Itching to ditch your day job for your dream job?
You’re not alone. Record numbers of workers are quitting in what’s being called The Great Resignation. The pandemic’s served up a wake-up call that’s reordered our priorities and left many of us wanting a different, better and more meaningful way to earn a living. Maybe you’re dreaming of writing a book, launching a business or going out on your own as a consultant or coach.
But what if you’re a little hazy on the details of your dream job, like what it is, how to get there and how long it’ll take to reinvent yourself.
Again, you’re not alone.
It’s easy to sail through life on autopilot, frenetically filling our days and years with busy work that keeps us distracted, makes us feel important but ultimately leaves us unfulfilled.
“So many of us today feel rushed, overwhelmed and perennially behind,” says Dorie Clark, author of The Long Game: How to be a Long-term Thinker in a Short-term World.
“We keep our heads down, always focused on the next thing. We’re stuck in permanent ‘execution mode’ without a moment to take stock or ask questions about what we really want from life.”
Here’s how to break out of execution mode and find your way to more meaningful work and a happier life.
Start by making tough choices. Decide what you won’t be good at. Learn to say no. Yes, people will be disappointed when you turn down their requests and pass on their offers and opportunities. But to be a strategic, long-term thinker, you need lots of what Clark calls white space.
“Being so busy may seem like the path to success – but without time to reflect, an ominous possibility looms: what if we’re optimizing for the wrong things? We need to give ourselves the opportunity to explore what a successful life means to us.”
Clark also recommends “optimizing for interesting” to find what’s most meaningful to you. What piques your curiosity? What are you already doing that you enjoy? Where are you volunteering your time and talent?
You’ll also need to get better at three types of networking so you have the right people connecting, coaching, advising and mentoring you along the way. There’s short-term networking when you need something fast like a job or a new client. “Do it sparingly and only with people you already have close relationships with,” says Clark.
Use long-term networking to connect with interesting people who you admire, respect and enjoy. “These people may be potentially helpful to you in the future, but in indeterminate ways.”
You should also build relationships with fascinating people in diverse fields through what Clark calls infinite horizon networking. “You’re building the connection out of pure interest in them as a person.”
And finally, keep the faith. It’ll take years to become an overnight success – Clark says five years is a realistic timeline. There’s no quick and easy pivot from where you are today to where you want to be tomorrow. “Here’s the thing about playing the long game,” says Clark. “At times, it can be lonely, maddening, and unfulfilling. It’s worth it in the end. But in the moment, it often feels like a complete, humiliating waste of time.”
Strategic patience will get you through the inevitable false and slow starts, setbacks, rejections, failures, self-doubt and the second guessing from family and friends who can’t believe you quit your day job.
“In the short term, what gets you accolades – from family, from peers, from social media – is what’s visible: the stable job, the beach vacation, the nice new car. It’s easy to get swept along. No one ever gives you credit for doing what’s slow and hard and invisible.
“But we can’t just optimize for the short term and assume that will translate into long-term success. We have to be willing to do hard, laborious, ungratifying things today – the kind of things that make little sense in the short term – so we can enjoy exponential results in the future. With small, methodical steps, almost anything is attainable.”
Jay Robb serves as communications manager in McMaster University’s Faculty of Science, lives in Hamilton and has reviewed business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999. This review first ran in the July 3 Hamilton Spectator.