Rebooting Your Career

Finding the Right Role for You

What do Andrea Bocelli, George Foreman and Jane Fonda have in common? They all took the chance of doing something dramatically different – and struck gold!

If you're thinking about a career change, you're in good company. According to the Department of Labor, there is no such thing as a "job for life." Its research shows that an average American has at least 11 jobs between the ages of 18 and 46, half of them between 18 and 24.

Many of the roles a person has in the course of his or her working life are a natural part of career progression. At other times, however, transitions come not through choice but because of external forces.

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This article explores some of the reasons why people "reboot" their careers, and looks at some of the techniques you can use to make sure your next move is the right one.

What Does It Mean to "Reboot" Your Career?

Statistics show that the average person changes jobs many times throughout his working life.

Sometimes these changes are voluntary, perhaps as a result of a life-altering event. If you get married or have a baby, for instance, you may have to make lifestyle choices that render your current job impractical, such as moving to a new city or working part time. You may also have to change role because of external forces, such as a recession or developments in technology, or as a result of a reorganization that forces you to reconsider your situation.

Whatever the reason, you might find yourself looking for a move – whether that's within your organization or to a new company or industry. The prospect may seem daunting at first but, with the right preparation and attitude, it could be something that really works for you!

However, when you do, it's important to remember that what you were paid before your move reflected the knowledge, experience and connections you developed in that role. But these skills may not be of any use in your new, rebooted career. If this is the case, you'll likely have to accept a reduced salary, and you can only progress in your new job once you've accepted this.

How to Reboot Your Career

No matter what your reasons for change are, the following tips will help you find the role that's right for you.

1. Admit You Need to Start Over

Most people dislike starting over but, if you've lost your job, you may have little choice in the matter. And if you're worried that your position isn't sustainable, perhaps because of changes in the market, technology or your organization, it may be time to make a move.

The idea of rebooting your career may seem intimidating at first. But, it's better to prepare yourself now than wait and be forced into a decision you're not happy with later. Remember, the more in control you are, the less anxious you'll feel.

2. Identify What You Like to Do

Decide your next move by identifying what you love about your current or previous role. Do you feel energized by it, or would a new opportunity in another department excite you more?

Consider whether your current position matches your core values – if it doesn't, this may be the source of your dissatisfaction. For instance, if you value creativity but have little opportunity to generate new ideas, you may feel stifled. Similarly, if you enjoy leading people but there are no management openings in your department, you might want to look for another position within your organization that does offer leadership opportunities.

3. Research Your Options

Once you've reflected on what you enjoy about your role, it's time to find out what other opportunities exist. If you've been laid off, keep up-to-date with the industries that you're interested in by reading relevant blogs and magazines. You might also want to join a trade association, a LinkedIn™ group, or professional group in your chosen field.

If you're looking to move within your organization, keep an eye on internal vacancies, or speak with your manager about taking on additional responsibility. Remember, no one else is going to find opportunities for you – you have to be proactive to get what you want!

4. Assess Your Strengths and Skills

Now you've found an opportunity that interests you, do some research to find out whether you have the necessary skills to excel in the position.

Take a personality test or quiz to identify your strengths. For example, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® can give you valuable insights into what roles might suit you best. The online StrengthsFinder test and Personal SWOT Analysis can also be useful here.

Other tools that might help include Benziger's Personality Types and the Big Five Personality Traits Model; whole approaches like Holland's Codes or Schein's Career Anchors can help you find careers that particularly suit you.

5. Network

If you've lost your job, call on your network of friends and colleagues for support. Let your contacts know that you're in the market for new opportunities, and arrange to discuss your situation with them if you think they might be able to help.

Expand your network by building relationships through social media. Use Twitter® and LinkedIn to search for people by job and industry. You may even find that one of your contacts knows someone who is looking for candidates like you.

Similarly, if you're looking for opportunities within your organization, discuss your career ambitions with colleagues you can trust. The act of sharing your goals can be motivating in itself, and it will encourage you to stick to them. Furthermore, you'll more likely receive help if people know you're on the lookout for a new challenge.

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6. Find a Mentor

Ease the transition of changing roles by finding a mentor. This person can share her insights with you, steer you on the right path, and help you expand your network.

