538: How To Define Your Ideal Career When Making A Career Change


on this episode

Making an intentional career change isn’t about compromising or settling, it’s about figuring what it would take for you to thrive in your work and then going after that ideal career! In this episode, Scott is joined by career coach Ben Fox to discuss the work they do with clients to help them think outside of what they’ve ever imagined, or thought possible, to define their ideal career. If you know you need to make a career change but feel stuck not knowing what your next role could be, this is a must-listen! 

What you’ll learn

  • How to use the ideal career profile to define your career minimums and must-haves
  • Strategies to overcome mental barriers in the career change process
  • Practical insights into transforming your career by defining what you want

Success Stories

They went from a total comp package of $165K to $359K. Wow! Wow! Wow! I’m over the moon right now and really in shock! They reiterated how I was worth every penny and said “You can find anyone with technical expertise, but someone with your disposition and DNA is hard to come by! We can’t wait for you to join the team and are so glad we could make this work for us.” I can’t thank you all enough for your coaching, encouraging support during these last few months! I’ve landed the role of my dreams along with the comp I wanted and knew that I deserved.

Jessica , Chief Learning Officer, United States/Canada

during this last transition to Seattle, while working with Lisa, that help was just what I needed right then to go from where I knew I could go to where I got.

Mike Bigelow, Senior Project Manager, United States/Canada

Exactly 5 weeks from when I arrived in Canada I got a full time job, negotiated a higher salary and within the next 3 days I got another offer that pays 33% more. I am happy and very thankful to you, for you gave me support when I was looking and offered great tips.

Ingrid , United States/Canada

My favorite part of the career change boot camp was actually having some of those conversations and getting feedback and positive feedback about strengths. And to me that was key, because in that moment, I realized that my network not only is a great for finding the next role, it also is helpful to… they help you remind you who you are and who you will be in your next role, even if the current circumstances are not ideal.

Elizabeth , Digital Marketing Analytics Strategist, United States/Canada

Ben Fox 00:01

Along the way in your life, you are told "no." Or you are forced to do certain things that then close the door over time towards what it is you really wanted

Introduction 00:22

This is the Happen To Your Career podcast with Scott Anthony Barlow. We hope you stop doing work that doesn't fit you. Figure out what does and make it happen. We help you define the work that is unapologetically you, and then go get it. If you feel like you were meant for more, and you're ready to make a change, keep listening. Here's Scott. Here's Scott. Here's Scott.

Scott Anthony Barlow 00:47

Here's one for you. What does thriving at work mean to you? This should be a simple question. But we find that most people are basing their answers off of what they don't want, or something that is better than where they're at now. An example. Well, I don't want all the office politics at work or I want more flexibility. Those sound reasonable, right? But even if you achieve them, you're probably far from thriving. This means that the biggest thing holding you back is that you aren't allowing yourself to dream big enough or specifically enough.

Ben Fox 01:24

We're not basing this off of any reality that you've noticed. We don't want to use what already existed. We want to dream. Dreams are from the collective unconscious. So we need to get into a different mindset.

Scott Anthony Barlow 01:40

That's Ben Fox. He's a career coach at HTYC. He's made quite a few of his own career changes, which include teaching, owning his own business, even acting. And if his voice sounds familiar, then it's because you've heard his full career story in Episode 496. We'll link that up in the show notes if you're interested in going back to listen. Ben describes coaching as working with people to stretch beyond what they thought was possible to achieve their dreams. I love that description. He's the perfect person to have on today to talk about how we work with clients to think outside of what they've ever imagined, or what they've ever thought possible to define their ideal career. More importantly, for you to be able to take some of what we've learned working with clients, and use it for yourself. Ben is someone who dreams very big. And as a coach, it allows him to lead by example, and help clients get clear on what their career must haves are and then to push through their mental barriers to figure out what is in fact an ideal situation, and what does that even truly mean. Breaking down what we call our must haves and ideals, when it comes to our career seems like a pretty simple concept, but the funny thing is, we limit ourselves much more than we realize, and we don't even know what's going on. And part of the reason for that is because we only know that what we have heard of or experienced ourselves, which means that if we don't have exposure to something, this creates a limitation that we don't even know that we don't know. In this episode with Ben, we walk you through specific exercises that we use with our clients, to get them to dig deep, and figure out what they would want, what they do want out of their career if there were no limitations. We also share the number one tool we use to help people identify what thriving looks like for them. So I want you to listen close as we go through this episode. But first, here's Ben discussing the problem that many people run into when they begin the process of defining their ideal career.

