I hear it over and over, and I heard it again last night: “Julian is pausing the job search because there is no point during the holidays”. Really? There is no point? I got my current job – which launched my content marketing career – by having the first interview on December 19th, and the second on January 2nd.
But let’s say you don’t believe me – let’s say you think that this is the time the entire world is playing hooky. Well, that must mean that you too have some extra time, right?
Holidays are a terrific time for getting crystal clear on what you want to do and how you want to do it. The work panic of the rest of the year is gone, and even if caught up in “holiday stress”, we all have a few days to do something different.
Here is what do now so you can start 2016 with a (career) bang:
1. Stop doing, start strategizing
I know, I know…you feel like you’ve spent too much time thinking and not enough doing. But thinking unproductively – ruminating, if you will – sadly also constitutes doing (unproductive things). Rather, I want you to sit down and take a critical look at your efforts thus far. What’s working? What’s not working? What’s missing?
Here is a fantastic beginning for anyone wanting to look critically at her career makeover: Ramit Sethi’s 80-20 guide to finding your dream job. I could post the direct link to his video, but I want you to give him your email address instead. The guy is sincere, authentic, and relentless – and a whole lot of fun.
Now, doing more is tempting. It is far easier to check items of your list than to sit down and think – in fact, busy work is a perfect method for distraction from the difficult and sometimes painful task of self-evaluation and exploration. Most successful people take time to think and strategize. Be one of them.
Commitment looks like this: “I hereby commit to deciding what career I want to pursue, and pursuing it with all I’ve got, for as long as it takes”. It took me a long time to realize that hating my job, sporadic internet research, and enviously looking up to people who do passionate things does not equal commitment.
Commitment means hard work and a lot of change, and both of those are really scary. It is far easier to succumb to excuses and fears. You don’t have time? Really, folks, if Khaled Hosseini could write “The Kite Runner” by rising at four in the morning before a full day of seeing patients — for a year and a half — you can find a few hours a week devoted to making your life 70% better (working hours/waking hours).
If you are committed to the job you hate, get committed to finding job you love. Make it a New Year’s resolution. Write it down. Say it out loud. Commit.
3. Make a plan of attack
We’ve all been there: you wake up and decide that today is the day you conquer your career change. You jump on it with vigor and enthusiasm, just to, a few hours later, find yourself completely overwhelmed, disappointed and disheartened. How on Earth did it happen?
Being a project manager taught me that any kind of a fruitful effort is a complex project. Career and job changes are no exception. They not only take up a lot of time, but consist of a myriad of very different types of work, projects and tasks. If you look at them as one monolithic effort, you are guaranteed to fail.
Rather, break it down into manageable chunks, and devote specific, planned blocks of time to each task:
- organization (making a list of people to call and things to do, scheduling meetings)
- focused internet research
- reading books and articles you bookmarked and set aside for this devoted “reading time”
- writing and editing your resume
- talking to people
Understanding the complexity of the task at hand and the time and effort required – in other words, taking this career thing seriously – will guarantee success.
4. Create accountability
You took time to strategize. You committed. You got organized. You are ready – you go for it!
Then, you fail.
When I started my career makeover with steps 1-3 dutifully accomplished, the first part of the plan was to finish this wonderful book, and complete all exercises, chapter by chapter. Guess what? I failed to do them one week (there was a great sailing opportunity), then next (the dog was sick), then next. The longer I was away from the book, the easier it was to ignore it, and go back to the state of career paralysis.
However, I was committed, so I found a solution: a professional coach who administered a program based on the book. Every Monday, I had to show up for class, and I was too embarrassed to show up without completed homework.
Most of us need accountability. Find it your way: get a coach, find an online program, join a Meetup of like-minded souls, talk to a friend on a similar path (but only someone equally committed and serious). You’ll find yourself engaged and marching forward much faster.
5. Find joy
OK, so, it is the holiday season, right? What better time to remember that all this is an effort towards a better, more joyful life. Not only that, but career makeover can be fun.
Although I find this kind of stuff (research, psychology, writing, networking) enjoyable, I still make sure to add a little sparkle to it. When I work on the career stuffs, I go to my favorite coffee shop & order cappuccino and cake. I work in my writing group, so I can look forward to seeing people. I give myself treats: massages, naps. You catch the drift.
Family in town? Let the extra holiday drink open up wells of inspiration, take a long walk with a favorite relative to spew out what is really bothering you (and if you are reading this, it’s probably your job), observe the miserable ones at the holiday table and remind yourself that you can’t become like them.
And if you have been hard at work at all of the above…then just take the well deserved break. Sometimes, letting go of it all can fuel the best inspiration and devotion. This list will still be here in January.