Often when my clients come to see me about a career transition, finding a new job or returning to work after a career break, they bring with them a long list of fears. Fears that have been holding them back from taking that first step in their search and fears that they use to pummel themselves when the optimistic thoughts about their careers roll in.
"I’m worried I’m going to take a job where I’ll be on all the time and I won’t have time for my family."
"I’m scared I’ll take a role where I’m doing the SAME thing I’ve been doing for 15 years and I’m dying for something different!"
"What if I need to take a pay cut?"
The thing that they want the most—whether it’s flexibility, something new, more money—is typically the area they fear they will betray themselves. While we acknowledge what’s coming up for them and why—we also work together to say, "You know that thing you’re afraid you’re going to do? Let’s decide you’re simply not going to do that!"
You can make a commitment to yourself that you will:
Identify your highest priorities for your search—and with dogged determination seek those things in every role for which you apply and in every company with whom you network.
Ask the right questions and talk to the right people to vet for the flexible culture you seek.
Know your numbers so that you’re solid on what salary you want to make.
Only pursue roles where you can grow and learn.
Refine and hone your story so you can build the bridge of how your past expertise translates to the needs of the new role.
In making this commitment, you’re recognizing that you may need to stay with a job you seriously dislike (I don’t use the "h" word) longer than if you took any job. Taking any job is one of the things you fear and, in most cases, you don’t need to do that. You’re being thoughtful about your next move. You’re focusing on what YOU want this time, and the freedom that brings will refuel you in those moments that bring you crashing down in your current situation.
Now, let’s make it official. It’s one thing to make a promise in your head and it’s a whole other thing to put that sucker down in writing. I’m not saying it’s legally binding, but when you make a contract with yourself, you experience an entirely new level of accountability.
Here’s how I work with clients to make a contract with themselves:
Identify your top 3 MUST HAVE needs for your next role.
Write a short contract that looks like the sample, below.
Hang it where you can see it daily.
Read it daily.
I, Rachel Garrett, on this 10th day of April in the year 2018, declare that I will make the following priorities in my job search.
I define flexibility as the ability to work from home one day per week. If that is not possible, it can also be that I am able to work from home "every so often" to go on a school trip, help when a child is sick, go to a doctor’s appointment or take care of a home task that can only be done in my presence. It means that I am valued in my role and that my employer understands that if I’m able to complete my life tasks, I will be more productive at work.
Ideally, I want to make X and will not take a role for lower than Y.
A Competent Leader Who’s Not An Asshole
An inspiring leader would be a dream come true, but I would also be happy with a competent leader who allows me to run my own program and be supportive when I need him/her to be. I promise myself that I will do all that I can to learn about my new leader before taking a role, whether it’s interviewing others on the team or trusting my gut when asshole red flags appear in the interview process.
With every opportunity, I commit to reviewing these three priorities to make sure they are present in that new role AND I also commit that I will NOT accept a role if these three variables are NOT present in the opportunity.
In my experience, the contract puts clients at ease by requiring them to get clear on their priorities for their search and in reminding them that it is possible to put their priorities first. Once you’ve put the contract in place for your career—the possibilities of where this approach can work are endless. Romantic partner contract anyone? For all of my type A’s out there, this is where you’re going to leverage your expertise in documentation and order to find what you really want in life. And for everyone else, getting your priorities out of your head and onto paper can make a huge impact in getting what you want.