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How do I break out of "just working the next job"?

This question appears often in a few different forms, but the underlying question is asking what are you working toward? At the start of our careers we are often happy to be hired into our first job. The elation wears off once we’ve mastered the actual job. Sometimes the people, tasks or company are no longer a fit and we set out to find our next job. We often wait until we are absolutely miserable in our job before looking for a new one. At this point we are desperate and think that ANYTHING is better than this job. The danger is that our blinders are up and we will likely land a job with all the same things that we hate about our current job. If nothing changes, nothing changes.

I recommend thinking strategically about your career. Think 2 jobs from now- what are you doing? What level are you? Who are you working with? Where are you commuting to? Are you working from home? Do you have your own business? What will it take to land that future job? What skills do you need to gain between now and then?

This way of thinking will start to build a roadmap of where you are going and why (and how to get there).

Here are 3 powerful exercises to be more strategic about your next move.

1.) Analyze how you got here. Build an awareness of the choices you made that led you here. For example, “I was in debt from school and needed cash money so I took the first offer.” What has changed since you landed that job? What skills have you gained? What would you like to continue doing or what would you never like to do again? Reflecting on where we are will inform where we want to go next.

2.) List out the reasons why you work. Our reason for working changes throughout our life. Your “why” should be important and should make you feel an emotion. Take the time to list out every single reason why you work: to pay the bills, to advance your career, to socialize, to learn new things, to help people. Your “whys” will be your guide as you build a strategy for what is next.

3.) Visualize where you want to go. This is the fun part. Visualize not just the JOB you want but the LIFE that you want. If we start with what kind of life we want to lead, we can then find a job/company/title that fits us. Literally imagine what it feels like to commute to your new job (or work from home!). Visualize the types of problems you are solving and the types of people you work with.

These thought exercises will help you build criteria for what your next job needs to be. The goal changes from “escape my current job” to “build new skills that support my long term career vision”. This mental shift into strategically thinking about your career will help you develop a plan, build a process, and find the right job to fit your life.

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