We previously covered how Millennials, the younger component of the workforce, would change jobs for a $1,000 raise, even if the job wasn’t a good fit. That may be alright when you’re working your way through school but, when it comes to changing careers, being laissez faire about a transition can be a career killer. You could find yourself trapped in a dead end job with little chance of promotion or, worse, being the employee with the least experience and seniority when layoffs strike.
Your career is more than your current job and those who are successful at climbing the income ladder understand the difference. Job jumping when you’re a kid is excusable. Job hopping as an adult with a career track can be fatal, even when the job market is banging, like it is today.
Know Where You Want To Be
One of the worst interview questions ever invented is, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” The honest answer to that question is in your boss’ job, with a company car, stock options, an expense account and ridiculously expensive secretary. But you can’t answer that question honestly in an interview. All the same you need some idea of where you want to be in order to develop a plan for getting there. If you want to be a nurse, that’s a fairly well defined trajectory. If you want to be a nursing supervisor or Physician’s Assistant, then you’ll want to understand the educational and experience requirements for those jobs and come up with a plan for filling in those boxes. The hard part is figuring out where you want to end up.
One of the smartest investments I ever made was putting time and effort into the personality and aptitude tests they gave us in college. Those compare your personality and interests with people in a variety of careers. Those tests, while tedious, will give you a good idea about which jobs people most like you report as most satisfying. If you would rather write than do anything else, why would you try to force yourself to be a truck driver? Yet people make that type of force fit every day by taking jobs for which they have no aptitude or interest. Life is too short to be miserable in your job.
Know Your Triggers
Everyone has something that bothers them, some things more than others. Maybe backstabbing coworkers set you off, or maybe it’s an overbearing boss. You can’t completely avoid irritants in the workplace, but you can know your own personal stress triggers. For instance, if dealing with overbearing Type A personalities is a problem, then nursing may not be the right field for you. It sometimes takes some experience to know what you can take and what you can’t.
Create General Guidelines
Instead of a targeted goal, like being a doctor, try to break down why being a doctor appeals to you and look for careers with similar qualities. If medicine appeals to you, then your general guidelines might include helping people feel better, above average salary, fast-paced working environment and workplace autonomy. Those are qualities that would describe being a doctor but those qualities also open the door to other careers, such as being a dietician, pharmacist and exercise coach. It would also describe a job like Emergency Services Coordinator, where you might have to help organize responses by federal, state and local emergency services during a natural disaster or deliver food and water to people isolated by flood or fires. By focusing on the qualities of a job that you find personally compelling, it opens your mind to career possibilities you might not have otherwise considered that share those qualities.
If you want to build towards a rewarding and fulfilling career, it’s going to take time, patience, planning and focus. You can’t get distracted by jumping ship for a fifty cent an hour raise. Jobs come and go but careers are lifetime events.