Do you find yourself zoning out when you’re supposed to be focused? Are things so routine, you don’t even have to think about how to do your work anymore? Do you constantly fear others will discover that you’re not doing the high-quality work you think you should? Maybe you’ve just realized that you like your job, but you want to love it.
For any of these reasons and many more, you may have suddenly found yourself feeling like your work could be so much better. You’re certainly not alone in this. Flexible working jobs board Flex Jobs conducted a survey and found that finding a better work-life balance is the number one reason why people want to change careers. Better salary came in at number two, and the third reason was finding a more meaningful career.
If any of that sounds familiar, but you’re not quite ready to quit your job, there is something you can do. You can try to shift your current role into something that looks more like your ideal career.
Take a good, long look at your life
As crazy as it sounds, you need to start by looking at your life, rather than your work. Your ideal role will align with your personal life, so identify the three most important parts of your personal life. Do you want to spend more time with your kids? Do you want to exercise more or spend more time on hobbies? Do you want to be able to travel?
Now you can ask yourself whether your job supports these ideals or hinders them. How? Why? What would need to change to get the balance right? Make a note of all of these thoughts.
Understand your values
When it comes to working, what we do is highly overrated. It must feel great to feel like you’re making the world a better place, but if the work environment is full of toxic bullying and backbiting, then you won’t come home feeling fulfilled, no matter how many lives you improved during the course of your day.
Instead of concentrating on what work you want to do, think about what matters to you in a job. Do you prefer working alone or in a team? Do you want flexible hours or a set schedule? In short, what would your ideal working environment look like?
Next, put those things in order from absolutely must-have, all the way down to “would be nice if”. Put a number value next to each one if that helps. If “strong communication in the team” is more important to you than “flexible hours” or “ability to lead”, for example, you can start to see where your priorities lie.
Now look at the job you have. Where is it going really well, and where can it be improved, based on this list of priorities? Is there scope to move the job so that your most important priorities can be met? Do you need to improve your own skills in certain areas to make your job better?
Ask the experts
All this work should start giving you a pretty good idea of what you’d like to do in your current job, so you should be able to find people out there who are already doing something similar. Try to find people who have a role more like what you want yours to be, and try to find others who have successfully shifted their roles. It might take some asking around or digging on LinkedIn, but you should find them.
Once you do, ask for their experiences. From those who shifted their roles, you’ll want to know what they did well when they shifted and what they learned. What would they do differently now? How did they approach their manager, and how did their manager react?
From those who are in similar roles to what you want, you can ask what the working day is really like, what sort of training they need to do their jobs and what sort of transferable skills you have. See if their experience matches well with your list of work priorities. With this sort of information, you can decide if this is indeed the direction you want to go in, or if you need to rethink.
Shoot your shot
This might be the toughest part because now you need to make your case. You know what you want in your new role, and you know what it will take. But you need to align that with the company’s goals and your manager or boss’s priorities. You will need to prove that this shift is best for everyone.
You will need to start at the beginning by explaining what is and isn’t working for you. You don’t need to go into a lot of detail, really, but you do need to make it clear that your current job isn’t perfect and you have a plan to improve it.
Now, outline the plan. Explain what needs to change and how you will do it. If they need to support you in certain ways, bring this up, but make sure it is clear that you are taking ownership of this change.
If you need to improve your own skills, make sure to mention it. There is a case to be made for employers paying for their employees’ training and further education, but you could take part-time online courses outside of work time. You will still want to make sure your boss knows this is happening, however, so that they know why you aren’t working late as often or if any other special arrangements need to be made.
Finally, be ready to compromise. The nature of this sort of approach is that you will have a certain set of needs and the company will have a different set, and you will need to find the place where they meet. The beauty of the numbered list of work priorities is that you immediately know where you can and can’t compromise. That means that when the negotiations start, you know what you can’t live without, so you won’t accidentally throw the baby out with the bathwater in the heat of the moment. And if the worst happens and they refuse to let you shift your role, you will have laid some excellent groundwork for a new job hunt. So start your planning now!