Do-it-yourself career planning

Problems at work? Change direction by first asking yourself where you'd really prefer to be, writes Jeff Hasenfratz

There you are, "off duty". So happily engrossed in what you're doing that you didn't even hear me say hello. Are you working on something?

"Heavens, no!" comes the reply. "Work isn't fun!"

Wow! If that's the case, think how much time we're wasting. Nine a.m. to whenever, six days a week, year in, year out, doing things we don't enjoy.

There has to be a better way. Time to break the mould and make our living doing something more meaningful to us, which excites and brings out the best in us. In short, time to live our passion.

"Can't do it!" you say. "Can't afford it!" It's true; if you're sure you can't do something, you're right. But let's turn things around. Let's ask instead "How can I make a good living doing what I care about?"

Simply by posing the question, you've set your mind to work generating possibilities.

Is it realistic to think you can make your living doing the things you love? Yes, but it probably won't happen overnight. You'll almost certainly need to plan and acquire the skills, knowledge and contacts necessary to make the switch.

The good news is you can move toward your dream job in stages, acquiring what you need step-by-step, via formal roles or by volunteering.

To make your living through living your passion, you'll need to be clear about what you really want and about the kind of jobs that will let you do what you love.

You'll already know what excites you most. If not, think about what you do in your free time and on vacations. Especially, ask yourself what you would willingly do for free, if you didn't have to worry about money. If that doesn't help, think about what makes your blood boil. The opposite is probably what you're really passionate about doing!

Then take the next step: identify jobs which offer a chance to do what you enjoy. Ask three people close to you to say which jobs they think you would be great at. Check Cool Careers for Dummies, which lists "normal" and off-beat jobs categorised by one's level of interest in working with people, things and data.

Now make a list of six jobs that match up. Prioritise the list, then find three people already doing the job you've picked as your first choice. Call them up and ask to meet and talk about their jobs.

Whoa! Call someone I don't know and ask about their job? You must be joking!

Absolutely not. It's called information interviewing. How else are you going to be sure that your "dream job" is really that? That you won't be spending time and energy trying to land something that turns out to be nothing like you expected?

Relax. Most people like giving advice and talking about themselves. If you ask for 20 minutes to talk about what they love (and don't) about their jobs, and how they got into those jobs, they'll be more than happy to talk to you.

And if that top priority job doesn't look so good? Move on to number two and more information interviews. Chances are you'll pick up information that helps refine your thinking and teaches you more about different industries and companies.

Once you're clear on the job you want and what's required, plan how to get there and persist.

Doesn't sound like much to ask for a markedly happier life, does it?

JEFF HASENFRATZ is managing director of MINDSIGHT, a career management services consultancy offering talent retention, career and executive coaching and outplacement services in Asia. He is a qualified executive coach and a Mandarin speaker.

Taken from Career Times 12 December 2003
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