Career crossroads

The great resignation is coming. Or so they say. After you survive bushfires, hail storms, economic downturns and a pandemic, many people are starting to wonder if this job is how they want to spend their lives.

It’s a phenomenon already playing out in America, following their reopening (a few months ahead of ours). In August 2021, 4.3 million people in the US left their jobs, according to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey. It’s everyone from hospitality workers to senior executives.

My colleague Samantha Sutherland says, “We spend so much time at work. If you have a bad work life, you really just have a bad life. And life is too short to be wishing the days away.”

Over the years, I have seen this a lot in communications and other specialist fields. There is a point in your career (or your life) where we stop and go, “Is this what I want to be doing with my life?” It’s your career crossroad. Do I pivot now and try something else or commit to this path? Ultimately, the question is, what’s next?

My ‘ah huh’ moment

Early in my career, I wasn’t sure comms was forever. I had many people telling me to go back and get my MBA so that I could be a Senior Executive in the public service. That comms would only take me so far, but I needed to branch out to progress.

The decision point for me was when my boss encouraged me to apply for a promotion. I went through the whole process, application, panel interview. One Friday afternoon, he called me into his office and told me the job was mine if I wanted it, but he wasn’t convinced I did. He could see I just didn’t put my heart into it. He gave me the weekend to think about it.

I didn’t need it. It was my ‘ah huh’ moment. As soon as he pushed me, I knew straight away – I just loved comms. I was spending my time in and out of Executive meetings, briefings and meetings and more meetings. I had stopped doing what I loved. I had lost the connection to the tools of my trade. I didn’t want to go up in the public service. I liked getting my hands dirty working on the website, writing a media release or a communication strategy. My boss was the one who then said, “ok, so how can you be great at comms? What do you need to do?”

And here I am. Doing what I love every day (Well most days, I don’t love the admin side of my business or every single task I do).

I know it’s not that simple for everyone. We don’t all get boss’s that support us to perfect our craft or focus on the long-term trajectory of our careers. Not everyone gets the clear ‘ah huh’ moment, sometimes it just grows inside you organically, that feeling of “is this it?” or “What am I doing with my life?”

Finding your career path

For some people, it’s also not that simple. They don’t have that single profession or career path. This is really common in the public service, where people are encouraged to be generalists rather than specialists. Often, they are driven by culture, people, or the next big challenge rather than their profession.

Typically, if you google this topic, you will be told your first step is to develop your 5 or 10 year career plan. Personally, I hate that idea. I don’t know anyone who has one or who has been able to follow one. For me, it’s a little more about what do you need now and how could it be a good step in your career or life.

When I talk to my team or other communications professionals about this challenge, I get people to think about :

  • What do you love about your job?
  • What is driving you insane?
  • What suits your lifestyle right now?
  • What makes you happy?
  • What do you want to be doing every day?

If you think about these questions, it helps you consider what would make you happy going to work every day. You may not be able to define your passion, but you might be able to find the criteria you are looking for in a new role or a reason to stay in your current job.

The bad news, trying to figure it out can be hard and often, there is no clear answer.

My best advice is to talk to people you trust, seek different opinions and thoughts. Take time to think about it, create lists and ideas. Look around at other jobs available and consider what value they would add to your life that is different to your current role.   Ultimately go with your gut instinct – what feels right for you?

Nothing is forever

The good news, once you have decided to move to a new role or a new career path, there is no reason you can’t pivot again and change direction. You aren’t stuck there.

I have had staff decide they needed a break from communications and move into governance or executive officer roles and, after a year, come back to the profession. Others loved the new challenge and never came back.

If you are thinking about a change or feel like it’s the right time to try something new. Now is the time. There is a lot of movement in the jobs market and a lot of opportunities for you to try something new.

If you work in communications and need someone to talk to about where you are going and what’s next in your career. Give me a call. I offer one-off and longer-term coaching to help you work through your thinking.

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