I hear a lot of concerns about this one so I wanted to share some advice I think might help.
Watch below for my top tips on what to do if you’re more of a generalist than a specialist, and you’re feeling unsure about your next steps.
Got no time to watch? Here are the key takeaways:
I hear a lot of concerns from people who are not specialists because they don’t know how to market themselves to employers, and sometimes they have trouble figuring out which roles they want to go for next.
Here are my top tips for finding your direction if you’re more of a generalist or ‘jack of all trades’ than a specialist.
1) Understand your strengths
Before you move forward, you really need to have a good understanding of your key strengths. There are a few ways to approach this. You can either do a skills audit on yourself by reviewing your employment history (both paid and unpaid) or you can do an online assessment (there are some good options out there, I like the Values in Action Survey). It’s a good idea to get some input from other people such as work colleagues or friends and family because it’s difficult to be objective about what you’re good at. It’s something we all take for granted!
2) Choose which strengths you want to develop
Now that you have your list, review it and ask yourself, which strengths do I want to develop in the future? Which ones are going to help me grow in to the person I want to be? In other words, who do you want to become?
3) Your Passions and Interests
Now that you know which strengths you want to work on, it’s time to figure out how you’re going to do that. If you’re lucky, your current job may offer some opportunities. Maybe you can put your hand up for extra responsibilities or to lead a project. You can also involve your work colleagues outside of hours. For example if you want to develop your teaching skills and you are interested in wellbeing, maybe you get people together for an activity such as running or meditation at lunchtimes.
If there are no opportunities at your workplace, you will need to look at your passions and interests outside of work. Brainstorm your list and it may be a long one if you’re a person who’s interested in a lot of different subjects. When you have your list, narrow it down to your top four interests and look at ways that you can develop your chosen strengths through those activities.
So if one of your interests is cooking and you want to develop your strengths as a teacher, maybe you can offer to teach a cookery class at your child’s school, or if you’re interested in finance, you could look into teaching a ‘how to do a budget’ class at your local community centre or neighbourhood house. Similarly, if the skill you want to develop is writing and you’re interested in art, then you might try writing something about an art exhibition for the local newspaper.
Lastly, before you get excited and run off to do a million different activities, put together a plan for yourself and create both monthly and weekly goals. My advice would be to start small and build up from there, because it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
Not only will you build your confidence and develop your skills by doing this activity, you will also attract new opportunities to yourself and start to see different possibilities for for how to progress your career.
You will be amazed at what will happen when you follow this process.
Let me know how you go in the comments!
PS: My next Melbourne workshop is open for bookings. We had a great group of women at the September workshop and I can’t wait to run this one again a the Swell Centre, Hawthorn on Thursday 8th November.
I’ve also been confirmed as a presenter at the Seven Sisters Festival in March, which I’m so thrilled about!!! Let me know if you’re going along. In the meantime, you can book your tickets for Transform your Career. This is for you if you’re looking to rediscover your passion and find some direction with your career.
A couple of years after I moved to Melbourne I finally got myself a car.
There was no such as thing as Google Maps back then, and relying solely on the Melways (remember Melways?) and my gut instinct, I was forever lost and running late.
The same thing was happening to a friend who had migrated from the US but her response was different to mine.
Where I would panic, get off at the nearest exit and make myself even later by driving around in circles, my friend would just stay on the road.
So how does that work out for you? I wanted to know.
Well the worst that can happen is I discover a part of Melbourne I didn’t know before, she said. But I know I’ll eventually find a sign and figure out where I’m going.
It struck me as a much better strategy for navigating the freeway system.
Stay on the road. Watch out for signs. Just keep driving.
There are times in our lives when we all feel a bit lost.
Maybe you know you need to make changes in your life, but you can’t see the possibilities yet.
We crave certainty and navigating the mystery of not knowing what’s next can be tough.
It’s also the time when we’re prone to making decisions we later regret, by forcing answers to our questions when they may not be ready to come. We decide it has to be this course, this job or this business idea. We would do anything rather than not know.
Before we make those decisions we need to be conscious of our dreams and what we really want, which is why this forms a core part of the work I do with clients (and also in this upcoming Melbourne workshop).
It’s amazing how unconscious our desires can be. If I told you right now you could have any job you wanted in the world, would you know what to choose? Or would you feel even more lost?
Allowing ourselves to be with the unknown is an important part of the process of change. This is not the same as procrastinating over a decision. Instead we’re allowing new seeds to take root, fresh plans to form. A gestation period is required.
So what can you do when you feel lost?
The best advice I’ve come across is to focus on what you do know about what you want, even if you’re just scraping away a corner to reveal a tiny edge of the big picture.
If you know that you want more freedom or you want to be more creative in your work, ask where can you give yourself that experience now, even if it’s just for one hour a week.
Watch out for signs that you’re on the right track, nudges giving you a heads up about where to explore next. Let curiosity be your guide.
The more you can tune into your internal compass the more oriented you’ll become and this is when the big picture does slowly start to reveal itself.
