It can be unsettling to believe you have no options…that where you currently are in your career is all there is. In my last post, I told the story of a former client who took steps to check out her “no options” belief. Once she realized she had some, she discovered renewed energy and a surprising desire to stay exactly where she was. Knowing you have options can be freeing. It can also be exciting (and mostly risk free) to explore your options once you discover them.
Here are some thoughts to help you discover and expand your options:
Check out your fears. Think of my client. Her fear was that should something happen to her current position, she would not be able to get another similar or better position. She put her money where her fear was. She hired a coach (me), got her resume in order and sent it out to a number of open positions that interested her. She had bites immediately and a couple of interviews. She learned a number of things about herself in this journey and what skills and experience the current job market was looking for. She ended her investigation with an updated resume and a new sense of confidence in her skills. Her decision to stay in her current position actually came as a surprise to her. However, should something happen with her job, she now knows she’ll be OK. There was no downside to what she did but the loss of a few vacation days she used for interviews.
What are your fears? If you’re concerned you are not competitive in today’s job market, act as if you’re looking for a new position and compare your resume/accomplishments to job postings in your field on LinkedIn, Career Builder, and on the websites of companies where you’d like to work. If you see there are common skills listed you do not have, determine how to acquire those skills through workshops, community college, volunteering, etc. You may discover an opening or two you’d like to go for. Send out your resume. It’s low risk. See how you fare.
What would you do if you could do anything? Many people feel a career is a path with no offshoots. Not so. Having a steady income is the perfect time to begin exploring (remember that word from my last post?) what’s next or what’s in-addition-to. As with everything, having awareness is the first step. What is, as my students often say, your “dream job”? What does that job require? Is it possible to achieve those requirements? Reality is important here; becoming an NBA player is out of bounds for most of us. But…you may have more options than you think.
Changing your “yes, but” to “yes and.” Often when we look to expand outside our known experience/habits, we stop ourselves with the phrase “yes, but.” For example, you might say, “Yes, I’d love to go to grad school, but I work long hours/travel frequently/don’t have the money/etc.” You block that option and all it could lead to. Instead, try saying “Yes, I’d love to go to grad school and I work long hours/travel frequently/don’t have the money/etc.” By replacing “but” with “and” your sentence begs for a solution rather than stopping at an excuse.
Prep for your options where you currently are. Let’s say an option you’d like to check out is starting your own business. What can you learn about this while keeping your current position? How might your current position allow you to learn more about budgeting, marketing, sales, business planning? This is where open ears and eyes come in. There may be projects you can volunteer for that will help you make contacts or learn skills you need to support one of your options. Your current job can be a great source of experience and learning once you begin to look at it with “new” eyes.
Options can exist places other than your workplace. Your workplace is not the only venue where you have options. Fulfilling, exciting experiences can be had elsewhere which can help you bring new vigor and skills to your career. Involvements outside of work can help open up options for all sorts of experiences and learning.
A single thread runs through all these suggestions… you need to be engaged in order to see your options. Too many people use the excuse of being “crazy busy” to come to a career standstill and schlepp to work each day. According to an April 2015 Gallup Daily Tracking poll, 31.7% of American workers are engaged in their jobs. This is a sad commentary on how many (68.3%) are not looking for their options.
My former client had the courage to explore what her options were. One learning she took away was having options doesn’t mean you have to act on them. When she saw she had them, she felt better about her current position.
Open eyes, open ears, and, perhaps most importantly, an open mind will help you begin to find the courage to explore the options available in your career.