Wednesday, January 2, 2019

How to Figure Out What You Want to Do Next

For many people, today is the first day back at work after eating too many holiday cookies, watching "Elf" 14 times and hustling the kids back to school (whether they wanted to go or not because your sanity depended on it).

It's also the time when you might begin to reassess your career. You might decide that a) you're on track and content b) unhappy and need to make a change or c) floating somewhere in between because you can't really decide what to decide.

If you're happy, that's great. But if you're not so happy -- or just plain miserable -- you need to deal with it.

But how?

You might say, "I love my job but hate my boss," or "I feel unchallenged" or "I'd really love a job that allows me to travel the world." Those are certainly legitimate feelings, but they don't get you the job that will help you feel better about your career. As a result, you flounder around until another year passes and you're still in the same job.

If you're feeling stuck or unsure about how to make a career move, there's an easy first step that can help you: reverse engineering.

Reverse engineering is when you take an object apart to see how it works so that you can duplicate it. It's often used in technology or manufacturing, but there's no reason it can't work on your career.

Here are some ways to use reverse engineering to help you find a better job or career fit:

1. List your favorite things. Do you want to travel the world? Work with artists? Be clear about what want.

2. Do some research. The Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook can offer you some insight into jobs with duties that interest you. The site will help you determine what qualifications you need, salary expectations, the job growth expected, etc. This can help you put a name to a job, such as "physical therapist" or "mechanic."

3. Find inspiration. If you want to be a marine biologist, for example, look for such people on LinkedIn or through professional associations or websites. What education did this person receive? Did she have internships? Has she written blog posts or posted tweets that might give you an insight into what she does each day in her job? While you might be able to job shadow someone in your dream job, you might also learn a great deal just by reading industry publications, listening to podcasts or reading blogs.

4. Get specific. Once you've done some research and soul searching, it's time to get specific. Reverse engineering isn't about just "sort of" reconstructing something -- it's about getting the details right. Are there local education programs that can help you get the right certifications for your dream job? How much do they cost? Can you afford to quit your job and attend school full time? How long will it take you to get a secondary degree? By the time you get necessary training, will jobs be available?

Finally, many people are open to providing some advice to those who want to enter a certain industry or profession. Don't be greedy with someone's time: Have specific questions that you can ask via social media, a job board or through LinkedIn. Do your basic research so that you don't ask obvious questions that can be answered by Google.

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