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Seeking a career change? Check the fertilizer

Yup, grass. It sometimes "seems greener" on the other side of the fence. The question is, which fence...and is it time to jump or not?

To leap or not to leap

Lost that spark at work? Not inspired by your company's mission anymore?

Lack of leadership? Lagging industry?

Or perhaps you're in the wrong role.

Whatever the reason, it's probably time for a change—either personal or professional.

Your fertilizer

Consider what feeds your career.

Tons of neuroscience research highlights the power of mindfulness, the effectiveness of learning activities focused on "interests," the relationship between play and learning, and the importance of having an emotionally vested involvement in our jobs. When we're happy, we learn, grow and develop others and ourselves.

Ask yourself what really drives you—is it internal or external motivation? Are you growing globally and professionally? Do you leverage what you feel passionate about? In what ways do you keep curious? Do you associate with positive people?

Lots to consider but loving your work is a key part—work that energizes you and generates reward, whether it be financial, emotional, physical, spiritual, intellectual or artistic. These inner positive traits of happiness come from the intersection of where your true interests, your talents and company/client needs align. Strengths studiessuggest when we're able to devote our time to our strengths, we grow.

Sometimes a job or career change is needed. And sometimes improving your career is all it takes. In both cases, you need organizational nutrients and a healthy environment to maintain that mindful, present state at work. If you're stuck, you're either in a fight or flight mode...or just plain lifeless at work. Making a change takes commitment, self-reflection, decision-making and devoted action.

Figure out your nutrients

"I need to know myself." Create space to reflect on your life. Think about what you can control and not control in your current environment. Look at four factors that impact you: internal, external, helpful, and harmful to focus your next steps.

Your Strengths - Internal positive talents you should leverage in a career

  • Transferable skills - technical, social, sales, writing, analysis, design

  • Emotional intelligence - self and social awareness, self-management

  • Personal characteristics - work ethic, discipline, creativity, optimism, high energy, ability to work under pressure, resilience

  • Educational relevance - value-added projects, new courses

  • Strong network - alumni relationships, business contacts, friends

Your Weaknesses - Internal traits you can control and improve

  • Lack of focus on articulating a company or team vision

  • Lack of attention to details or inaccuracy in projects

  • Lack of goal definition; inability to execute; lack of follow-through

  • Weak client handling or client-service; absent people skills

  • Inability to anticipate change or anticipate issues in advance

  • Generating gossip or toxic environments for peers

Your Opportunities - External, positive options you could leverage

  • Global market trends with hot jobs, hot markets

  • Creation of new jobs that leverage your skill set

  • New locations (countries / cities)

  • New types of clients

  • Emerging markets

  • Start-ups

  • Strong network of clients, potential teammates

Your Threats - External conditions you may be able to lessen

  • Declining markets and/or pricing

  • Inability to compete effectively in the market

  • Negative trends in the industry

  • Slow decision-making in leadership

  • Competitors with stronger skills and knowledge

  • Barriers in your way - visas, certifications, courses

  • Limited advancement in your role or field

What are my advantages? Where do I have gaps? Have I done enough research on trends in the market? How quickly am I likely to advance in my chosen career vs. new career? If I were the hiring manager, would I hire myself? All good questions to trigger your decision-making and analyze motivations for changing.

Need extra support on strengths, skills and interests assessments? Review: Strengths Finder, Career Leader, Strong Interest Inventory, MBTI.

Identify your energy sources

Understanding your motivators and what drains you can also help shape your decision-making ability surrounding a stay, leave or shift mentality.

List 5 things that energize you. Then, identify 5 items that totally drain you. Goal is to keep the energy givers in your life, avoid the drainers. Use this to help you define the new culture, people, and behaviors you seek.

Target fertile ground

As you consider a potential career change, you'll want to give yourself the time and space to explore new places, ideas and options. But eventually you need a focus—a true target for your job search.

A job search target combines three things:

  • Location

  • Industry

  • Function

While at an international business school, my team and I worked with 700+ international business students annually and the most practical way for the students to move from an idea to action over many months is to start with a total of 6 targets, then refine to 2, then eventually 1 target in their job search strategy. Along with targets, create a list of 10-12 companies in each target.

Use LinkedIn to network your way into a new job or career, continually toggling between company / people searches. You'll want to keep track of people of influence who can be allies in your informational interviewing approach. Ask them how they got to where they are. Learn from people currently doing the role if your new job search target is really right for you.

High demand jobs are in accounting, consulting, data analytics, learning experience design, product management, social media and advertising, IT, including web development and mobile apps, business development, and retail sales for 2015.

Stay current with the most recent list of hot markets in the U.S. and globally:

  • Biggest Workplace and Career Predictions for 2015

  • Top Jobs and Career Trends

  • Top 5 Digital Job Trends for 2015

  • Three Most Promising Careers for 2020

  • 10 Workplace Trends for 2015

  • World Employment and Social Outlook Trends 2015

  • The Boom Towns and Ghost Towns of the New Economy

  • Map of Job-Growth Change in the US 2009-2013

  • Best Countries to Work In

  • McKinsey's Interactive Map of Global Cities of the Future

Stepping stones to a career change

"Ok, I'm taking the leap over the fence. But how do I move from IT to brand marketing? Shift from politics to hospitality? Or change from corporate life to teaching?"

Ideally, identify steps to the change. Don't expect to leap to a new industry, function and role overnight.

Attend conferences, join industry associations, and connect with people in the new field on LinkedIn for informational interviewing. Take a risk and reach out to inquire about new roles and industries.

Expect to shift 1 or 2 factors...not 3

When it comes to defining a new target, plan to change only one or two out of the three items in a target at once. If you're switching location, do a similar role or industry as you did before. While a small percentage of people can make a complete shift of changing location, industry and function, it's unusual for most people to have a clear story, the capabilities, track record and persuasion to make a 100% transformation simultaneously, particularly in a new country.

Example steps to making career shifts with your job function

  • IT — Engineering sales — Marketer for technology firms

  • Politics — Public relations expert — Event manager — Hospitality

  • Corporate leader — Education management — Teaching

  • Banking VP — Advertising founder — Creative director


Use core principles to guide you on your career journey

My career provides me with these 6 things. Yes or no?

  1. I have energy drivers that sustain me and nourish my curiosity.

  2. I'm in an environment where I thrive and deliver.

  3. I am where the market is growing.

  4. I have these skills and interests that align with what employers need.

  5. I make a difference everyday.

  6. I like the people on my team.

High performers create these opportunities. If the answer is "no" to your job or current career, then consider the "fertilizer"— assess your environment, take time to define yourself, seek advisors, talk to your existing leadership about your strengths, establish goals in your career, mentor others, or consider a shift in roles.

Just don't give up! You'll find the change needed to achieve an emotionally vested and mindful state in your career.

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