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Your Dream Career For Dummies
By Carol D. McClelland
John Wiley & SonsISBN: 0-7645-9795-7
Chapter OneEvaluating Your Current Situation
In This Chapter
* Checking in with yourself and your life
* Assessing your current work situation
* Evaluating the work you do
* Getting a sense of your priorities
Did you know that you're sitting on a gold mine? The very same job that frustrates you or bores you to tears holds a number of valuable clues about your future career. In the same vein, the points of stress in your life can, with a little thought, prove to be enlightening, as well.
This chapter helps you assess where you are today. Taking some time to get a sense of yourself and your life at this point in time creates a foundation for building your next career. The more you know about what you want and need in your life, the more you can create a new career that fits you and enhances your life. To make this process as easy for you as possible, a series of worksheets walks you through this discovery process one step at a time.
If you aren't working, use your last job as your frame of reference for this chapter. Or if you've been at home raising your children, recovering from an illness, or caring for a relative, think of your current experiences as your "job" in the following worksheets.
Making the Worksheets Work for You
Each worksheet in this chapter consists of a list of elements in theleft-hand column that are relevant to your personal life or your current job. When you rate each element, put an X into the appropriate box:
After you make your rating, note the reasons why you rated each element the way you did, using the following guidelines:
If you see any elements that aren't listed but are relevant to you, add them in the blanks at the bottom of each table.
In Worksheet 1-8, you have an opportunity to review your responses to Worksheets 1-1 through 1-7 to get an overview of yourself and your life. At that point you identify the elements of your life that are most important to take into account as you create your new career.
As Sarah, a photography studio manager from Connecticut, completed Worksheet 1-1 later in this chapter, she discovered some very important information about how her personal life impacts her career. Review Figure 1-1 to see her responses. As you can see, Sarah is feeling stretched to the limit right now as she juggles her family responsibilities and her work tasks. Her time is so limited that she rarely has time for herself and her needs. What she takes away from this worksheet is that she definitely needs to take her new family situation into account as she envisions her next career.
Looking at Your Personal Life
Because you're reading this book to create a new career, you may question why I start out by asking about your personal life. The way I've always looked at it, a career works best when it fits with your life. The more you know about yourself and how you want to live, the more you know about your new career.
If you've been working too hard or totally focusing on how frustrated you are with work, you may have lost track of yourself in the process. To make clear decisions about your future career, you must reach in to find the true you again. Looking at your life through different lenses can help you see yourself more clearly.
Rate the elements of how and who you are in Worksheet 1-1 to take stock of how you are these days. Evaluating this information helps you clarify what's working and not working in your current situation. Later you use this information to verify that your new career idea is a good fit for you.
Before you can focus clearly on the future, you must also take a close look at your current lifestyle. If some aspects of your life work well, you want to keep those aspects intact. If certain areas of your life are not satisfying, you can find ways to alleviate the problems by making different decisions about your future.
Put your career and time at work on the back burner for a moment and think about your personal life. As you scan your life, answer these questions for yourself:
Assess how you're living by rating the elements listed in Worksheet 1-2. Later, this information helps you know that your new career not only supports you but also enhances the life you want to live.
Sizing Up Your Current Work Arrangement
It's Sunday night. In ten hours, you have to get up and go to work. On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate the intensity of your Sunday Night Blues? Are you looking forward to returning to your office, seeing your colleagues, and using your creative skills? Or do you once again dread the thought of another five days stuck at work doing tasks that bore you, interacting with people who bug you, and dealing with office politics?
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Low High
What about the intensity of your Monday Morning Malaise? As you travel to work and prepare to enter the doors, how do you feel?
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Low High
Although these two questions serve as a quick barometer of how you feel about your work, looking at the pros and cons of each element of your work arrangement gives you insights about what you eventually need from your job to live the life you want.
Think about your work and your life over the last month and ask yourself the following questions:
Worksheet 1-3 lets you clarify how you feel about how you work. Evaluating your current work situation helps you pinpoint ways your new career can improve your satisfaction at work.
Your income and benefits also impact how you live your life. Think about the past year, both the high points and the low points. Ask yourself the following questions:
Worksheet 1-4 gives you a space to jot down your thoughts about important issues regarding your pay and benefits. Being clear about your needs helps you set your sights on a career that's a good fit.
For some people, the environment in which they work is more important than what they do on the job. By looking at what does and doesn't work for you in your work environment, you gain valuable clues that help you evaluate the fit of future work environments.
In your mind's eye, think about your day at work - from the moment you leave your home to the time you return. Ask yourself the following questions:
The sensations and impressions you feel as you answer these questions give you insights about how specific elements of your work environment affect you on a daily basis.
Use Worksheet 1-5 to rate how happy you are with specific aspects of your current work environment. In addition to noticing what doesn't work in your current job, remember to take note of elements of your work that you enjoy and want to re-create in your new work setting.
At first glance, you may feel as though you have little choice about whom you work with. You can, however, choose a career that allows you to interact with the kinds of people you enjoy most, whether they're colleagues who share your interests or clients who receive your services.
To discover more about what does and doesn't work for you in your current work community, take an imaginary walk through the halls of your office. Think about the people you work with on a regular basis:
With your impressions fresh in your mind, rate the following categories of people you interact with at work in Worksheet 1-6. Your response to the question "Why?" may, in this case, be a person's name.
What's Working and Not Working about the Work You Do
Obviously what you do on your job impacts how you feel about your career. Think about the tasks and projects you've worked on this year and ask yourself the following questions:
Take some time to write down your thoughts in Worksheet 1-7 regarding the elements that make up your work tasks. Although you may be fed up with your current job, you may find, upon reflection, that you actually enjoy some pieces of what you do. Understanding your current situation in detail gives you insights about what elements of your current work may be worth carrying forward into a new career.
Recording Your Key Needs
Look over the worksheets in this chapter to get an overview of what's going on in your work and life. Then take it deeper. Identify five factors that, if resolved, would allow you to love your life and your work more than you do now. By identifying these issues now, you know what issues you'd like to resolve with your next career. In fact, in Chapter 16 you return to this list to find the right fit between your personal needs and desires and your potential career ideas.
Use Worksheet 1-8 to write down your key needs. If you can, state your needs in terms of what you want rather than what's lacking in your life right now. For instance, write down "I need more flexibility" rather than "I don't have enough flexibility." If you recognize that something isn't working for you but you don't know exactly how you want to fix the situation, don't sweat it. Just record your observation the best you can. As you explore the upcoming chapters, you may discover a new perspective that allows you to articulate your needs more clearly.
Although you picked up this book to identify your next career, the worksheets in this chapter may show you that another part of your life isn't working very well. If you feel desperate to leave your current job, living situation, or relationship, you may be in a toxic situation. If you're so worn out by the end of the day that you can't think straight, you may find it hard to make progress on your career change. The fact is that just making it through the day takes all you've got. You have two possible strategies: Minimize your exposure to the person, setting, or situation that feels toxic or just get out in whatever way you can create. Reach out for support from a friend or a professional if you don't see an immediate way out. After you feel safer, you can focus on your goal to change your career and make much more progress.
Excerpted from Your Dream Career For Dummies by Carol D. McClelland Excerpted by permission.
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