A lot of people find themselves looking around and asking, “Is this all there is?” While surveys show that 54% of Americans are “satisfied” with their jobs, there’s a lot more to life than just being satisfied. What about being fulfilled? Happy? Full of meaning and purpose?
The good news is that no matter where you are in your career, you can build your personal brand toward achieving meaningful life goals. All it takes is some planning, patience, and adaptability. Here are some tips to get you moving forward.
Assess Your Current Situation
As you look for ways to grow and improve, the first thing to understand is whether your current job gives you a path forward. Some jobs are simply dead-end positions. There is no way to move forward, advance, or gain more skills. Even good jobs sometimes fall into this category. How do you know if your current position is a dead end?
First, take a look at the people above you. Is there a lot of change in those leadership positions, or would it take a significant change for you to get promoted? While you never know people’s long-term plans, if it looks like no one is going anywhere, you probably aren’t either.
Second, consider whether you would accept a promotion if you were offered one. Is the next step up one you actually want? Is it a move that would enhance your life, or would things be worse? If you don’t want to move up in your current track, it’s probably time for a change.
Finally, determine if you’re still learning and growing in your current job. If not, you’ve probably gone as far as you can go.
Unless you’re in your dream job already, these signs of a dead-end position may indicate that it’s time to make a change.
Determine Your Goals
Thinking carefully about your dreams and goals is essential. Otherwise, you’ll end up working hard your entire life in order to reach a destination others have created for you. That doesn’t lead to life satisfaction, joy, or purpose.
So think carefully about what success means to you. Is your goal to retire early so that you can spend time volunteering, helping animals, or pursuing hobbies? Do you want to work in a specific industry or improve your work-life balance?
Once you’ve set your goals, it’s time to move forward. Here’s how you can achieve some common career goals.
Move Into Leadership
Many people are interested in gaining experience in managing others. Leading other employees is a unique challenge and it’s something you can’t really learn without doing it.
Many times, getting into a leadership role takes a long-term plan. The first decision is to determine if you want to move up in your current department or if you want to make another move first. You may be able to move into another part of your current organization, which may be easier than trying to get a new job in another company.
Regardless, be sure that the department you choose has the opportunity to move up. If the managers have been in place for a decade, you will have a hard time getting a leadership position.
Don’t be worried about the job titles you’ve had in the past. While designer job titles can make recruiting more difficult for HR departments, the best hiring teams focus on the skills and experience you have.
Highlight what you’ve done and how you can be an asset to the team, and go for it!
Improve Your Work-Life Balance
If you work too many hours, or miss being at home with your family, or struggle with being on-call, you might decide it’s time to achieve a better balance between work and life.
Decide what it is you’re most interested in. Do you want more leave? A flexible schedule? The ability to work from home? Approach your bosses and find out what’s available in your current position. Work on your benefit negotiation strategy and consider practicing with friends before you approach your boss.
Ultimately, you might find that you need to either change companies or perhaps save up enough to be able to take a lower-paying, but more satisfying, job. Perhaps you simply want to retire early and focus all of your time on other pursuits. This requires a solid financial plan, but you can certainly do it.
You might find that the job you’re in simply isn’t in an industry you enjoy. Many people feel pressured to choose a career field in college, but they don’t understand the realities of working in that area.
If you are disappointed with your chosen career, the good news is that you aren’t trapped. Even if you have little experience, you can start building the skills and connections you need to make the switch.
One of the keys is to network. You can do this online or in person, but get to know people who work in the job you’re looking for. Consider doing informational interviews. Not only do these build relationships, but they also help you understand if you will truly enjoy the new field.
Revise your resume to highlight the skills and talents that are required in the new industry. Take classes or start projects that will allow you to learn software or other skills you’ll need in your preferred career, and highlight these on your resume.
Finally, be sure your cover letter highlights why you’re a great fit in the new industry. Talk about how you can help your new company achieve its goals and why you’re an asset to their team.
It’s Never Too Late to Achieve Your Goals
Unfortunately, some people give up on their life goals before they even get started. Some think that 30, 50, or 65 is simply too late. The truth is that it’s never too late. So, if you’re unsatisfied with your job, decide what you’re interested in, make a plan, and make it happen!