Wednesday, March 18th, 2020

How to love, not leave, your career during the Coronavirus crisis

 

Job sculpting: create a life of bliss

 

I am working around the clock to get my final edits done of my book, “Happy@work: job hunting for mid-lifer’s”. Tonight, I’m working on a favourite chapter of mine – “Love it, don’t leave it.”

 

As one frustrated HR manager said to me recently, “The only time people tell us what they want is when they are walking out the door. If only they would tell as what they need, then at least we could try and work something out.”

 

The trouble. as you may well know, is that most people don’t know what they want. So they hop from dissatisfying job, to dissatisfying job, never pausing long enough to work out what’s wrong. Conversations are never had with work colleagues and bosses to improve the unhappy situation, and internal opportunities are never followed. All in all it’s an incredible waste of talent, time, money and energy. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

 

Job sculpting is a term that came out research by career theorists at The Harvard Business School. They encourage people to chisel way at their staid, linear job descriptions and tailor responsibilities, tasks, even remuneration to better meet individual needs – and both people and organisations all over the world are doing just that.

 

If you are already employed, but not really enjoying it, you’ll find the job sculpting exercise in the book really helpful. As I was writing this chapter I reflected on my own experience.

 

My first job when I graduated from university as a mature student was working for an international recruitment firm. I had graduated with a Commerce degree – majoring in Human Resource Management. I was full of excitement about the prospects of landing a fantastic, high paying job. Hope turned to despair as initially I was only offered a role as a PA. I’d had seven years out of the workforce and even though I’d had numerous senior management roles prior to this, the organisation didn’t feel my skills were current enough.

 

I took a deep breath, sucked in my pride and, my eye firmly on my longer-term career goals, took the job. I was single-parenting at the time and desperate for relevant work experience. Even though I didn’t enjoy being a PA at all and I wasn’t too thrilled about not being taken more seriously I didn’t let it get to me. Leaving wasn’t an option. I actively set out to find ways of increasing my satisfaction and future career prospects. I signed up for an international certification in recruitment and asked my new boss if I could shadow him to gain more firsthand experience for my assignments. It wasn’t long before he rewarded my initiative and enthusiasm by promoting me to a trainee recruiter. Was I glad. Being a PA didn’t come naturally to me. I found all the running around and organising stressful. The money was terrible too.

 

For a while recruiting was fine but the individual performance targets, and sales culture didn’t sit well with my values. The hours were terrible too. At the interview they told me, “We know who will succeed here – they work late at night and they are here in the weekends. I was tempted to leave – especially after I developed shingles from all the stress.” The corporate culture was terrible and one of my bosses threatened to smash my head in if I asked him one more time if a candidate I was looking after was going to get an interview. I don’t know what was worse – his bullying or the fact that because he was a big biller, the company ignored his behaviour.

 

What I really wanted to do was help people find a job they would love. So, I did some internal research and found out that this was the kind of work that another part of the firm did. I networked actively with people in that department to learn more about what they did and to make a good impression in case an opportunity ever arose. When a vacancy came up I talked to my boss about moving across. He wasn’t happy at all. In fact, he was positively angry. He tried to make me resign and then reapply.

 

The company made me apply for the internal vacancy with other external candidates. I had three interviews – including a panel interview with 8 senior executives. I also had to do a role play and perform in an assessment centre. Everyone asked me, “why are you staying? You don’t have to put up with that.” But I did. I needed to get more experience to achieve my long-term goals. Besides I didn’t want my bully boss to win.

 

I visualised succeeding, practiced for the interviews, maintained my cool and promoted myself with passion. I got the job. Once again it was just a stepping-stone to where I truly wanted to be – career counselling and running my own business.

When I moved into this role it was still a sales role – I brought in the work and other people got to career counsel staff affected by redundancy. My motivated skills of counselling and coaching, and my values of helping people still weren’t met. I tried numerous times to get the company to allow me to redefine my role.

I showed them what was in it for them and how by helping me they would also grow the business. They wanted to keep me in sales. So, I looked around for another company who needed my sales and marketing skills but who would also give me the opportunity to coach people hands on.

While in the short-term I took a salary plummet, I moved to a Greenfield role that allowed me to gain the experience I needed. They also supported my counselling training. Four years later I went out on my own and trebled my salary and satisfaction.

Being self-employed meets all my criteria for career and life satisfaction. Importantly, it has allowed me the flexibility to support and care for my daughter during her school years. It’s also enabled me to make the best use of my talents and the things that give my work a sense of meaning and purpose.

My work is a powerful vehicle for me self-expression – it allows me to be who I am, and who I truly want to be, while serving others at the same time. Bliss!

If you are already working but unhappy at work, rather than leave, I can’t encourage you enough to look for internal opportunities to gain experience. Take a sideways move, put your hand up for a secondment, or identify an untapped market demand and create an internal opportunity.

Let other people leave their fate in others’ hands – but not you my friend, not you.

While now may not be the optimum time to change jobs, changing careers right where you are may be the ultimate survival strategy.

 

Enjoy that article? Here are three more things you might like:

 

Easy, Inspiring Ways to Whip Yourself Out of a Rut in Your Life, Relationships and Career

 

End Anxiety & Stop Panic Attacks!: A natural, fun, easy to implement approach to recover and regain control of your life

 

How To Find Your Passion and Purpose and Heed the Call For Courage

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