Change is painful, but nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong.
– Mandy Hale
Change is inevitable. And scary. And exciting. Some people do everything in their power to avoid change; others look for ways to change themselves, their works, and their situations at any given time. But changes keep happening, whether we like them or not. However, when it comes to career decisions it seems that the power of changing things is not really in our hands. So how can we be more proactive about the changes we would like to see and get unstuck fin our careers?
First of all, let’s acknowledge that there are a number of things that are outside our control. These are external factors. They could be, for example, the budget allocated for a certain position; the type of management structure; or the HR needs of a company. It is possible to have an impact on external factors but our room for manoeuvre is limited and change will happen at its own timetable. What you should focus on are mostly the things you can control. And to do so, here are a few tips, tools and exercise to make sure you are able to identify what changes you would like to make in your career and how to accomplish them.
Identify the changes you want to make
Know your values. Know what you want.
Have you ever stopped reflecting about what are your values? Not just as an individual, but what values are important to you in the workplace? It may seem a cliché but it is of the utmost importance for you to know what your values are. Why? Because our values define who we are, what we live for and how we live. A career or a workplace that is not aligned to your values creates imbalances. Living in contradiction with your values creates a fracture. So here is an exercise on how to learn about your values.
Identify your values
At first, skim through the list of values and mark the ones that speak to you. It doesn’t matter how many you tick. Just go with your instinct.
Now go through the one you pre-identified with more attention. Think about each one of them, what they mean to you and select up to 5.
* TIP: Try to focus on your “work environment values”. What values you would like your workplace to stand for? How should you managers behave? How should your colleagues be? What kind of person would you like to be by working in that place?
How you live your values
Based on the values you identified, complete the table. It will help you reflect on what each value means to you and how you can concretely live your values through your actions and the environment you are in. At the same time, you should be able to identify what situations are in contradiction with your values and, therefore, you may want to change.
Ex. Value: EXCELLENCE
- I live this value when I step outside of my comfort zone and push myself to grow as a professional in each and every task that is assigned to me.
- I am truthful to this value when I continuously update my knowledge and find new and better ways to complete my tasks in time and accurately.
* TIP:When completing the second half of the table, do not just use the negative sentence for the one you wrote in the previous box.
Now that you have identified you values and what it means to live by them, assess them against your current work situation. Of course, you can use your values to decide on your next career move. For example, your value is “EXCELLENCE” and “you are truthful to this value when you continuously update your knowledge and find new and better ways to complete your tasks in time and accurately”. If you find yourself in a company where they do not value learning and continuous professional development, you may want to discuss your need with your manager and ask them to put in place a development plan for you that includes targeted training. Similarly, if you are looking for a job, you may want to ask about the company policy on education and training.
Make a plan
Now you know that you have identified the changes you would like to make, you need a plan.
- Identify your priorities– You cannot change everything in one day. So, what would you like to accomplish first? Make a list of the various changes you have identified and go through them one by one. Then make a new list in order of importance. Which one is the most important for you to tackle? Which one is likely to have a domino effect on other changes you want to make? There is no maximum numbers of things you can focus on. Pick as many as you believe are achievable and leave the others for a second stage. Or include a new goals every time you are able to accomplish one of the changes you set to do.
- Set your goals– For each change, set your SMART goals. Why is it important? Because if you just say, “you want to read more specialised articles”, it will be too generic and you will not be compelled to do anything. Whereas, if you write SMART goals, you will have a more focused and systematic approach.
- Create a calendar– Now that you have everything in place, give yourself a timeframe. Of course you have already set your deadline for each of your goals, but as you will probably tackle more than one at the same time, it is important to bring them all together in a calendar. In this way you will be able to assess them against external factors. For example, you may want to attend one training every month for one year, but you may realise that in April and September you have important commitments that will prevent you from achieving your goal.
Assess yourself every once in a while. Keep it real!
When you try to make any changes, keep yourself in check. Assessing your progress (or lack of progress) is not punishment. It serves to testing the pulse of the situation. Remember, life happens and the external environment is unpredictable. Keep it real and ask yourself these questions:
- Have I achieved any of my goals?
- If not, was it because they were unrealistic?
- Was it because they were not as important as I initially thought?
- Have my priorities changed?
- Did something happen in my life that caught my attention and moved it to a different direction?
- Start with less– If you spread your attention among too many different goals, you will probably end up doing nothing.
- Make it meaningful – Commit to changes that will have a positive impact, not just on things that “it could be nice to do”…
- Look for support– Find a supporting colleague, a friend or a mentor. Discuss with them your progress; update them on your accomplishments; ask them to keep you accountable.