One of the most common questions I have as a Career Coach and as and LCI workshop facilitator is, ‘How do I go about finding my ideal career?’

Most people know what they don’t want and that is usually where they are at right now. The first thing I say is: ‘If you’re unhappy in your career, find one you like or find something to like about the one you have’. Then as a coach we often undertake 5 steps in a process of discovery to assist them in working through what that may be. The steps are as follows:

  1. Know yourself
  2. Figure out what you want
  3. Tell everyone you know
  4. Go for what you want
  5. Don’t let NO stop you

In this special post series we will sequentially cover each of these steps in more detail. In this post we cover step 2: figure out what you want.

Step 2. Figure out what you want

OK so now that we know ourselves a little better and have become more self-aware by knowing our top 3 values (previous article), we have taken the first step in the right direction to finding our ideal career, but how do we figure out what we really want! What we tend to do is go on a large search looking for the ideal career, hoping it will reveal itself to us or jump out at you when you come across it.

This is a very passive and ineffective way to find what you really want. What we need to do is focus on what is it we want and then go out and get it. We can spend days, months and years searching and not find the answer If we don’t have any criteria to assist with our search then we are looking aimlessly. The more we look, the more we can feel overwhelmed and then can easily find an excuse to stay where we are instead of living and breathing our career dream.

This brings us to the second step to finding a new career, which is often seen as the most difficult step, figure out what you want. By knowing what we want, we can set goals and an action plan to help achieve it. Without a clear idea of your ideal career criteria the search can be like looking for a ‘needle in the haystack’.

Let’s look at Steve for example:

Steve is a scientist and working for a large research firm, he completed his MBA a number of years ago when he decided to make a career change. Steve loved the technical aspects of his work but didn’t enjoy the structure of the organisation and didn’t have an affiliation with products he was researching; he wanted more from his career. Steve decided to look for something new. He searched the newspapers and the web for months and months and could not find the right position.

Steve became really depressed and despondent at work, he knew he wanted a change but he didn’t really know what he wanted. As Steve couldn’t find what he was looking for he stopped looking and this impacted his attitude to his work which soon became obvious to his employer. He thought, ‘if I don’t find something soon, I may just lose my job’ in the worst way. It was time to do something different and this is when Steve sought help.

Steve and I worked through the five steps above. Steve got clear on what his top 3 values were, and then we had a brainstorming session to create ‘Steves’ ideal career matrix, which included all the ‘ideal’ criteria that Steve was looking for in his new career.

Steve listed his personal, financial, cultural, environment and location requirements for his ideal career and found that he really wanted was to have flexibility, creativity, autonomy and control of his career, be located close to home, he discovered that what he really wanted was to set up his own research business. What he really wanted was not going to be listed in the paper or at any recruitment web site, what he wanted was something he needed to create for himself. Steve found that the outward looking focus would never have worked for him.

By taking the time to work out to determine what we want first before starting our career search, means we are taking charge of our careers and can make more appropriate and tailored career choices. People who take the time to figure out what they want first, have control of their career search and find or create their ideal career.

Today’s Action Plan: Figure out what you want

Develop your ideal job criteria:

  • Review your top 3 values
  • Create a list of all the desires you have for the ‘ideal career’
  • Sort the lists into ‘must have’ and ‘nice to have’
  • Put a priority rating on each item
  • Now you have your ideal career criteria

In the next post of this series we will look at Step 3: Tell everyone you know.

Written by Nicole McAuliffe

Nicole McAuliffe is a LCI workshop facilitator and Director of Creative Connections, a professional life coaching company that supports individuals and organisations in all aspects of career change and development and work life balance.

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