I’m going to use “E’s” to hang my thoughts on. Self assessment is crucial if you’re planning a career or job change. You must ascertain and intimately know your essentials, wisely use your experience, strategically deploy your education, carefully choose your environment, and honestly gauge your excitement when looking for a new career. Miss one “E” and you’ll live to regret it.
These days, however, with all rules thrown out the window due to COVID-19, the process must be accomplished even quicker, perhaps while you work a job just to make ends meet. Good thing is, once the SA is done, it really doesn’t have to be done again, except to fine tune changing environments.
Face it, there’s a whole lot of rethinking going on in everyone’s minds who’s been gainfully employed and now is suddenly out in the cold. What was, may not end up being, what will be. For example, is it wise to open a restaurant, or a small gourmet kitchen/food delivery business? Anyway, let’s get back to the matter at hand.
The first question to ask yourself is what are my essentials? You need to be able to use these in any job or you won’t fire on all cylinders. These are your God-given aptitudes. This is how you’re “hardwired.” You’ll know what’s “as easy as falling off a log” early on. Some can learn a language within weeks. Others, like myself, grew up with a mother fluent in Spanish and nothing caught on. Physicians and pharmacists, i.e. scientists, should have the capacity for remembering and pronouncing long complicated words. If you stumble over or can’t remember scientific words, don’t even think about a new career as a nurse. I once thought I might try becoming a dentist. Here’s a guy who can’t even hold onto his own toothbrush! Anything surgical requires fine motor skills or you’re doomed before you start. If you’re not a “math guy,” here’s a warning; don’t choose engineering.
Next, contemplate your experience and how it might be reworked into your prospective new career. Boil down your tasks to the fundamentals, your transferable skills as they say. You’ll need to know your lowest common denominator because it will become the essence of your sales pitch. In my career change from banking to environmental consulting, in hindsight, in banking I needed to assess financial risk. Now, I assess environmental risk. The knowledge base can be obtained with a little studying. But what was my lowest common denominator, my fundamental? After further review, it was my inherent bent to assess everything, especially risk, that was transferable. It’s my default setting. In reality, I assess everything risky, I mean everything. It’s my nature. So there’s no falloff in my new (well now old) career.
Another point. I often tell people, God did not give you 20 years of experience in something to throw it all away! In 1974, I worked all summer in the blazing sun as a carpenter’s helper. I ended up carrying every board, lifting every board, cutting every board, and nailing every board. I often thought this summer job was going to get me nowhere in my professional career. I wanted to quit everyday. Fast forward to my new position as a management trainee in the real estate division of a large bank. One of my first job responsibilities in the bank when they found out I built houses one summer? Conducting site inspections for residential construction loan progress payments.
What about your education. It can be a disqualifier actually. After completing a liberal arts education (after flaming out in pre-med, and running into a brick wall with the LSAT), I went directly into my school’s MBA program. I thought it would be a plus. Employers thought otherwise. Now we have to pay him more they thought! I had to assure them I had no such expectations. It became something of a workaround. I was talking to an engineer with a doctorate the other day. To a prospective engineering firm, the degree became somewhat of an albatross. It was threatening and imposing to potential employers and peers.
Now here’s the other side. If you want to switch from teacher to nurse, you’ll need to go to nursing school and dig deep for the funds to do it. If you want to become a cop, you had better have graduated from an academy, or you’ll need to land a job with an agency that will put you through one.
So, as you can see, you may have to explain why you have too much education, or not enough of it! In cases where you need to acquire some kind of degree or certification, you’ll need to count the cost and calculate the time necessary to do it. Opportunity costs!
One final observation on the topic of education. A general business degree will get you a long way if you persuade a company to allow you to intern for a good part of your senior year. This is the best educational decision a collegiate can make! Intern and you dramatically enhance your job prospects.
And one last thing. Don’t forget about learning a trade. There are many people out there who make far more money wiring a building than juggling Excel spreadsheets. I hear the sound of laughing all the way to the bank.
Next comes the environment in which you will be comfortable and thrive. Many have nailed the first three “E’s” and have landed in an environment they absolutely hate! I recall one woman who got a job in a closely-held family business. The owner locked the gates at 8:01 am and reopened them at 5:01 p.m. You had better have brought your lunch! Then there’s the straight-laced in an office full of chandelier swingers. This gets old fast.
In a bank, the compliance manuals are your friend. It’s hardly the place to freelance. The carefree will want to veer away from these structured arenas. Want to be a public relations specialist? You had better be a “lying” specialist. It’s their basic job. Are you a pacifist? The Marine Corps may not be a good career. Do you find locker rooms disgusting? You might want to take up golf. And the list goes on.
So use some keen forethought in your selection of a career. More than that, do some environmental investigation, i.e. sleuthing before you jump.
Find a job you can love, they say. That’s easier said than done.
I’m sure I’d enjoy a career as a professional baseball player, but who normally gets to translate his passion into a job? For most, the best case is finding a job that is at least tolerable. It’s important to realize that every job has its own grunt work. Professional baseball players must field buckets of balls everyday. For surgeons, it may be the volume of routine procedures you must perform everyday. For cooks, it may be chopping things everyday. For engineers, it may be data input or report writing everyday. For competitive runners, it may be covering the same miles and miles everyday. Just realize this!
Here’s some advice. If you can only manage to tolerate your job, develop an array of hobbies for which you can be passionate. Then your off hours will make the mundane worth it, because you’ll have some extra money to fly to the south of somewhere.
Best case really is to find a job you can love. If it meets the above criteria–the first four “E’s”–it’s likely that you’ll be excited to go to work until you die.