It requires patience and self-compassion to travel without a map. Feeling lost is a given, wrong turns inevitable.
But if you can stay on the road and resist the urge to turn off at every exit, you might just find yourself on the adventure of your life.
PS: If you’re feeling a bit lost with your career and you’d like to explore these ideas further, join me for the Transform your Career Workshop in Melbourne on 25th September. You can book tickets here.
During a coaching session, a client once mentioned how she would need to have her ‘game face’ on for an upcoming interview.
Why do you need a game face? I asked. That sounds like hard work.
What? You mean I can just be myself, she asked.
We both laughed.
It’s important to be authentic of course, but no one ever said it was easy.
Imagine what the world would be like if we all just told the truth?
If you’re looking to make positive changes in your career, it’s so important to let go of the need to control how you’re received.
There’s an innate drive within us to please others to protect ourselves from being thrown out of the tribe, but we need to resist the urge to mould ourselves into what we believe others want to see. Otherwise we’ll never be free.
To accept the promotion. Give up the successful law career to become a teacher. Start the business of your dreams. Or ask for the long-overdue pay rise.
Our success depends on our willingness to detach from how others might view us so that we can be who we are.
Truthfully this is more of a constant shedding than an instant change but you can make shifts surprisingly quickly.
Here is the advice that’s helped me the most:
1) Take nothing personally.
This is a nugget from Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements and there are few things I’ve learned that have been more valuable.
When you release yourself from reacting personally to events. ‘The interviewer hated me.’ ‘My boss didn’t ask for my opinion in that meeting.’ ‘My friend didn’t call when I was sick.’ You let go of the stories you make up in your head, most of which are not true but which cause enormous suffering.
By the way, I still catch myself out with this so remember, humans are meaning-making machines and we are hard-wired to make up stories, so don’t be hard on yourself. The main thing is to recognise when you do it and then let it go.
2) Focus on how you show up instead.
How can you show up authentically and let yourself be seen? Which action will make you feel as though you’re doing the right thing by yourself.
When I say this I don’t mean that you should go and blow off your commitments without a care. It’s more about behaving in a way that’s in alignment with your values and true self.
For example, if you know that being honest about the challenges in your previous role is going to make you feel like less of a fraud in the job interview then tell your truth. Let go of the need to control the outcome. Newsflash: you can’t do that anyway!
There are so many situations where letting go of the need to control what others think can lead you into a greater connection to your true self.
Like networking situations that cause worry and stress over whether you are good enough.
Or social events. Or apologising when you feel you need to. Or telling someone how you really feel about them.
When you practice this way of being, it will change how you approach everything.
You will feel braver and truer.
Admittedly it’s not the easiest option out there.
Far easier to put on your game face, though in the long run a lot more costly.
I love to knit.
I picked up a pair of needles a couple of months ago and was instantly smitten.
Of course I’m not particularly skilled at it yet. I haven’t knitted since I was a child and it doesn’t come naturally.
The ladies in the yarn store raise their eyebrows when they seem me coming.
But my new pastime has taught me something important.
The act of creating something with my own hands is so satisfying that the dropped stitches and mis-purled rows don’t mean a thing. I persevere regardless.
I’m not going to tell you that doing what you love will lead to amazing career success.
The truth is that’s pretty unlikely, at least until you become skilled at what you love.
For years I tried in vain to find my passion.
In those days I believed that if I did enough soul searching I’d figure it out.
But my passion wasn’t something that could be figured out by thinking, only through doing. By pursuing new interests, going to new places, meeting new people or even trying out different jobs.
Without pressure or judgement.
Of course there’s an element of risk involved in this approach. You might fail. It may not turn out to be everything you’d hoped.
But when you lean into what you love, even if it’s a hobby, it starts reshaping your attitudes and changing the choices you make in other areas of your life too.
Doing what you love opens you up to more of what you love.
Start with one thing you’re curious to try.
Be prepared to suck at it in the beginning. Be open to enjoying it anyway.
Your passion is not something you accidentally trip over one day like a forgotten pair of shoes in the hallway. It might not cause a light bulb to click on in your head.
It’s something you actively create through the choices you make, day by day and year by year.
If you want to do something you love then my advice is: be curious and let yourself follow that curiosity without judgement.
It may all start with a pair of knitting needles, but you never know where it will lead.
Want more advice like this? You can download my 4 Step Guide to Creating the Right Job here.
If you’re anything like me, you will be carving out time this month to set goals and make exciting plans for the year ahead. Whether it’s time to plan a girls’ trip to New York, learn to knit or finally write the book, there’s nothing like a new year to give you the momentum to finally get moving.
I’ve tried a multitude of goal-setting methods over the years. Some have helped me to make big shifts, while others lay forgotten in my journal all year. What I’ve learned is that there’s a lot more to goal setting than writing a list of new resolutions each year. But you know that already or you wouldn’t have read this far.
Here is my favourite method for setting goals you can stick to and achieve mainly because you’re actually truly excited by them (this is so key). I can’t stress enough how important it is not to set too many goals for yourself. You’re going to feel so much better about achieving one major goal than you are about half-assing 10 different things.
