This month’s tip was written by Lauren Skiver, Talent Market’s Talent Manager
Being in the talent business, we have a lot of conversations that revolve around the question, “What do you want to do next?”
It’s a tough question. Some people knew at five years old what they wanted to be when they grew up (I’m married to one of those!). But for the rest of us, it’s all trial and error. And living in an age with endless career possibilities, it’s easy to get overwhelmed or sidetracked.
Most days, I feel like candidates think we’re mind-readers over here at Talent Market. I can’t tell you how often someone comes to us and says they’re ready for a career change, but when asked what they want to do next, they say, “Uh, I don’t know. What do you think?”
We’re flattered you trust us that much, but this is a decision that only you can make! Before you make a career shift, you owe it to yourself to sit down and really think through what you want to do next.
Here’s a few steps for what that might look like:
1. Start with a framework.
Try not to anchor yourself on the front end of the process. Instead, start by brainstorming a list of situations where you felt like you were really hitting the nail on the head. And don’t limit it to your working experiences—pull from every corner of life: from school projects in undergrad to volunteer activities today. The key is to come up with a list of scenarios where you felt, “This is what I was made to do!” And then step back, and look for a common thread.
When I was eight, I decided to make a chart of the different wildlife that visited my grandparent’s bird feeder because—I wish I was joking—I wanted to analyze which feed attracted the best wildlife. My poor parents. But those details are important! I wanted to collect data in order to attract the best birds. And I still have that nerdy eight year old in me, but now my focus is on collecting information to attract the best candidates to the free-market non-profit arena.
2. Seek insight from others.
Once you’ve done some internal digging, seek outside insight! This might sound like overkill, but there’s no way of knowing how much we might be missing if we don’t ask. Ask former bosses, co-workers, mentors, teachers, project partners—anyone you trust to give you an honest answer—where THEY think you excel. And be open to their feedback! We’re often too close to see our own big picture.
— What situations do you thrive in? Do you excel in sink-or-swim environments or perhaps you prefer to be entrepreneurial within certain parameters with a safety net to catch you?
— What do you geek out on most? Researching and writing? Building relationships? Driving projects to completion? Persuading? Educating?
— What level of guidance is ideal? Do you want someone else to set the goal and you find a way to get from A to Z. Or perhaps you prefer to support the goal setter? Or perhaps you’re at your best being the goal setter.
You might find—as both Claire and I did—that others sometimes have a better idea of where you truly kick rear end. In both our situations our dear friend Whitney Ball saw something in each of us that made her encourage us to start / join Talent Market.
3. Frame your answer around concrete skills.
Once you figure out what your common denominator is, figure out a way to put it in language that other people can understand and that resonates with them.“I want to help people” is too vague. What sort of people do you want to help? How do you want to help them? What do you have to offer?
I recently received a resume for someone that listed her “skills” as: “I am a big picture thinker who discusses ideas, ideals, and ideologies; analyzing underpinning philosophies that are at work in culture and politics.”
Personally, I think it’s awesome this girl has her own mission statement. Introspection is great: figure out what fuels you. But as a recruiter, I don’t know how this translates into a job for her. On paper, I see a classic Millennial who isn’t 100% customer focused. Instead, translate whatever lights your fire into concrete skills that will provide value to prospective employers.
Employers do care that you love what you do, but they need to know how that passion will benefit them and their mission foremost.
4. Have patience with yourself.
It will probably take years to figure out what your niche is. Or maybe your niche will change mid-career. With so many new and emerging markets, it’s impossible to predict! Someone that entered the communication field 15 years ago couldn’t have known their niche may be new media. But at the core you will still be the same. Regardless of where you are, with each step make sure you’re learning something new about yourself and your skills. And be patient with yourself! Careers usually zig-zag; don’t expect a linear path!
Godspeed to you as you dig into this question! You might find time spent on this is the best career advancement investment you can make. As always, feel free to reach out if you’re thinking through career opportunities. And, if you have moved or changed job preferences recently, send us your updated information here so we can keep you posted on opportunities relevant to you!