more verbs to the equation.

The way I see it, should implies external expectations. Should is negative and disempowering. Should is about what other people expect of you and not what you want for yourself.

The first step forward is to change should to could. Could suggests possibilities, options and freedom. You could follow expectations but you could pick your own alternatives.

Would means starting to think realistically and solidly. But would comes up with excuses (would if…) and would can be vague and lack conviction (would like).

Then comes want – it can be selfish and demanding but it’s authentic and purposeful. Want signifies control. Want is as decisive as could is indecisive.

So when you next find yourself thinking I should make this particular choice, I should already have done this, I should be like this, first say I could make this choice, I could have done this, I could become like this (or I could choose otherwise). Let go of expectations and give yourself options. Then explore your reasoning and sound out your excuses, I would choose this if…, I would already have done this if…, I would become like this if…. But focus on solutions instead of problems. Then, most importantly, ask what do I want? And then you choose. I want to make this choice, I want to do this next time, I want to be like this in future.

Life’s not about shoulds or woulds; it’s about wants and coulds.