When you’re searching for your next job, it can be easy to get stuck thinking about what immediate changes you want to make — but are you also taking a step back to assess and design the career you want? These two processes and outlooks are very different: instead of thinking in terms of the next job you want, career design is about asking yourself what life do you want, and how does your job factor into that?
“ ‘We tend to only get nibbles of what meaningful work is in our twenties.’ As a result, we often pick jobs for the wrong reasons, Karen Dillon, co-author of How Will You Measure Your Life told Harvard Business Review. ‘We look for things that we’re proud to talk about at a cocktail party or look good on a resume.’ But rarely are those the things that translate to satisfaction.”
So how do you go about designing a career that you find meaning and satisfaction in?
Set aside time to reflect about your goals
You’re over the job you’re in and ready to start thinking about your next move. That means yes, you should consider the job-related changes you want to make, but you should also be making sure to consider those in context of the life you want to build. You may dream of personal and professional success, but what does that look like for you? Everyone has their own definition of success.
For example, success could look like having the flexibility to pick up your kids from school, or the ability to work directly with young professionals to mentor and manage their growth. HBR suggests considering four categories:
What do you want to achieve? What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind?
Find the intersection between skills you’re strong in and you enjoy. Which of these do you want to improve upon and master over the course of your career?
Freedom comes in the mix of salary, benefits, flexibility, and culture that enable you to live the life you want to live, whether it’s living in a certain city or region or being able to have both the income and the time to travel.
Do your personal values align with those of the company you work for? Do you enjoy spending time with the people you work with? These are crucial factors when it comes to enjoying your job — it’s rare to work in a bubble by yourself.
As you’re considering and reflecting on what you want out of your life and career — which you can do over time — take notes as you go through your days about how you’re spending your time, what you enjoy spending your time on and what you don’t. Every job will require a certain amount of administration and unpleasant work, but consider what tasks you love doing and include those in your career design. For example, if you’re currently working for a for-profit company, but love the time you get to spend supporting your nonprofit clients, it could be a sign you’re ready to change industries. If you love the part of your job planning corporate communication, you may decide you want to grow your career to a place where you spend the majority of time on that.
Get some outside opinions
Whether it’s trusted co-workers or colleagues, former professors or mentors, get a couple of outside opinions. It’s helpful to bounce your ideas off of people with a different perspective before making any major changes. This includes strangers and acquaintances too — if you’re looking at a specific industry or title, reach out and schedule some informational interviews. Ask people who are currently in those jobs or industries all your questions, and use that information to build your knowledge about whether or not you really want to make the changes you’re considering.
Think beyond the next job
Career and life design means considering where you want to be one year down the road, even five and ten years into the future. Those plans will probably change and evolve, but thinking this long-term will still help you think through the steps and changes you might expect as you’re own your way to the getting the life you want to lead.