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New year, a new direction

Jo Ouston

In her first blog of the new year, Jo Ouston from Jo Ouston & Co, offers her tips on how to take your career in a new direction

New year, new direction?

Ready to take on the world after the Christmas break, it’s no surprise that lots of people return to work in the new year thinking about their next career move. 

The grass isn’t always greener

In the present economic climate, many are working harder with longer hours and fewer people to share the workload. Opportunities for advancement may be limited. Work may be less fun. Many will feel frustrated in their current job and want a fresh start. But we have to assess the situation accurately and get the diagnosis right. Is the problem the role we are in? Is it the organisation we are employed by? Or is it the industry or sector we are working in? The grass may seem greener elsewhere but it is essential to take a realistic view. Perhaps all companies in your sector will be experiencing the same pressures. You might not be in the wrong job at all. Sometimes ‘sticking it out’ is essential to gain experience or as a stepping stone to where you want to be.

Taking stock

To make an informed decision you need to start with a rigorous self-assessment. This career review should be as much about who you are as what you’ve done. Many don’t recognise their full potential, taking too narrow a view of what they can and can’t do based on their recent industry experience or job title. We need to sell either knowledge or experience to a potential new employer but often we do not realise what we’ve got that could be transferrable. It is important to start at the beginning and work forward to see how you got to where you are now. What were your interests and enthusiasms during your school days? Who were the friends, teachers, relations and others that inspired and encouraged you? What were your dreams and ambitions and how did these affect your choices? What were the constraints and obstacles and how did you tackle them? What talents did you discover? Above all, what were the things that energised you and made you happy?

The road ahead

If this reflection leads you to a ‘Eureka’ moment and you decide your real passion in life is to become a scuba diving instructor rather than spend another twenty years as an accountant, in reality, just how employable will you be? Transferable skills are often the route into a new sector and may be the key to any change of direction. Rather than trying to persuade an employer to take you on with no experience and basic qualifications, a more realistic route would be to use your existing skills – say, as an accountant – to get a job in the sector that attracts you. For example an adventure holiday company. Once there you can rub shoulders with the right people and get the training, experience and contacts to get you to where you want to go. In simple terms, making a change becomes a trade-off between the things that you want – to satisfy your own needs, ambitions, values and personal preferences ¬– and the capabilities you have that an employer will pay for. The trick is to sell your skills and experience into an environment where you can use them and where you want to be.   

Vocation before occupation

And remember, your real vocation in life doesn’t have to form the basis of your job. Thousands of people are passionate about things that they don’t get paid for and that they keep separate from their working life. You might choose to take a manual or service job that is ‘work and finish’ – eg in a bar or restaurant – so that you have time and means to follow your real passion – for volunteering, music, travel, family life or even writing that novel. 


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