“At what point in your career were you most satisfied?”

“At what point in your career were you most satisfied?”

This is a question I overheard today and it is genius. I wanted to immediately “high five” the person who said it! For most of us, when we are ready for a career change, we get caught up in the idea of “What CAN I do?” We ask people “How’s the job market look?” We get to checking job boards, applying online, and basically getting busy. But how many of us have really stopped to think about what we really love and conversely, what we don’t love about our past work?

I believe taking the time to reflect on what we really want is THE vital component to finding it. There was a time in my career when I was desperately ready for a change but I didn’t want to do the same job in a different company. I needed a total career revamp. Luckily, I had a friend named Debbie who essentially forced me kicking and screaming to sit down and brainstorm. We grabbed a sheet of paper, drew a line down the middle and listed on one side all the aspects of every job I’d ever held that I loved. And I mean every job, down to what did I love about bartending in college and working in a flower shop in high school. These were things like working with great people, new challenges every day, helping people, making a difference to the bottom line, coaching, and a fast paced work environment. I’ll admit it, one of the things on this list was “Free Diet Coke”. Then on the other side of that line, I listed all the things I hated, like monotony, having my hands tied and feeling unappreciated. These two lists initially frustrated me, because I thought I would find my ideal job description just popping off the page at me. But what I found instead was the ideal work environment and the values that mattered to me.

By knowing what I liked in all my jobs I was able to better screen through job opportunities and passionately pursue what aligned with my list. Once I knew WHERE I needed to be, I could speak with more clarity, giving potential employers specific examples of how what I had done in the past was a match to what they needed done now. And I not only could tell them what I was great at, I could tell them exactly what I was looking for in return for those skills.

It was almost a decade ago that I was telling this story about “my pros & cons list” to a friend Heather. She grabbed the guy next to her, a recruiter named Kevin, who told me “Hey, you could do my job!” In the interview for that job, I was able to explain how eight years of operations and logistics support experience (which in my mind was really just talking on the phone) would translate into a dynamo recruiter (which was also just talking on the phone). And it turns out, I did get Kevin’s job and completely fell in love with recruiting. I believe I found my true career path thanks to Debbie’s insistence I reflect and get clear on what I could bring to a company and what I truly wanted. It was these two lists that helped me change from “All I can do is x, y, z…” to realizing exactly what I want and all the skills I could bring to the table. And to this day I still get free Diet Coke at work.

By Dixie Agostino, HRCI Chair for Tulsa Area Human Resources Association and CEO of Switchgear Search & Recruiting

For more information, answers or a chilled Diet Coke, contact Dixie Agostino at our contact us page.