In my last blog in this series, I looked at ways to be happier at work, and how to make the most of the job you’re in. But maybe you’ve just had enough, or you’ve outgrown your current workplace and are ready and able to move on. There’s a lot of talk in the media about how difficult it is to find work, and it can take some courage to challenge the pervasive cultural attitude that “you’re lucky to have any job” and “better the devil you know in this economic climate”.
The reality is that thousands of people find new jobs every day, whether that is by applying for an existing post, stepping into a newly-created role, or starting up their own business. If you want to move up or move on, follow these steps and you’ll enjoy the journey as well as the destination.
- What do you really want? It can be tempting to start from a position of “what’s out there” and try to fit your skills and experiences to a generic job advertisement. But indulge yourself for half an hour – write down what you’d ideally like to be doing, if current economic circumstances and location were irrelevant. What kind of people would you like to work with? What do you enjoy doing so much that you lose track of time?
This exercise is really great for helping you see beyond the “positions vacant” mentality, and show you that your skills and experience can lend themselves to all sorts of roles. When you know exactly what you’d like to do, you also become more of a magnet for like-minded people and experiences. Your radar will be more attuned to seeking out people who could help you, as well as jobs you might not have previously considered.
- Work your network. We sometimes get used to having the same sort of conversations with people, but this can preclude broaching subjects that might lead to interesting work situations. Ask people about their own jobs, what they enjoy about their workplace, and why. Smalltalk often focuses around the children or our health or the weather, but most people respond to someone who shows a genuine interest in what they do. You can put our feelers without looking obvious or desperate, but there’s no harm in spreading the word that you’re open to opportunities.
- Cast the net wide. When looking through recruitment sites, spread the net as wide as possible. If you limit your search too narrowly geographically you run the risk of missing out. What if your ideal job is based in Manchester, but you live in Birmingham? By restricting the geographical filters on job sites, you may not even get to see a role that would be perfect a perfect fit for your skills and experience.
If you are the right person for the job, your future employer may be able to show some flexibility regarding part-time hours or remote working.
- Volunteer. If you have identified that your ideal job is far removed from your actual position, it may take a series of moves before you get there. Volunteering for a not-for-profit organisation is a great way of using existing skills in a new sector, or acquiring others to use elsewhere. Of course, the charity benefits from your time too! There are plenty of opportunities that don’t require vast, or even regular, time commitments, and can add meat to your CV. Visit your local volunteer Centre or visit www.do-it.org.uk to find out which organisations have opportunities to fit your needs.
- Consider the sideways move. Your next step might be closer to home than you think. It can feel frustrating if you’ve worked out that what you want to do is a million miles from your current situation, but having a long-term plan can help you feel more in control. Try getting a job in a different position within your current organisation or industry, then make the move in a year or two to the one you’d really like to be in. It may take three or four steps if it’s a really radical departure. But very few things are totally out of our reach; it may just take some careful planning (and patience) to get there.
- Go freelance. If finances allow, why not go down the self-employment route? If you have a reasonable level of self-discipline and are comfortable approaching strangers for work, freelancing can offer the variety and freedom you desire. Of course the trade off is job security, paid sick leave and other perks of employment, but these may not be foremost in your mind. Also, freelancing may not be the endgame, but a way of getting experience in a new sector that eventually leads to a permanent contract with the company you like. Many people take freelancers on when they have shown they can do the job, and you are often the fist to hear about vacancies that may not even be advertised.
- Be flexible. It can be tempting to feel we deserve the exact job we want, in the place we want to be, at a certain salary and NOW! Our culture is very complicit in this – so many advertisements are aimed at our sense of entitlement, or because “we’re worth it”. But we live in the real world, and there may be some compromises to make in order to get a job you really love. If you’re determined not to accept less than a certain salary for your work, but then your ideal job pops up at £5k under, do you dismiss it out of hand? Or are there some ways to work around it? Could you economise on some luxuries, or even relocate to a cheaper area? It can feel like that summer holiday abroad is “essential”, but having a job that you love (and in which you spend so many waking hours) is pretty important too.