About a decade ago I was fortunate enough to be listening to the Olympic Gold rower Ben Hunt-Davis who shared the extraordinary story of the 1998 GB Men’s Rowing Eight team. After, a period of consistently failing to win medals they acknowledged the need to adopt a different approach, recognising that their methods were not giving them the results they wanted. At the heart of their new strategy was the question; ‘Will it make the boat go faster?’ This question was used as the determining factor for every action they took in the 18 months leading up to the 1998 Olympics in Sydney, it became their test. If they couldn’t answer the question with a positive response then they didn’t do it. This focus and determined approach resulted in them winning gold.
Why am I sharing this with you? Well, the same strategy can be applied to our careers. If we aren’t where we want to be in our careers, if it’s not giving us what we need then we have to make changes. If we are feeling dissatisfied in our careers but continue to do the same then we can’t expect things to change. From personal experience, I know this too well. I had fallen out of love with my job in HR; I was going through the motions. I would make slight tweaks, like changing the part of the business I supported, would get involved in projects, but nothing significant that changed the activities and skills I was using. If we continue to do the same we can expect the same results. Our careers are something we control, we can tell ourselves stories of why now isn’t the right time to take action, but they are just that stories, excuses. In fact, there are only a handful of scenarios when it really may not be the best time to change jobs which you can explore in my blog When Should I Not Change Jobs.
Going back to our rowing team, they had a clear goal - they wanted to win gold, but in order to do that they needed to move quicker in the water, they needed the boat to go faster. By having a clear goal we can start to take action and make decisions which move us closer to our goal. If we have a clear view of what we want our future to look like we can then develop our own test question to make decisions about our career. By being focused on our approach and checking that we can see how our actions and behaviours will move us towards our goal, we will achieve success faster.
But what if you don’t know what your next career move is, you don’t know what the next chapter looks like? In this scenario turn the focus to think about what you want for your future self. Returning to my own experience as an example, I wasn’t clear what I wanted to do as an alternative to HR. Instead, I focused on what I did know. I knew I wanted to return to the UK, I wanted to spend time with my family and get to know my niece and nephews. I knew I wanted a relationship and that I wanted to live in my own home again. I wanted variety in the work I did and the location and to have freedom in when and where I worked. My test question became ‘will this take me to my ideal future self?’ If this is you, start by creating a vision of your ideal future self, start with the bigger picture in mind.
Quite often when we are working through a career change we will be tested with an opportunity close to what we are trying to escape. Our fears may take over at this point and if we are not careful we accept preferring to stick with what we know and talk ourselves out of the change we had intended. I experienced this several times, the first was an HR Director position in the UK, but not close to friends and family and the second was an interim HR Consultancy role overseas. However, when I applied my test question I couldn’t answer positively. Neither would give me the freedom to spend time with family and friends or the freedom to work on what I wanted and when. Short term both opportunities would hit the financial element but if I said yes to either they were not taking me closer to my goal; in fact, both opportunities would have moved me in the opposite direction at best delaying what I ultimately wanted and at worst preventing it from happening.
Making career decisions can be tough, but if we apply these principles we have a higher chance of achieving our goals.
- Get clear on what you want for your future ideal self.
- Develop your test question.
- As you take action and are presented with decisions to make, consider how they are going to get you closer to your goal.
- If you can’t answer positively, get clear as to why you are potentially doing this. Are you willing to delay or stop yourself from living your ideal life?
If you are desperate to quit your job and take your career in a different direction but don't know how, or where to start then I invite you to join me on my upcoming Retreat. Working with me over a three-month you will start to get clarity on your next career move and develop a toolkit to get you there. Will this make your boat move faster? If a career change is what you are after - then yes!