Is it time to change your job?

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"Maybe you’re just ready for something different.”

There’s a new book out from the career center of my alma mater, Wake Forest University. It’s called Five for Your First FiveBuy it immediately for any recent grads you know. And then buy it for everyone else, too, as I’m finding it a great read and roadmap for anyone, at any stage in his or her career.

I was just at my class reunion on the Wake Forest campus and got to meet author Allison McWilliams, who is a leader of the University’s Office of Personal Career Development.

She has spent years studying and developing training programs around mentoring, professional development and leadership, and she is doing the lord’s work guiding students and alumni through the promised land of work and life and how it all fits together.

Here I’ll share just a bit on one of Allison’s five areas to master after college. It's the one I think is most relevant to those of us already in the workforce for a few -- or a bunch -- of years: she calls it Own What's Next.

I love this chapter because, like a good therapist, she pinpoints what we all wonder but may not say out loud. And then what to do about it.

How do I know it’s time to make a change?

What if I’m happy in the job I have – is it bad to stay?

Maybe I’m just ready for something different.

I know what change I want to make but I’m feeling paralyzed.

Am I really supposed to have 20 jobs in my work lifetime and make a change every three to five years? (This is somewhat of a mantra for some Millennials…)

(And for those of us in the talent strategy and engagement business, never forget that all your employees are pondering these questions at least a few times a year. Putting ourselves in their shoes, understanding what they are trying to solve will do wonders for your recruitment and retention strategy.)

Owning what’s next is about paying attention to what you’ve learned about what you love and are good at thus far, and what excites you looking ahead. It’s realizing that no one else is going to advocate for you and plan for you like you can and must. And it’s about the reality that we could all use some tools and compassion in figuring out the moves we can make in pursuit of the best careers we can create for ourselves.

Naturally, she outlines steps to help you with your owning. I won’t go through them all here but will simply share and add my two cents to a few pieces of Allison’s wisdom.

  • It’s about playing the long game. Be smart about why you are where you are, what you want to learn in that experience so you can take it to your next. (Which may well be inside the company where you already work.)

  • It’s OK to be happy. And the grass is not, in fact, always greener elsewhere. (And don’t forget, the grass is greener where it gets watered …)

  • Make sure you are moving toward something, rather than away from something. (“Just get me out of here” is not a strategy, unless you are in physical, legal or moral peril…)

  • Do your homework, and be curious. (Allison notes the “curiosity conversations” that Academy award winning producer Brian Grazer is known for, in which he reaches out to people outside the film industry to learn about what they do, what goes on in their lives. It’s a lifelong learning habit.

  • Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Don’t get so fixated on finding the perfect job, role, boss, that amazingly good experiences pass you by.

And please, please – live each day while doing this work. Five For Your First Five wisely urges us to “Build a life” and “Practice Reflection” along with doing the homework. In my world, owning what’s next includes making room for some serendipity, for what shows up that you might not have expected and could take you in a wonderful and whole new direction.






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