It’s natural to spend the end of the year looking back at what you’ve done.
And to consider making changes in the year to come. This is especially true of this year when you may be wondering if your current job fits your life or your goals.
But how do you know if you’re ready to make a move…and if it’s the right move?
“We can all relate to being dissatisfied in a role, so we change jobs. And then, two years later, we’re back in the same spot,” says Kelli Anderson, MEd, a career and mindset coach, and founder of Mindset Mamas. Anderson created her signature program From Stuck to Fulfilled: A Career Transformation to help driven women leave unsatisfying jobs and start fulfilling careers. She’s been featured on Fairygodboss, Sittercity, and the TODAY parents community.
“We spend so much time at work. If we’re not happy with our jobs or careers, that can lead to an entire life of negativity,” explains Anderson. “And a lot of women—especially moms—are at a breaking point right now.”
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Anderson says it’s absolutely possible to find fulfilling work.
Step 1: Discover your future
“Self-discovery can be scary for some people who don’t want to get inside their own heads. Other people might think it’s a little…out there,” explains Anderson. “But it’s just one step in the process. You need to do some real thinking before you can make a plan.
“Unfortunately, most of us haven’t been taught how to do it. We just get on the ladder and we climb, climb, climb. We don’t always take a step back to see if we actually like where the ladder is.”
Anderson says it’s common for us to stay in positions that we’re good at, even if we don’t really like the work. “Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you have to do it,” she says. “Or maybe you’d like doing it for another part of your industry…or somewhere else altogether.”
The self-discovery process is all about helping you figure out where you want to go and what you want to do. Here are a few easy ways to start:
Create your vivid vision. Look ahead one year and ask yourself where you want to be in your life. Not just in your career, but what do you want your whole life to look like? Then imagine Future You writes a letter to Present You describing that life. Then write that letter. If a year seems too far off, start with one quarter from now. “This exercise helps you realize there are possibilities,” explains Anderson.
Design your day. This is similar to your vivid vision but is specific to your ideal day. Write it as if you were reflecting at the end of the day back on what you did. What does that day look like?
Journal. “Journaling can be really powerful,” says Anderson. “We have a free resource called 30 Journal Prompts to Help You Find Your Purpose that gives you a place to start.”
Step 2: Question what you find
Once you’ve done one (or more) of these exercises, ask yourself what sticks out? What are the things you like doing and want to do more?
What are the things not on your list? Those missing items are important, too. They clue you into what you’d like to be doing less.
What kind of role will let you do the most of what you like and the least of what you don’t?
Step 3: State what you want
“We have all these thoughts swirling in our heads, but we don’t get them out,” explains Anderson. “But saying them out loud—even to ourselves—or writing them down is really powerful. It helps your mindset shift.”
It’s a bit like deciding to buy a particular car and then seeing it seemingly everywhere. Our brains are wired to search for patterns and connections. Once you get it thinking in a certain way about what you want to do, it will start noticing opportunities you weren’t attuned to before.
This is not to say your dream job is going to jump right out at you. “This isn’t magic,” Anderson explains.
Step 4: Make your plan
You still need to create a plan to get where you want to go. “Maybe that plan includes extra training or education. Or working with a mentor or coach. People say things like ‘I could never do XYZ’ but usually they could…if they made a plan,” Anderson says. “It might take effort, but you can make a lot of things happen if you plan.”
Step 5: Befriend your fear
Change is scary. And after this year, changes may raise even more fears. “One exercise that can help manage your fear is to come up with your worst case scenario,” Anderson explains. “Often it isn’t as bad as you think.”
Even if things go completely south, you and your family probably won’t end up homeless on the street. “Maybe you’ll need to take a part-time job. Or get some help from a family member. Or take out a loan. Things you might not want to do, but you could. Fear is never going to go away…but you’re smart. You’ll figure something out.”
Then you can set about making the change. You can find previous articles to help with your new search here in our archives:
And once you are in your new role?
Succeeding in your new role
In any new position, especially a leadership position, Anderson says it’s important to be open and to remember leading comes from a place of service.
“Ask how people prefer to be led and what they need from you. Making it more about them and less about you helps create buy in. This can be especially important if you’re leading a team who used to be your peers,” she says. “At the same time, it’s important to set boundaries and expectations early.
“Ultimately leadership is about quality and character, not titles. You can’t demand respect just because you’re a manager—at least you can’t and be a good leader. Good leaders earn respect.”
Kelli offers a free career advice call. You can set one up here. Or follow her on LinkedIn.