How to use this time to understand your career likes and dislikes

At Escape, we believe in doing work that matters to you and the world. We help people navigate the winding road of career change.

Career change can feel messy and daunting at the best of times, but even more so when it is triggered by situations out of our control.

Right now, many of us are facing uncertainty, but if we take small steps, we can help shift ourselves into a new career direction that is more aligned with our values and accounts for our career likes and dislikes.

If there is one gift that we’ve been given during this crisis, it is time. We are in Lockdown and we can use the time that we usually spent navigating a daily commute to our advantage.

We can use this extra time to think, test and build our way to work that matters.

It starts by asking the right questions and taking small actions, which will create opportunities in new ways.

Right now, we suggest that you start to understand the depths of your ‘why’.

For many people, what we think of as a ‘good career’ has usually been defined or influenced by friends, family, teachers and colleagues. 

It often includes getting an annual bonus, being promoted, and having a company car. These are ‘good things’, sure. But there are plenty of other ‘good things’ – which may, or may not, be more important to you. Things which are based on your own inherent career likes and dislikes, not somebody else’s.

Also, the times that we find ourselves in right now are proof that the status quo is being challenged. 

Paint yourself a picture of what ‘good’ looks like to you, which you can use as your compass as you navigate career change.

It’s useful to think about this as your very own ‘Good Career Criteria’. 

Good Career Criteria Canvas

The challenge is to write yourself a definitive guide to what matters to you above all else.

Use this canvas to think through what matters to you:

  • My guiding values are…
  • I want to change my career or find a new job because…
  • Success, to me, means…
  • My skills and resources include…
  • My time and money constraints include…

Look at what emerges strongly from each of these. Are there any themes? What rises the surface as an absolute must-have? This tells you what your Good Career Criteria are – jot them down in the box at the bottom of the Good Idea Criteria document.

These three elements will become the criteria by which you assess every new opportunity: they’re aspirational and practical and should always be referred to when you are considering new job opportunities.

We can now spend a bit more time with the day-to-day experiences that make up your work.

Listing ‘career likes and dislikes’ sounds deceptively simple – but there’s a lot that this kind of deliberate thinking can tell you about which directions to look at and which to turn away from. The goal here is to reflect on your past in order to find meaningful clues about your future.

We take a lot of aspects of our work for granted – so this step is about getting to grips with the details and paying attention to the full range of your experience.

Exercise: Identify your career likes & dislikes

Let’s start with the positive. 

Write down as many experiences as you can – big and small, specific and general – that you’ve enjoyed as part of your work to date. These could be related to the nature of the work itself, the environment, the team, the tasks or the industry.

Consider:

  • What have you looked forward to on your way to work? Why?
  • What’s your favourite aspect of any projects or roles you’ve been involved in?
  • When have you been pleased to be asked to complete a task? Why?
  • What has excited you?
  • When have you felt immersed and engaged in your work?
  • When have you been most proud of your work?
  • What are you doing when it feels like time’s flying by?
  • Think of a time when you couldn’t wait to get out of bed. What were you about to do?

Some of these questions might prompt examples that fall outside your day-to-day paid work. Include them anyway – they tell you what you might look for in the ingredients of your future (paid) work.

Now move onto your dislikes.

… again writing down as many examples as you can think of.

  • What have you dreaded? Why?
  • What’s your least favourite aspect of any projects or roles you’ve been involved in?
  • When has your heart sunk when you’ve been asked to do something? Why?
  • When have you felt bored?
  • When have you found it especially hard to concentrate or get into your work?
  • What really frustrates you? What do you have no patience for?

Great – your answers to these questions have painted a picture of what’s important for you to pursue or to avoid. 

Are there any themes? See if you can summarise any important strands that will later help you navigate your choices and design a career that works for you. Let us know how you get on determining your genuine career likes and dislikes!

In the midst of this strange period, we’ve compiled a few free resources which could help you:

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