It’s natural at this time of year to reflect on your working life and whether it’s working for you, and for your family. There’s a “back to school” feel which comes through into work as well, because many people have been away, taken time off or slowed down over the summer period. It’s a time to think about achievements, goals and working arrangements over the autumn and going into next year.
I’m no different, and I do this every year. I feel a renewed energy and enthusiasm for making changes where these are needed. But of course this focus needs to be channelled, and the right changes made. There are a variety of methods/tips available, but I like to keep it simple and ask myself four questions. This can be done in any area of your life but as working life is my ‘thing’, that’s what I’m thinking about today.
Question One – What am I not happy about in my working life?
Think about your work currently. What about it doesn’t satisfy you? Are you dreading going back to the daily grind after the summer rather than looking forward to it? Is the work itself not fulfilling you and challenging you? What about the people you work with? Do you feel an affinity for the organisation you work with/for – the product or service provided, the way the business is conducted? Does your role offer the right work/life balance for you? Is your commute too long?
It could be anything, but consider every aspect of your working life and write down everything you’re not happy with.
Question Two – What do you want your working life to look like?
This will be closely tied to your answers to question one. Think about what you do want from your working life. Consider the things you identified as being unsatisfactory. What would your job ‘look like’ if these things were as you want them to be? If you identified the work itself as being unsatisfactory, what kind of work do you want to do? If you don’t feel a suitable affinity with the organisation you work for, what kind of organisation would suit you?
It might be that there are ways to change your current job to achieve what you want. A new team, taking on additional responsibility. It might be that something more drastic is necessary to solve your concerns, such as new job in a new organisation. Or it might be that the things you are ‘missing’ are not realistically achievable in a traditional employed role and you want to look at self-employment/freelancing or similar.
Regardless of what it means for you, this step is about forming a picture of what you want your working life to look like and what options might provide that for you.
Question Three – What are the obstacles?
Now you’ve identified where you want to be, you need to consider the obstacles to that. If a new role is what you are looking for, the obstacles might be a lack of experience in the area you want to move into, or skills or knowledge you don’t yet have.
If you think self-employment of some kind is what you want, obstacles might involve uncertainty about what’s involved, financial restrictions or fears and concerns about going it alone.
Question Four – What can you do?
You’ve identified what’s wrong with your current working life, and know what you want your ideal working life to look like. You’ve identified the obstacles there are to achieving what you want. Now’s the time to work out what you can do to overcome those obstacles and get yourself where you want to be.
If there are skills/knowledge you are lacking, what steps can you take to gain those? If your obstacle is fear related to the unknown, what can you do to reduce that or overcome it? Whatever your personal desires are, this is the point at which you take ownership of them and make them happen. One of the steps you can take might be seeking support from elsewhere, but it won’t come to you unless you look for it.
This is the point when the process turns from thoughts and feelings into actual action plans. I always find any unsatisfactory situation infinitely more bearable if I am actually doing something to change it.
This is the scary bit, because it’s much easier to think about what’s wrong, and daydream about your ideal role than it is to actually take steps to get yourself there.
But maybe it’s scarier to think that this time next year you’ll still be there, with the same issues, and not having made progress towards your goals?
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