How to … reinvigorate your career

by 06 Mar 2007

Why is it important?

In an average career span of 40 to 50 years, it is likely that at some stage your job will turn out not as you had wanted and become a source of frustration and dissatisfaction. And the chances are that you, your organisation or your career path to date will have route-marched it there. But you don’t have to stay stuck in the grey zone.

The guidelines below will help you to overcome your career crisis, regain control and start to find a new direction. “Once clear about the reasons, you can identify where your ideal destination lies, adjust the course and head for it,” explains Sue Howson, head of career development at Penna, a human capital management consultancy.

Where do I start?

Make a diagnosis of your career and development to date. You can do this double-quick by sketching a career lifeline, marking out the highs and the lows and pinpointing what factors played a part. This might include the job function or content of work at the time, the working style of an immediate manager and the culture of the organisation.

“Patterns will quickly emerge, but a more in-depth diagnosis needs to ask some fundamental questions,” says Howson. These should include: When have I been happiest in my career and why?; What do I want more of, what do I want less of and what do I want to change?; How good am I at personal marketing and networking?; and Do I set myself goals and stick to achieving them?.

Have a game plan

Imagine what you want to be doing in five and ten years’ time. Think about how it affects your life as a whole – your family, friends, financial commitments and leisure interests. This will provide clear objectives and milestones to focus on when setting out to revitalise your career.

Do what you believe in

If your particular role or work environment makes you feel out of step with the world and unable to express the real you, donating time and expertise to the voluntary sector for a few hours a week could restore your sense of purpose.

“Many people are developing second careers in parallel with their first – often in non-profit organisations or as social entrepreneurs with charities that are close to their hearts or values,” says Howson.

Engage a coach

Seeking the advice of an experienced executive coach might be another route to identifying the best way forward. As well as providing unbiased support and advice, coaches can talk through the ins and outs of a particular role or career move and help to reinstate a positive outlook and focus.

Outside interests

For some, work is only one part of the equation. Having a fulfilling personal and social life can be enough to compensate for any career disappointments, shortcomings or setbacks.

Finding stimuli outside of your job can also be less drastic than a full-blown career switch. Set aside time to do things you enjoy most – whether that’s playing tennis or attending art classes.

Having good times with a strong support network of family and friends can also help you to re-energise yourself.

Celebrate your successes

Many people make the mistake of realising their goals or objectives without appreciating how far they’ve come or celebrating their successes along the way. If you gain new skills or objectives, it is important to value these achievements.

“Identify how you might sabotage it and how you will reward yourself when you achieve a milestone,” explains Howson. “Too often we reach it, tick it off and move on – not taking time to enjoy the feeling of achievement and success.”

Second opinion on reinvigorating your career

Sue Howson, head of career development, Penna

What is the most significant change anyone can make when their career is in the doldrums?

Have flexibility and a can-do attitude at the heart of everything you do, and believe in your own self-worth and ability. Positive self-belief breeds success - by possessing high confidence and self-worth you will project a positive image which, in turn, improves communication, increases motivation, job satisfaction, engagement and performance.

What should be avoided?

Don't make decisions in isolation. Canvass opinion from family or colleagues. The world often sees you very differently from how you see yourself and you can learn a lot from these conversations.

Don't simply add to your CV. Be aware of changing trends in the recruitment market, and be prepared for a complete rewrite. This is as relevant for internal moves as for external ones.

Don't underestimate the stamina and commitment required. Further training, moving out of your comfort zone and volunteering to work in new ways with different teams all require personal change. Will you go the distance or give up at the first hurdle?

Are there any new theories on reinvigorating your career?

Penna has conducted many surveys that confirm career development as a very important factor in choosing to join or stay with an employer. Meanwhile, employers often pay lip service to the concept of career development - showing the will but less frequently the way. This causes frustration and boredom, which leads to untapped potential and poor productivity. As the workforce gets older, organisations need to get real about helping older workers to reinvigorate their careers, with initiatives such as flexible working, community involvement, lifelong learning and mentoring programs.

My advice on career reinvigoration has to be to think about your career as a series of projects and 'experiences' - not a job for life. Diagnose before taking control and don't be afraid to share your hopes and aspirations with your employer. It has to be a two-way dialogue. A good employer will want to develop its homegrown talent so that everyone benefits.

For more information

The Authentic Career, Maggie Craddock, New World Library, ISBN 1577314387

By Scott Beagrie. Courtesy of Personnel Today magazine.