5 Steps to Take at a Career Crossroads

I’d wager very few people know from a young age what they want to do with their lives and sometimes, even if they do, the path towards that goal can be unclear. After two years in Recruitment helping people take a step closer towards their ideal role, I actually found myself at a career crossroads. I didn’t want to work in agency recruitment again, but I also suspected from my six month spell in Operations that this wasn’t my dream job either.

For all those people who are trying to break into new sectors, new responsibilities, or if you just have no idea what you want, I can honestly say that I sympathise. Feeling under-stimulated at work can be one of the most frustrating feelings. For all you people, I wanted to shoot out some ideas based on what I’ve experienced recently, that might help steer your minds. I’m only just starting out, I realise, but I think these things could apply to anybody, wherever they are in their career.

1. Try and forget about it 

I’m not joking. Counter intuitive as this may seem, if you’ve been getting frustrated about your path in life it can help to just strip everything back. I found I was obsessing over it, feeling miserable, lost, confused, and I stopped doing the things I enjoyed. You quickly find yourself in a position where you can’t recognise what you enjoy – and I’d consider this recognition the springboard for career inspiration.

I’m not saying if you like to bake cakes you should become a chef, but I think giving yourself space to just be can give you the opportunity to realise what sort of person you are. Do you like creating things, do you like learning, do you analyse, are you driven by being around other people, do you like being active and outdoors? All the things you’d naturally do once you give yourself some space will help you determine what elements make up your ideal role.

I also believe job hunting is tough and you need to be in a frame of mind that’s positive and refreshed. Giving yourself some time out or just some time off from thinking about it will help you get to a more positive place. It’s okay, and actually can be very helpful, to give yourself permission not to think about it for a while!

2. Make a list

It’s much easier to list what you hate than what you like, so start with this. Think about all the work environments you’ve been in (or, if you’re new to the workplace, think about your life so far): what annoys you, what bores you, what sort of situations make you unhappy, what personalities drive you crazy? If you can think about times you’ve been happiest and most fulfilled, list them too. If, like many people, you’ve been in a job where your feelings about it changed over time, really analyse what changed to bring that shift in mood about. Once you have your lists of positive and negative, try and find commonalities, similar situations in which you reacted in the the same way.

You can’t always know what you’re stepping into with a new job, and I believe it’s largely a path where you’re always filling in more blanks, but if you refuse to really acknowledge your own preferences you’ll keep making the same mistakes. I mention this (seemingly quite obvious) point, because I definitely realised that what I wanted in my head was very different to what I actually enjoyed in practice. I think I’ve always been a bit of a dreamer, and in my head at school I think I had a picture of my future self as some sharp corporate over-achiever, working all hours. Thinking about it now that I’ve actually worked, I like relaxed environments, and I want to create things. I want to wear jeans, not a suit. I want to choose how I work, and I want to work with people who genuinely care about the things they do, not just chase big fees.

Get real about what actually makes you happy and unhappy based on your experience, not what you think will make you happy.

3. Read, Talk and Listen

Let’s face it; often the problem comes down to just not knowing what is out there. You have reached the place where you know what you like and dislike, but you have no way of knowing how this fits into a job role. Does a job like this exist? Are you being far too idealistic? You need to start being more curious – tell people what you like, get their ideas and input. Start listening to the world around you and being more receptive to information about the jobs available and who is hiring. And research; you’ll have to do lots of reading. I found some really great material whilst in this phase – one blog I really loved is a guide for people who feel a little lost in life, check it out.

Research different jobs. Use LinkedIn to search for different keywords and see what comes up. What do people with similar backgrounds, skills and interests to you end up doing? However frustrated you get, keep being curious. If you see a company you like the look of, just write to them. Explain what you’re looking to do and why you would love to be a part of what they’re doing. Many people don’t do this, but it can open doors for you, and what do you have to lose?

4. Always say ‘yes’ to a conversation

I cannot stress this enough – approach your challenge positively and always say yes to conversations if people are willing to give you their time. This is especially the case when you’re job seeking or looking to change job area. If you’re asking people to take a chance on you, then impressing them with your drive and passion can go a long way towards making this risk seem less severe, especially if you lack some of the skills required for the position.

In addition to that, every conversation sparks something, whether that’s an introduction to somebody else, or teaching you or confirming something about yourself or the world. Change is slower if you keep doing everything the same – going out of your way to have new experiences will help spark the change you want. And many people are genuinely lovely and sincerely do want to help you. As I said at the start of this article, most people have been in your shoes at some point in their journey.

5. Reach out to your contacts

Assuming that you already embrace point 4, you’ll have quite a nice base of contacts. Talk to the people you already know, let them know what your position is and ask them for inspiration. Conversations are much easier if the relationship is already warm so, if you have a good contact somewhere you’d like to work and you know they like and respect you, it might be worth asking for help. As a recruiter one of the major things I learnt is that the majority of roles are never officially advertised, and many are filled internally before you would ever hear about it.

If you know any good recruiters, talk to them. Anybody really committed to candidate care and long term relationships will take the time to give you some pointers and ideas. If you’re looking to take a change in career direction I wouldn’t bother sending out your CV to new agencies. People are very blinkered when it comes to CV screening and from my recent experience will not spend time helping somebody who doesn’t already tick all the boxes for the role. Seek advice from recruiters you know and trust though, and see what comes of it.

That’s it

I could say much more, but I’ll leave it at this: if you find yourself in the position I describe and you’d like somebody to mull things over with or to get some informal advice them my inbox is always open 🙂 Reach me at char.poynton@gmail.com

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