It was early 2019 when I came across a shocking statistic in the Harvard Business Review: the average American spends approximately 90,000 hours, roughly a third of their life, at work! This finding stayed with me until one October morning in 2019, when, at 2 a.m., I found myself wide awake and overwhelmed by the thought of perpetually performing the same job for the next 35+ years until retirement. Lying there, I placed my hand on my stomach, taking deep breaths as my mind raced. The idea of spending another week in that office was already unbearable.
At the time, I had just moved to Sweden and worked for a small tech agency as a recruiter. My role entailed recruiting promising engineers for major clients... On paper, it seemed appealing: competitive compensation, excellent benefits, and a stellar team. It checked all the boxes. But as the months passed, the initial allure began to fade. I felt trapped in a monotonous routine that drained me - daily! I started yearning for weekends and holidays and the only solace I found was in books, fine wine, and trips to the movies – Escapism!
My negativity began to seep into other aspects of my life, affecting my personal relationships and mental well-being. I knew I had to make a change and so the idea of my next career move consumed my thoughts day in and day out.
Eventually, after two years, I mustered the courage to leave my position and the recruitment field behind. I remained in the tech industry but took on a new role as Head of Growth. It was a daunting transition into unfamiliar territory, but it turned out to be the best decision I ever made. I wasn’t special. And it seems that my feelings of unease when transitioning to a new role weren’t that different from how most Americans feel about change. A staggering 75% prefer comfort to the unknown!
We all understand that transitioning careers can be challenging, whether it's by choice or necessity. Regardless of the circumstances, making informed decisions about your career path requires careful preparation and self-permission.
In my experience, deliberate decision-making and risk mitigation are essential when embarking on a new career, industry, or entrepreneurial venture. To navigate these transitions effectively, a structured and organized framework is indispensable. Here’s the one I’ve used previously.
Set Your Intentions
In other words, with this transition, what are your short-term and long-term intentions with this opportunity?
E.g. From an outsider's perspective, my career may seem nonlinear—spanning from modeling to owning a café, co-founding a tech startup, working as a tech recruiter, and now serving as Head of Growth. However, there is a consistent underlying theme: the desire to explore and experience different countries and cultures. Since childhood, I've harbored a dream of living in various places worldwide - my career choices align with my core intention of moving around the world.
To help clarify my career goals, I've found Debbie Millman's "Your Ten-Year Plan for a Remarkable Life" exercise immensely valuable.
Audit Your Values
Begin by assessing your values in both professional and personal contexts. Reflect on the following questions:
1. List your five strongest values. Have your values remained consistent since starting your current job, or have they evolved? If so, why? If your values have changed, is there cognitive dissonance?
2. Consider how and when your five strongest values manifest at work—daily, weekly, or in specific situations.
3. Prioritize these values from most to least important.
Audit Your Current Situation at Work
Create a table with the following columns to evaluate your current job:
- Day-to-day routine
- Company Culture
Adjust the column titles based on what you find most enjoyable and engaging at work. Align these columns with your prioritized values, listed on the left side of the table.
Answer Critical Questions to create your set of operating principles
Now, address key questions to determine if a new opportunity aligns with your values and intentions:
- Does the role, job, or company tick all of these boxes?
- If not, are you willing to compromise on certain aspects?
- How can you work to align the new opportunity with your values and intentions?
- What does your ideal opportunity look like?
- How will this change impact your personal life?
- Would you regret not pursuing this opportunity in the future?
- Is there a better alternative to the current offer and situation?
These answers, along with your values, should help you define a set of operating principles on Who you are & How you work.
Do Your Due Diligence
Depending on whether the opportunity is internal or from another company, conduct thorough research:
- Interview current employees.
- Read up on company news and executive team actions - they speak louder than words.
- Consider requesting a 5-day paid trial if possible to assess the fit.
- Consider hiring a Coach with similar experience to yours for guidance and support in your new role.
If you're navigating your first months into a brand-new role or career transition, please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn. I have lots of insights to share from my past experiences.
By following these steps and considering the questions provided, you can better align your career choices with your values and intentions while ensuring a smoother transition into your next opportunity.
If you have gone through a similar experience, please share your story to help all of us :)
And as a small gift, I’ve created a free workbook based on the framework I shared above.