Article from Sunday Times, 6 July 2008
The Sunday Times July 6, 2008
YOUR PERSONAL ADVISER: CAREER
Q "I have been a writer for over 15 years, working for just one employer. I feel jaded and seem to have lost my enthusiasm for work. As my job requires me to move around, interview people and then rush back to write my stories, I need fairly high energy levels to do a good job.
My greatest concern is that I am no longer that hungry to chase after stories. My supervisor has noticed this lack of enthusiasm/energy and has given me several pep talks. I fear I might be fired if I continue in this vein.
Over the past six months, I have been scanning the recruitment advertisements, but I haven’t found anything suitable. Just this month, it suddenly dawned on me that I don’t know what I’m looking for as my next career.
I am single and have limited financial obligations. If I leave my current job without another in hand, how would this look to prospective employers? I feel really lost. On a number of occasions, I have been tempted to just throw in the towel and take off somewhere to 'find myself'. Can you please advise me on what I should do?
A As you have been writing for a living for a long time, and with just one employer at that, I feel there could be two key reasons for the way you are feeling.
You could be feeling burnt out – and you certainly seem to be exhibiting the symptoms. However, you also mention that you have been looking for alternative employment over the past six months, so burn-out might not be the main problem.
It could be that you really need to find that next chapter in your career/life.
Everyone has what career coaches term ‘embedded life interests’ (ELIs). These refer to intrinsic interests that come about through your experiences, people we meet and interact with, and changes in your personal life. Most of the time, these interests tend not to change too drastically. However, a dramatic incident in your life could cause changes in your ELIs.
For example, since the Sept 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre in the US, some of the people who were working there have cut back on their careers to spend quality time with their loved ones. They witnessed death with their own eyes and realized that they could be ‘here today, and gone tomorrow’.
Throwing away your current job to go off to some soul searching and find yourself sounds like a scene out of a Hollywood movie. Chances are, it would not improve the situation or make you any the wiser.
Instead, a more practical strategy would be to find out what your current ELIs are. There are psychometric tools in the marketplace and trained career coaches with whom you could work with to pinpoint your ELIs.
You should also identify what your key transferable strengths/skills are. Besides writing, you should also be well-versed in the art of interviewing and working with people, for example. If you are doing financial reporting, then you are probably also good with financial numbers and at reading company data. I am sure you also have a wide network of contacts.
Once you have a better awareness of your ELIs and key transferable strengths/skills, you can be more focused when looking for your next job.
As you have been in one industry and with one company for so long, I suspect you might need to take a while to find an employer who is willing to hire you for a job you might not have performed before. Nevertheless, the task is not impossible - it is just more challenging. Whether you will succeed also depends on factors such as your academic background, age, the state of the job market, and how well you write your resume and do at your interviews.
Two final pieces of advice: One, motivate yourself to do all that is necessary in the meantime to ensure you do not get fired. Second, even if you are able to afford it, try not to resign from your current job without first finding another one. Most employers do not look at such a decision very positively. Of course, you may want to look at self-employment.
Paul Heng, Founder
NeXT Career Consulting Group, Asia