When I first started working after college I immediately put a five year plan together and figure out where I wanted to be "professionally". I started taking all kinds of training classes, enrolled in and complete an MBA program, and said yes to every "opportunity" to prove I was a hard worker.
After accomplishing all of those things in two years I hit a salary ceiling because I "hadn't been at the company long enough". It didn't matter that I had picked up 75% of the work of someone that got let go from the company (for 9 months!) . All I got was the standard issued, politically correct HR response: put in your time to get paid more.
And we were supposed to believe we were compensated based on merit?
A Change in Mindset
Right after this performance review I made a big mental shift towards my career. I decided to scrap the dumb corporate ladder/pyramid.
I realized what I should be doing is building a career rocket.
Would you rather slowly climb up a ladder, earning 2 or 3 % raises for your whole life OR would you rather spend a few years working as hard as you possibly can to launch a rocket that can take your income earning potential through the roof?
In business school I was taught to keep looking for ways to get promoted and climb up to the next a rung (like a ladder). If I couldn't go up to the next level, I was taught to broaden my skill set sideways, by taking a lateral job change, until I could go up to the next level (like a pyramid).
Instead of grinding my way through all of these awful, boring, and unrewarding "opportunities" that were supposed to make me a "better employee" I decided to start working on what I love to do (helping people live better lives) and plan a future with a much higher earning potential than staying in a 9 to 5 ever would.
Think More Like a Child
When you find "just a job" after college or getting laid off you start getting caught up in the day to day grind and you can easily forget what you really want out of life. You start to think that what you really want is that wall full of advanced degrees, the corner office, or the stock options.
What five-year-old kid gives a damn about any of those things? They just want to have fun doing awesome things all day.
Sometimes we all just need to think a bit more like a child. Formulate a life where you wake up each day excited about what will get to do that day. Try having no goals.
No kid wants to be George Jetson pushing a button in a factory all day so that Spacely's Space Sprockets can turn a profit margin. No kid wants to be middle management at a company that makes widgets.
Kids want to be astronauts, cowboys, and archeologists. Think more like a kid when you are planning your career.
Step 1: Figure Out What You Want to Do
This step is obviously the hardest and most important step, but try not to let it stress you out. I suggest you take a one or two vacation, go somewhere by yourself, and do an annual plan for your life.
Don't worry about the you in five, ten, or twenty years from now. Worry about the "one year away" you.
Where do you want to be in all of the areas of your life: professional, relationships, health, fitness, spiritually, family, financial. Write down wherever you aspire to be a year from now.
Step 2: Slowly Take Baby Steps Towards Accomplishing Your Dreams
Once you decide what it is you want your life to be like a year from now, start making steps towards that dream every day.
- If your dream is to travel the world: get a copy of the Lonely Planet guide to New Zealand and start doing research.
- If you want to start your own business: read The Personal MBA and start formulating a plan.
- If you want a different job: contact people who have that job now and do information interviews.
Successful people are successful because they continually take baby steps towards achieving their big goals.
Step 3: Make the Decision to Spend a Year or More in the "Learn Everything" Stage
When you are making a major career change you will need to spend time in the R&D phase for a bit. You'll probably need to learn new skills (which doesn't mean you need a formal credentials) or spend time learning from the experts in your field.
During this time of your life you'll need to make some sacrifices.
- You will need to spend less time relaxing and more time moonlighting towards something that matters.
- You will need to cut back spending in certain areas of your life so that you can afford to buy equipment, coaching, training, etc.
- You may need to take a pay cut at the beginning of the transition to do something you love instead of something you dread.
Believe me: no longer waking up with a case of the Mondays is well worth the sacrifice.
Step 4: Start Taking Some Risks
When I stopped being so careful and doing the safe thing all the time I stopped being just happy on the surface. I started being happy deep down in my heart and soul. Quitting my job wasn't the "safe" thing to do. Going on a three-month road trip with my wife wasn't the "easy" way out.
Courage isn't always glamourous, but it sure can lead to a happier life.
Find areas of your life that are filled with fear and are holding you back from the life you want to live. Take risks in those areas.
Step 5: Look at the Worst-Case Scenario
Just like when I wrote about how to deal with fear in your life, you should put your mind in survival mode and determine what the absolute worst thing that could happen is if you follow your dreams.
- Moving back in with your parents.
- Going back to that job you currently hate.
- Going back to school.
The worst that could happen is not usually as bad as you think it is.
Step 6: Do It
Put aside whatever reason has been keeping you from following your dreams. Take a year to actually put in the work that can help create the live you've always dreamed of having.
Go. Take Action. Start Your Adventure.
Freedom awaits you.
What are you waiting for?