A career should be the job that makes you enjoy getting up in the morning. Unfortunately, as the market continues to flood with candidates, the competition continues to increase. Career resources are abundant, and everywhere you turn you hear about networking events and job fairs. But in this market of competition, is it realistic to continue the search and wait for that ideal career position? Or should you consider finding a transitional job while continuing to look for your ideal career?
Sally was one of those job seekers focusing on her ideal career, yet struggling with the pressure of the I just need a job before it is too late and I lose everything I have mindset. You see, Sally was a banker and most of her career was spent as a VP managing real-estate investments and estate planning. Sally, like so many others, was trying to make a career decision based on her skills, experience and what she read as openings on job boards. She was also influenced by what she was reading in the paper and online. It felt like the marketplace was full of doom and gloom.
Sally was out on the street like everyone else, looking for her next opportunity. But the real question she had was this: Now what do I want to be when I grow up? She laughed at herself as she thought about it and realized that this might be a chance to do something different. Still, in the back of her mind, she thought, Yes, I can do many things, but I need to make at least a six-figure salary! So what Sally was doing was starting with an ideal number in her mind, and then working backward into a career that met her financial criteria.
Sally spent the next six months looking for career opportunities in banking because it was what she had always done and would most likely be able to pay her well. Or, at least that was what she thought.
During the months she was looking for her ideal career, Sally spent some time helping local businesses that she had met and developed a relationship with while she was at the bank. She began doing a little consulting work with these businesses, conducting financial audits, recommending and giving financial advice, and identifying growth opportunities.
What happened next took her by surprise. Sally started bringing in a real income! As word spread about her ability to help local businesses with their financial issues, it did not take long for her to notice an increase in workload and salary. Sally began to make real money, but unfortunately, it still did not reach her six-figure goal. What she realized, though, was that she was applying to her own life the same advice she had given her clients, how to build a solid financial business model! Although she had thought living under a six-figure salary was unrealistic, it simply was not true.
Sally once again looked at what she thought her ideal career was and what she had to have to find out what was realistic. Her conclusion confirmed that it was realistic to live on less than six figures, and, yes, actually be happier!
The following are suggestions that will help you think through what makes up a realistic career for you.
Career Realism No. 1: Look at your financial state. Where do you spend your money and on what? What is really necessary? If you eliminated what is unnecessary, could the starting salary on positions you are seeking be lowered by several thousand dollars per year? Lowering the salary range on positions now opens up new opportunities that may be of interest to you. This does not mean giving up everything. But we all know that we can tend to be excessive. For instance, lower the number of times you eat out each week or repair clothes and shoes as opposed to buying new. Work at making your life simpler.
Career Realism No. 2: What work is really satisfying to you? Sure, you have an expertise in an area, but can this skill be applied in another area or industry? For example, my known skills and the manner in which I work give me the expertise to be a career coach. But they also are skills that could have made me successful in landscaping! Two very different careers, but a skill set that gives me expertise and a work ethic to excel in either. Think outside the box. Where could you apply your skill besides the industry you are currently in?
Career Realism No. 3: Networking, networking, networking! I know I say this a lot, but it is especially true if you want to consider other opportunities, think outside the box and discover where your skills can be used. Talk to people in various industries. Find out what they know and do in their industry and assess if this could be a right career fit for you. Ask them for an introduction to other people that could shed some light when you are investigating the job and culture fit. This is not a job interview, but an informational meeting. Gather information about specific industries that interest you. They will gladly lead you to job opportunities if they know of one. They just might be the one to walk you through the back door of the company. Never ask if they know of an opening.
The challenge for all of us is to not draw conclusions on the ideal career, but to ask ourselves, What else could I do, and what is realistic? The answer is not found in your own reasoning but in fact finding. Sally created an opportunity for herself and now makes, you guessed it, over six figures!
Is your ideal career getting in the way of what is realistic? You might find that what is realistic might be your ideal career. And, yes, you might even be happier!