You’re frustrated with your job or your career. Or maybe you want to be a better leader, which requires changes in your behavior (e.g., listening better). Yes, you want to make a change, perhaps even to “reinvent,” but how?
Here are some tools to start that journey, several of which we use in the Boise State Executive MBA program:
1. Commit to change (harder than it sounds).
2. Consider (lots of) alternative possibilities.
3. Select a few possibilities.
4. Test, revise, test some more and eventually create a path that fits you.
Commit to change
When we consider change, you first need to know what to change. Next, you accept the need for change: Third, you commit to change. Last, you act on that commitment. Each step is tough, takes time but is critical.
Awareness, acceptance, commitment and action. It works with behavior change and career or job change. Very difficult, potentially very rewarding.
What alternative behaviors or jobs or careers might you pursue?
Research confirms that seeking ideas from diverse people generates a wider set of possibilities than doing it alone. So reach out to lots of people, anyone who might have ideas interesting jobs for you. Try to find people who have your interests at heart but think differently.
Some people start with a set of criteria to search for new jobs — pays more, is in field X, is something I’m passionate about. That suggests you are filtering as you go, rather than doing a filter once you’ve got a big set of ideas.
I go at it from the opposite standpoint. First, generate possible ideas, and then set criteria. By keeping the list fluid at the start, you may generate ideas you’d not have considered if you begin with a narrow set of criteria.
Once you have 20 or 40 or 60 alternatives, narrow down
Now, apply some criteria. “Could I take advantage of my skills in this job?” Think as broadly as possible. For example, someone who has phenomenal organization skills might find work in organizing people (to make a film, direct a play, organize a campaign), organizing projects (manage a remodeling project, organize financial records for people who are busy or unable to do it), or organizing physical items (revamping a house or closet, moving elderly people out and into new facilities). None of these might initially come to mind, but they all have “excellent organization skills” in common.
Now, use the filter system — the job needs to be part time, near your home, providing interaction with people — whatever they may be. This list should help you narrow the possibilities down.
Choose five, research in depth
Last, choose five options and spend time researching each — talk to people who do the job, or something similar to it; read about it; see whether people need the type of work. You should probably give yourself a week or so for each possibility. If you are making a big change, give it serious attention.
Even if you do not make a change, you’ll have a better sense of what you are doing and its benefits and drawbacks. Maybe, in the end, you’ll decide reinvention can wait.
Nancy Napier is a distinguished professor at Boise State University. firstname.lastname@example.org.