How did you get started in your current career?  If you are a medical professional or a legal professional or an engineer, you probably had a career outcome in mind when you went to school.  For many of the rest of us, it was school first and then figure out what we’re going to do for a living. With that plan, many of us fell into occupations that either worked out extremely well, extremely poorly, or somewhere in between.

If it worked out extremely well, you could probably stop reading right now and go back to work! If not, then there is a bit of a career exploration process you could go through to find work that truly engages you.

Let’s not Throw the Baby Out with the Bath Water

The first step to consider is why things are not working out extremely well right now. Dan Pink’s classic RSA Animate on motivation provides a place to start. To summarize, Dan ran some studies and concluded that there are 3 things we need to be engaged and motivated in our work: autonomy, mastery and purpose.  Ask yourself these 3 questions:

  1. Autonomy: Am I trusted and encouraged to own my work and allowed to work without being “micro-managed”?
  2. Mastery: Am I good at what I do and am I given the tools to continue to improve?
  3. Purpose: Is there a greater purpose or good cause element to what I and my organization do and believe in?

If you answered no to one or more of these questions, it may be a question of organizational fit rather than “type of work” fit.  You may want to explore other organizations before exiting your current career.

Where to Next?

What are some things you can do to turn your decision from leaving something to moving toward something new?

  1. Think about what specific parts of past and current jobs you have really enjoyed doing. Write them down.  Don’t get fancy, just do a bit of a brain dump. Get everything down on paper.
  2. Take an assessment or two. One that helps focus on the positive is the CliftonStrengths. The basic version will identify your top 5 strengths and generate a personalized report. Think about the jobs, situations, and types of organizations that would value your top 5 strengths.
  3. Schedule 30-minute meetings with family and friends who you trust and know you well. Be sure to let them know in advance that you would like this meeting to focus on you. Share what you’ve learned so far and ask them what they envision you doing. “If you were in my shoes, what are the occupations and organizations that you would explore?” is a great open-ended question to throw out there.
  4. Still stuck? It might be time to engage a career coach or mentor to help you make sense of the information you’ve gathered.


What are some activities to help you find a target and get there?

  1. Based on the information you gathered in step #2, put together a list of careers and organizations that you want to explore.
  2. Find people who do the work or work at the organizations you’re interested in. Friends, family, co-workers, and former co-workers are all great places to start. Schedule those conversations.
  3. LinkedIn’s advanced search feature is a fantastic tool to get to those second-level connections. It is through a second-level connection that you are most likely to find your next opportunity. Think about it. If you are connected to 200 people on LinkedIn and each of those people are connected to an average of 200 people, you now have access to 40,000 people.
  4. Once you’ve found the people who you would like to chat with, you can either reach out directly or you could enlist the help of your “common connection” to warm up the introduction. Ask if they’d be open to having a meeting so you can find out what it’s really like to do the kind of work they’re doing or to work at their organization.

Embracing change can be scary, but the benefits can be immense. Carrying out a thoughtful career exploration process can lead to a meaningful career where you are engaged and motivated by the work you do.

To learn more about the support and services available with the experts at Cenera, reach out to us today!