If you’re in a job you hate, figuring out what to do next can feel pretty daunting, especially if you’ve worked most of your adult life to get there.
Take lawyers for example. If you’ve done all the work to get your college degree, survived the rigors of law school, nearly died of anxiety trying to pass the bar, and then paraded yourself and your resume all over town trying to get a “good” job, it can feel like a sick joke that after all that you hate going to work every morning.
So what do you do if you’re mid-career, have bills to pay, but desperately need a do-over on this whole career thing?
To be honest with you, tomorrow, you’re probably going to drag yourself back to work. However, if you follow the steps below, you’ll go into that job knowing what you really want to do next and have a plan to leave your job this year.
Here’s what you need to do.
Step #0: Change Your Thinking
There’s always some pre-work to any course of study or plan of attack, right? Well, this prework has to begin immediately and must be practiced from now on.
If you want to leave your job for real, you’re going to have to change your mindset. I know, I know. I used to hate when people told me I needed to change my mindset too. It turns out they were right though.
Broadly speaking, there are three categories of thought. There are the things that you know like performing the day-to-day duties of your job. Then there are things you know you don’t know like what rocket scientist do or the process for becoming an astronaut. You’ve heard of those professions, but you know that you have no clue how to do those tasks. Finally, there is the realm of things you don’t know you don’t know.
There are schools of thought, mindset shifts, and concepts that have never crossed your radar. You don’t even know they exist, and you don’t know that your next career move (or the courage to make it) will likely come from those thought patterns.
To figure out things that you don’t know you don’t know, you’re going to have to turn into THAT person. You know the one that meditates, eats a paleo diet, reads self-help books and goes to the conferences where they walk over hot coals with their bare feet or shout weird affirmations.
We make fun of all of that stuff, but self-help and self-care are popular because they work. They transform you. So if you’re really committed to figuring out what comes next in your career, get ready to strike a superhero pose on the regular. (FYI – That’s a reference from Amy Cuddy’s book Presence. You’ll probably end up reading that one too.)
Places to Start with Step #0
- Books – You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, and The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle
- Programs – Release Me
Step #1: Write About Your Ideal “Normal” Day
Take out one sheet of paper and write a description of what your ideal “normal” day looks like from the time you wake up until the time you go to sleep. This day should be an ordinary weekday where you go about the normal routines of your life.
In your description, include where and what time you wake up? Who’s there with you? What you do in the morning? What you do for work and where it is located? How long you work? What your day look like after work, etc.?
Be as detailed as possible but limit your time to complete this task to 10-15 minutes. You want honest, stream of consciousness style writing. No editing or judgment allowed.
Once you finish this step, use this as your north star. This is your goal for the next step in your life and career. You want to bring this ideal normal day into reality.
Places to Start With Step #1
- Pen, Paper, and 10 minutes
Step #2 Be Ruthlessly Honest With Yourself
We lie to ourselves all the time. We tell ourselves that we won’t overindulge in sweets or keep dating that partner that continues to disappoint us. However, as soon as the munchkins are in the lunchroom at work and our phone lights up with our partner’s number, all bets are off. We do this because the munchkins and the partner fulfill a psychological need.
A psychological need is a compelling drive that operates unconsciously. When a psychological need is met, you feel nothing at all. When a psychological need is unsatisfied, there is frustration or desperation. Suddenly, your mind gets laser-focused on what you can do to meet that need.
What does all this mean for what you do next in your career? In evaluating your ideal day, you need to be aware of your psychological needs and be ruthlessly honest with yourself about them.
For example, if security is one of your psychological needs and your ideal day consists of acting in a sitcom, you need to consider the supports that you might need to move forward in that career. The acting profession is notoriously insecure. Most performers don’t know when their next job or paycheck is coming. They also move around a lot to work “on location” in different areas. If you don’t address how you will deal with the imbalance between your need for security and the insecure acting profession, you’ll end up feeling frustrated and like you should never have left your job in the first place.
Places To Start With Step #2
- Read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
- Listen to Tunnel Vision, an episode of the Hidden Brain Podcast
- Revise your ideal day plan to make sure you address your psychological needs and values
Step #3: Reverse Engineer Your Ideal Day and Make A Real Plan (Note: Real Plans Have Dates and Budgets)
Now that you have an ideal day goal, it’s time reverse engineer that goal and make a plan to get there. Your plan should realistically map toward your ideal day goal and include whatever training, schooling, and money you may need along the way to get there.
Take that sitcom acting example again. Because most sitcoms are shot in NYC or LA, to really pursue that goal your plan is probably going to have to include either moving to NYC or LA or budgeting for travel to those places.
To get a better understanding of what to include in your plan, talk to a few people who have the career you want. Ask them about their daily routines and common pitfalls to look out for in the profession.
The easiest way to do this is to jump on Linkedin. Through Linkedin, you have access to at least one person from almost every field that you can connect with and interview. By interviewing a person in your ideal field, you learn the elements that you need to bring together to make your career changing dreams a reality.
Most importantly, your plan must include a date for your resignation. You have to make a commitment to yourself to leave if you ever have a chance of actually doing it. Writing your resignation date down on paper makes it real. You’ll also get bonus points if you share your resignation date and plan with a loved one.
Places To Start With Step #3
- LinkedIn – connect with people who seem to have the ideal day you’re looking for and ask them about their work and what it takes.
- Draft a Plan – After conducting these interviews, draft a real plan with dates (including the deadline for your resignation) and a budget. This action plan is what you will use to make the dream of leaving your job a reality.
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