1) What do you want to experience this year?
A six figure income? More time for yourself? The wind blowing in your hair as you finally take that road trip you promised yourself? Think about how these experiences will make you feel. Do you want to feel inspired, energised, affluent? Write it all down.
2) What do you want to make more time for?
Latin dance classes, reading books, margaritas with friends, sex. I know you’re already busy but what are you craving more of? What would you do if you had an extra couple of hours a day? Add that to your list.
3) What contribution do you want to make?
In your job, your family, social groups, the world. Maybe the contribution you want to make this year is to your work, a charity organisation or maybe it’s to your marriage. You have to decide what’s most important and prioritise it so that it actually gets on your calendar.
4) What do you want people to say about you after you die?
It might sound like an odd one for goal setting but in essence this question means, who do you want to become? You can never ask this enough in my opinion.
Now review your list because it’s time to get serious.
5) Which of your goals/desires are in conflict?
For example if you want to have a baby this year, but you also want to have a gap year working with children in Cambodia, you’re going to have some major challenges making them both happen!
Evaluate which ones are the most important to you.
6) What will bring you the most joy?
Which are you most excited about? What will be easy? Who can help you out?
Next consider where you most want to make a contribution and your ‘what people will say about me after I die’ list. Which of your goals will help you to embody those qualities? Where can you have the most impact?
When you finish you should have no more than three goals.
Three is probably doable if you’re not too busy. One goal is just fine.
I highly recommend setting quarterly goals to work towards and then breaking it down again month by month. You might even decide to focus on one goal per quarter so that you can stay focussed (this works for me).
Remember that we tend to overestimate what we can achieve in a year. But please don’t let that put you off doing this exercise. Because as Seth Godin once said:
The thing about goals is that living without them is a lot more fun, in the short run. It seems to me, though, that the people who get things done, who lead, who grow and who make an impact… those people have goals.”
This post first appeared on the Firebrand Talent Blog.
In my line of work, I see a lot of job seekers who’ve become frustrated with the job search process. I tend to see them when they’re at breaking point after sending out 100 résumés with nothing to show for it.
What they often don’t realise is that by using just one strategy to find a job (i.e. the advertised market) they’re seriously limiting themselves. For many of us, this simply isn’t the most effective way to find work.
When you want a new job and you’re coming up blank, you’ve got to be willing to throw everything at it and try a different approach.
Here are my top tips for job seekers who want to find their ideal job without the struggle:
1) Be willing to do what other job seekers are not
This isn’t as scary as it sounds. It’s actually one of my favourite strategies because it’s the easiest way to get a job. Pitching to a hiring manager or picking up the phone to invite someone for coffee, are things that most people simply don’t do. Why? These strategies bring up a lot of resistance for people because they’re anticipating how uncomfortable they will feel.
I see job seekers spend hours on a job application but they won’t take five minutes to call an employer about a job. If you can get past the discomfort, which only lasts a few seconds, you will be one of the few who do this.
You also get to find out if the job is actually right for you before applying. Plus you’ll have an opportunity to build rapport with the hiring manager to see if this is someone you want to work for.
True story: I once called an employer about a job ad that had closed. I was kicking myself that I’d missed it. The job had already gone to another candidate but the manager told me about another role that had not yet been advertised (I got the job).
Always, always pick up the phone.
2) Become a serial coffee dater
I highly recommend you start asking strangers out for coffee. It may feel slightly awkward the first couple of times, but when you’re looking for a new role, you need insights from people in the industry. I also believe that way more job offers are made over cups of frothy latte than at interviews — and for good reason.
If I was going to hire someone, I would much prefer a casual coffee meeting than a formal interview, where it’s sometimes hard to get a sense of what people are really like. If you reach out to a hiring manager, many will take the time to meet with you, if you approach them the right way.
Reaching out to others for advice and insights on their experience is a sure sign that you’re a highly motivated individual, and that’s attractive to employers.
3) Believe in what you can’t see
One trap that’s easy to fall into when you apply for jobs through the advertised market is the belief that your job search is a zero-sum game. It’s easy to have a scarcity mindset when you’re seeing so few jobs being advertised and you know you’re up against hundreds of applicants.
The competition is real when you’re answering a job ad, but you’re not seeing the full picture. Advertised roles represent only a fraction of the opportunities that are out there.
When you believe in what you can’t see, it’s easier to put yourself in situations where you’re the only candidate under consideration.
4) Make it into a game
I know job hunting is a long way from being fun. But there are ways to make it more enjoyable and when you loosen up, things seem to flow a little more easily.
I learned a trick from a mentor to help you think more creatively. You come up with three ways you could tackle a goal or challenge. For example: What are three ways I could approach this employer? Prepare for my interview? Or design my résumé? What are three ways I could get this person to say yes to my request? I always come up with a lot of new ideas whenever I do this exercise.
If you do it every day, even practising with mundane things like what to cook for dinner, it helps to build your creative muscle.
Try it and see how you go!
What’s been your most successful job search strategy?