If this is appropriate, your organization may already have a mentoring program, in which case ask your manager or human resources department who to contact. Alternatively, ask whether your manager, or one in another department, could give you some guidance.

You may not feel comfortable contacting your former employer if you were laid off, and are currently out of work. So, alternatively, try connecting with experienced people at a career expo or an industry trade show, or work with a career counsellor or coach.

7. Set Goals

Change can be intimidating, especially if you have lots of important decisions to make. But creating a short-, medium- and long-term plan will help you focus on the steps you need to take so that it is more achievable.

Draw up an Action Plan to guide you, and break your big goals down into SMART goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.

8. Be Realistic and Flexible

If you're between jobs, it might take you longer than you expect to find a new position. Even if you're looking to move within your organization, you'll likely have to be patient, particularly during times of economic uncertainty when new openings might be scarce.

It may be that you have to accept a significantly lower salary to reflect your lack of experience, if your new role is a step down from your previous one. Or, you might have to work part time until a full-time role becomes available. If so, remember: this is a means to an end. Just make sure that you're prepared by putting money aside in case you need it, and adjust your lifestyle to cope with the smaller paycheck.

9. Create Your Own Opportunities

Regardless of whether you're considering a move within your organization or looking for a new challenge elsewhere, there are countless ways you can improve your experience and skills.

Volunteer for a nonprofit organization or, if you're currently unemployed, intern somewhere where you'd like to work full time. This will give you the chance to test-drive a new career and prove what you're capable of, while making important connections.

If you're employed, ask your manager or your L&D department to support you in developing new skills. Think about how you can provide value in your current role in different ways, and volunteer for any intradepartmental projects that might help you gain experience and make meaningful connections.

10. Stay Positive

If you've lost your job, or are waiting for the right internal opportunity to come up, practice positive thinking to keep yourself in the right frame of mind. Make sure you're proactive, and treat the experience as an opportunity to broaden your horizons. This attitude means you're more likely to get the most from the situation, even if it's one that you didn't expect to be in.

No matter what, don't beat yourself up for any perceived shortcomings, or use failures as an excuse for not trying. If you remain stuck in the past, you'll never claim the exciting future that could be yours. Remember, it takes courage to make a change, and many people are too afraid to do so. So give yourself credit!

Key Points

Many people change careers because they want the challenge of a new role, because of lifestyle changes, or because of reorganization or layoffs.

Before you make any decisions, perform a self-assessment and research job opportunities to make sure they align with your skills and values. Once you've narrowed your focus, ask people in your network for advice. You may find a mentor in your organization or in your chosen field who can help steer you in the right direction.

Finally, changing careers can be stressful, whatever your reason for doing so. So limit your anxiety by being realistic and flexible, by setting incremental goals, and by maintaining a positive attitude.

This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Subscribe to our free newsletter, or join the Mind Tools Club and really supercharge your career!

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Comments (6)
  • Over a month ago Michele wrote
    Hi Jolene5,

    We're glad that you enjoy our articles and that this one in particular is so timely for you. When we begin to feel stagnant in our job it presents us with an opportunity to evaluate where we are in our careers and to determine what we want to be doing next. It can be an exciting time to explore what is possible. If you want to bounce some ideas or need some support as you begin your search, come over to the Forums. We all learn from each other over there.

    Mind Tools Team
  • Over a month ago Jolene5 wrote
    I really enjoy seeing these latest articles from the Mind Tools Team. I am at a point where I am feeling stagnant in my job and so this is perfect timing for me. I find a lot of valuable information in these articles and even some things that I have not thought about! Thanks!
  • Over a month ago Yolande wrote
    Hi NYC2

    It's good to see you around - we haven't seen you on the forums in ages!

    I love what you said here: "We are in a new economic reality where adaptability is the name of the game in my opinion." In the animal kingdom it's often literally a matter of adapt or die. If we don't adapt we'll become obsolete at some point - maybe sooner than we thought.

    This is the link to Career Cafe Central if you'd like to share some more of your thoughts and wisdom with us (we'd like it very much).

    Mind Tools Team
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