Originally Published here
Lately I have heard the following comments from people in the business world:
• I feel stuck. I want something different.
• I’m in my first professional job and I don’t like it. What do I do?
• If only I knew what I wanted to do, I would do it.
The job market is improving, which allows many professionals to consider that they would like to make a change. Yet, some people only criticize their current jobs, but don’t take any positive steps to change.
Don’t complain about your job – do something!
I believe that it is through the process of exploring your options that you will discover your next career steps.
The following items should ignite the “fire in your belly” that will help you to grow in your career.
1. Cluster your interests.
Put your name in the center of a large sheet of paper, and then let your mind wander. Jot down any thoughts that come to mind about what you would like to do professionally. Cluster those thoughts around a key phrase – such as more education, a new field, working overseas, or whatever it is you desire. Then jot down what it would take to achieve this. Place related ideas together. Don’t censor yourself. Even if your ideas seem silly, include them anyway. Once you have written down all the ideas you can think of, the work begins. Evaluate your ideas, and start working on putting them into action. Revisit the cluster often, to refresh your commitment or to edit your ideas.
2. Don’t set limits on yourself.
Figure out what you want to do first, and then figure out how to make it happen. Often, what you believe are roadblocks are simply stumbling blocks that can be overcome. When I decided to go to graduate school, my friends told me it was too late to apply. However, I carried my papers from department to department, explaining my case – and I started my master’s program on time.
3. Become known as a Good Employee.
There are lots of reasons to build up your reputation, including having references – people who will speak well of you. Make sure you help others. Volunteer for assignments. Go above and beyond what’s required. Be friendly and polite. Don’t burn your bridges – behave professionally, even at business social events. One woman cursed out her team’s catcher for missing a ball during a company softball game. Three months later, she was interviewing in front of him and, not surprisingly, didn’t get the job.
4. Explore possibilities within your company.
Are there other positions with your current employer that interest you? Find out what you need to do to be ready for the next opening. Get involved in company activities, as this will allow you to get to know more people. You may learn about openings before they are posted. Managers like to hire and promote people they know.
5. Conduct a job search.
That is, make your job search a job in itself. Yes, I know you are working full-time already, but you still need to find the time to look for work. One manager worked every day, and after she put her young son to bed, she would spend 2-3 hours each night on her job search. Within a few months, she had a better job. Additional information on job search and careers can be found in my new book, The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success.
6. Build an area of expertise.
You want people to view you as an expert, so become one. Choose your subject, then take a class, get certified, or earn an advanced degree. Start a blog on the subject. One young man has set aside Tuesday nights to do his blog. Since it is on his schedule, he is more likely to make it happen.
7. Talk to people about their jobs.
What do their jobs entail? Ask questions about the requirements, and also what they consider the pros and cons. You may find positions that interest you.
8. Investigate Recruiters.
If you can, develop a relationship with a recruiter. Though they typically work on senior, high-paying positions, recruiters can expose you to career opportunities that you may not know about. To find a recruiter, check with people in your network.
9. Get involved in your Professional Association.
Don’t just join an association, volunteer for the committees. Associations can be great places to network, find mentors, and gain access to job banks.
10. Remember that sometimes a bad job can provide great experience.
Even if you don’t like your current position, think about what you are gaining from it. Are you learning new skills? Are you meeting new people? Are you learning how to manage a bad boss? Are you gaining the experience you need so that you can leave to go to a better job? Don’t wallow in self-pity if you find yourself in a difficult situation – make the most of the opportunities it offers.
Taking specific steps like these can help you to revitalize your career, or perhaps lead you into a new career in a field you may not have considered. But you have to make the effort. Perhaps you are nervous and feel that you can’t “just do it.” That’s okay. Start with just one step, then tackle the other actions a step at a time as you build confidence. Remember, it’s your future you are enhancing.