How to Make a Post Pandemic Career Change by Focusing Inward, Outward, and Forward
The pandemic has changed the job market—permanently. A look at the headlines any day of the week confirms that workers are leaving their jobs in droves in what has been termed “The Great Resignation” to find more flexibility, more happiness, and more money. In turn, companies, in an effort to retain and attract new talent, have made significant changes including:
- Offering out-of-state and global opportunities through telework
- Speeding up the hiring and decision-making process via remote interviews
- Increasing transparency regarding salary and candidate expectations in job ads
- Considering candidates from a range of educational and career backgrounds and investing in their success
All of these efforts to attract and retain talent give job seekers a major advantage—possibly the biggest they’ve had in decades—which is why now is the perfect time to determine and pursue the career path that is right for you. By systematically working through the process of focusing inward, outward, and forward you will walk away with a clear-picture understanding of what your values and motivators are, what realistic options make sense for your circumstances, and a map of the appropriate steps to get there. While each step alone provides value, the best results come from applying all three.
Let’s get started by first focusing inward.
Focus inward to better understand what drives you, what drains you, and what creates the greatest career satisfaction
What it means: Focusing inward will help you understand yourself—your work values, your preferences, your strengths, and your motivators, and help you glean insights for “fit” based on the career path you’ve taken so far.
How to focus inward: Using formal assessments, self-assessments, and/or self-reflection, you’ll create a profile of your strengths, values, and the nature of work that you find most rewarding. A few questions you will want to ask yourself are:
- As I reflect on my career, what have been the highlights and lowlights?
- What was happening during my highlights and lowlights in terms of the strengths and competencies I was applying or developing? The relationships I had? My achievements? What does it say about my work values?
- What am I good at and what drives satisfaction for me?
- Use the answers to the questions above to conclude: What are the top five most important elements that should be present in my next role–other than compensation?
An example that highlights the benefit of focusing inward: A seasoned marketing executive named Emily, with the guidance of MBM Coaching & Consulting, used the insight she gained through focusing inward to move from a long-standing career in a corporate environment to a startup company, a major career change. Through assessment, self-reflection, and coaching, Emily was able to answer questions including, am I comfortable with the high risk but high reward of a startup? Should I maintain a stable income/401k/deferred compensation/stock options/company car, etc. by working in another corporate role? Or, do I want the increased flexibility and autonomy that a startup offers? Am I comfortable with having limited resources that would require me to take on administrative work or operate with a smaller budget? How much do I care about career stature and how would working at a startup affect that? While originally never anticipating that an entrepreneurial environment would be attractive, through focusing inward Emily confirmed that a marketing role at a startup would be a good fit for her.
The next step is to focus outward.
Focus outward to explore the careers you’re curious about and identify what path or paths are realistic for you
What it means: Focusing outward supports taking proactive steps to research and explore the career areas you’re curious about, which might include new industries, roles, or functions. You may want to create up to three “buckets” or categories of career exploration that might range from making a shift to an unfamiliar target industry, e.g., moving from financial services to pharma; the exploration of an entirely new career, e.g., a shift from accounting to project management, or pursuing an entrepreneurial venture. Your research and iterative exploration will help you determine what attractive and realistic career options make the most sense for your situation.
How to focus outward: Your goal is to gather relevant information about your possible career paths (new industry, function, and even specific organizations) by:
- Conducting online research
- Attending conferences and webinars
- Networking with others who are in the roles or industries you would like to explore
An example highlighting the benefit of focusing outward: Carrie, a mid-career professional who was bored and restless in her current career as a consultant with a firm she’d joined in her mid-twenties, partnered with MBM Coaching & Consulting to identify a new career path. When she first focused inward she affirmed her creativity, her penchant for change and variety, and her passion for design and project management. Identifying preliminary areas of interest such as design thinking and high-end interior design, Carrie focused outward by networking with friends, former colleagues, and connections on LinkedIn to explore alternative roles in these fields. This process helped her to understand what she could expect day-to-day in her target positions and what further education/training could accelerate her success.
Finally, the last step is to focus forward.
Focus forward to set your career move in motion
What it means: Once you have clarity about what you want to pursue based on the personal profile you defined during the focus inward phase and the ideal career areas for you in the focus outward phase, you can put your game plan in place by focusing forward.
An example highlighting the benefit of focusing forward: During this phase, plan out the steps you need to make your career transition a reality by:
- Identifying specific organizations you might be interested in working for and connecting with individuals who work in them
- Creating a personal brand that speaks to your target market–and materials that showcase that brand, e.g., your resume, LinkedIn profile, etc.
- Developing a job search strategy that incorporates job postings, executive recruiters, social media, and networking
- Alternatively, drafting a game plan for the start-up of a new venture or the creation of a portfolio career comprised of various part-time jobs or gigs
An example highlighting the benefit of focusing forward: Jeffrey, a law firm attorney, with the guidance of MBM Coaching & Consulting, successfully transitioned to a full-time photographer. His focus inward phase led him to the realization of that in an ideal world he would pursue his true passion for photography as his full-time career. During his focus outward phase, he networked with others who owned their own photography businesses to learn what created their success and where there were pitfalls. During his focus forward phase, he created his step-by-step game plan to move into this new field. Step one of this game plan included using vacations and weekends to take advanced classes and photograph celebratory events, and invest in equipment that would allow him to take and edit high-quality photos. In step two, Jeffrey left the employment of a large law firm and started his own law practice while pursuing his photography career part-time. In step three, his part-time photography business grew and became successful; he was able to sell his law firm and transition to his own photography business full-time. Through focusing forward with a strong commitment and a detailed plan that spanned several years, Jeffrey gained a career that gave him much more satisfaction.
The process of focusing inward, outward, and forward gives job seekers a way to make smart decisions for their career. It helps you clearly think through what matters to you, what a new path could look like, and what you would need to do to make it happen. The best success comes from going through the entire process to make sure you really walk away knowing what is best for you.
For help focusing inward, outward, or forward in your career contact us today.
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