Make your own career decisions this Christmas

Christmas is prime time for catching up with loved ones – whether that will be in person or over video calls this year. However, if you are currently feeling unhappy in your current role, you are, no doubt, dreading being asked the inevitable question: “So how is your job going?” You wouldn’t mind usually, but right now this is a loaded question, simply because the truthful answer is “not great”.

More so, you know that the minute those well-meaning friends and relatives hear that you are thinking of switching jobs, they will start to weigh in on this decision. On the one hand, you may have family members telling you to stay in your current secure and permanent role, as opposed to trying something new or switching to contract-based work, despite the fact you are unhappy and are looking for more career flexibility. On the other hand, your friends might try to convince you that switching jobs is a great idea, recommending you move into their industry because (cue subtle brag) it’s so well paid and they get so many perks. Either way, you’ll have advice coming at you from all directions, which can be confusing to say the least. For example, I’ve heard a beloved auntie give a passionate hour-long critique of careers in digital content management based exclusively on her 30 years of experience as a dental receptionist.

Whilst your friends and family will, of course, have the best of intentions, your career journey needs to be governed by you, and you only. So how can you tune out these voices and make your own career decisions this Christmas?

What do you want?

Firstly, I would advise that you have a clear idea of what the bigger picture has in store for you. Where do you want to be in one, three and five years’ time? Which role type, job remit, company size and industry will propel you further towards your ambitions? Once you are feeling clear and determined about this, start to think about any negativity you may be faced with when you relay this information to friends and family. Which neatly brings me onto my next point.

Which risks are involved?

Which risks are involved in your next move, and which are you realistically willing to take? For example, you may have a fairly well paid administrative role at the moment, but you want to retrain to become an accountant. You know this would probably involve finding a paid training opportunity which offers less money. The gambles involved are usually what prompts well intentioned warnings from the people who care about you. However, some of the riskiest moves can be the most rewarding.

Here are some of the most common risks I have seen jobseekers make – some of which I have made myself:

  • Relocating for a role

Moving city or country for your career is a giant leap of faith – particularly in today’s climate where moving countries could mean you aren’t able to visit your homeland freely. You will miss people, and they will miss you. Naturally the people closest to you may try to discourage this move. Just remember your reasons for wanting to make the move; whether it’s to increase your Cultural Intelligence or progress your career. When I first moved from the UK to Portugal, some of my loved ones talked about how tough they thought the move would be – they weren’t trying to be negative, they were just projecting how they themselves would feel about making such a move. I was right not to let their fears affect my decision.

  • Taking a step back to go forward

Sometimes, when we realise what it is we really want in the long term, we have to make a sacrifice. You may want to pursue a completely different path to your current one, as such this means abandoning the career ladder you have been climbing so far, and starting again from scratch. In turn this can mean investing in professional training, making a horizontal career move, or taking a pay cut and a decrease in responsibility. I would say that as long as this move is financially viable for you, then put your passions first and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I truly believe it’s better for your own wellbeing and fulfilment to be at the bottom of the right career ladder, rather than at the top of the wrong one.

  • Switching to contracting

It’s not uncommon for permanent professionals to make the switch over to contracting roles for the sake of flexibility, a more focused job remit or the opportunity to achieve some quick wins for their CV.

Be warned that some may discourage you from taking this route, due to the uncertainty of this form of employment. This isn’t a decision to be taken lightly, and you will need to factor in how you feel about managing your own day to day financial administration such as tax return forms. You will also need to be extremely organised and proactive in ensuring you have a good network of contacts and pipeline of future opportunities, and you will need to build and maintain a relationship with a professional recruiter.

However if you have thought this decision through, and you know you are going to commit to making each contract a success, then don’t let anybody underestimate your ability to have a successful contracting career.

You can’t prepare for every eventuality, and in some instances, your friends or family may have a valid point. However, if you have really thought the above risks through beforehand, and have decided that these are gambles you are willing to take, then these negative voices won’t come as a surprise nor cause for confusion.

Don’t shut people out

With the above in mind, remember your friends and family may have something insightful to add based on their own experiences, so don’t avoid the topic of your career altogether. They may have some motivational words to reinforce your self-confidence, or act as devil’s advocates and produce questions or points of view that hadn’t occurred to you.

Friends and family can also act as a great support network, provided you actually tell them your plans. They may have a useful contact that they can introduce you to, or at least some insights and advice based on their own experience.

The trick therefore is to use the above advice to solidify what it is you want and the gambles you are willing to take, so that you aren’t easily led in the wrong direction but can still spot useful advice when it comes about.

The Christmas break is a great opportunity to reflect upon what you really want from your career, and what your next move might entail. Don’t compare yourself to others however, and don’t place their opinions above your own gut instincts. Like I said in the beginning, only you know which opportunities will spark your passion, and which risks you are willing to take to secure these opportunities, so don’t let anyone else have undue influence over your career decisions this Christmas.

Author: Chris Dottie, Managing Director Hays Spain


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