Ben Fox 03:48

It's definitely a challenge for a lot of people. And I think partially because people come to a career change having had to survive for so long and have this mentality of, you kind of get what you get, you try to get the best you can from work, but it's not necessarily there to give you joy or support your life. Like you have a function, you take care of it. So you take care of your family and they don't die, go homeless like extremes. I think that's true for a lot of people, at least mentally. Yeah.

Scott Anthony Barlow 04:32

I think what you say is true. So then when you're thinking about, like, how do you pursue, or even think about something that is not in those extremes? It's not the surviving. It's not the tolerating. It's not the, you know, I don't know, insert another word here that is on that extreme. And then when you're wanting to go to the opposite, and then say, how do I pursue something that is better or something that is exciting, that is something really challenging to just, like, flip the switch in so many different ways.

Ben Fox 04:34

Well there's a lot of conditioning, culturally speaking in the US, probably a lot of other countries too. You need to be grinding, you need to be setting yourself up so you don't fall into these pits of despair. The media doesn't help, of course. But yeah, these are not just family patterns. These are much larger societal things that I think a lot of people experience.

Scott Anthony Barlow 05:36

Okay, so one thing that we see all the time is that people will listen to the podcast, and they will hear of other people that have had these pretty amazing stories. And normal people, wonderful people that have had these really cool stories where over often many, many months, they have gone from being in that situation, whether they thought they had to tolerate all the way to a situation where it matches up with some of their ideals. And, you know, certainly many of the things that they want for their version of their ideal career. So the question becomes, you know, how does that even happen? And then also, how do we even think about this? And I know the goal for you and I today is to talk through functionally, how people can even think about what we often call ideals versus minimums. And we'll get to defining that here in a moment. But let's talk about dreaming first.

Ben Fox 06:48

One thing I assume when people walk through the proverbial door, as clients here at HTYC. One thing I assume is that they're not so thrilled about their current work situation. So there's a little more leverage. If you've made the decision to get help with your career, there's some line in the sand you have drawn, saying, "Hey, I'm kind of done with how it's been going." So it gives me a little more access to this person's ability to dream. And I'm just personally someone that dreams really big. And I've found, as a coach, it allows me to lead by example, by doing that. But I find that when we think of dreaming in the context, we're talking about Scott, it's a prerequisite for people to move away from the things that didn't serve them to a type of situation where they can live out their ideals, where they can use their strengths to do the work, and have the type of situation that they really want.

Scott Anthony Barlow 08:09

We use the ideal career profile as our tool of choice for identifying what would make up an ideal career opportunity for our clients. I invented this when I needed a way to represent what I learned about my own version of an ideal career for myself. We separated the ideal career profile into seven sections, which, if you've read the Happen To Your Career book, you know already that this aligns with the seven elements of meaningful work. These elements are contribution, flexibility, and autonomy, quality of life, growth, signature strengths, supportive people, and finally, values or what we value most. We're not going to go deep into what each of those are, every single one has its own definition and how it relates to meaningful work. However, we do have a bonus series where we walk through each of these seven elements and define them and go deeper into. You can actually find those links to the seven episodes in the show notes. So definitely check out the show notes, there's gonna be quite a bit in there that'll be relevant if you want to dig deeper into anything we discussed in this episode. But let's go back to the ideal career profile. Each of these elements is separated into two parts. If you want to visualize them, think about it as almost two columns. And on the left, we have what we call minimums. And on the right, we have what we call ideals. Minimums mean, what are your must haves or the deal breakers for each element of meaningful work? For example, when it comes to your values, what do you know you need to be able to have or do to show up as your complete self? What values do the people that you're surrounded by and the organization as a whole need to have in order for you to feel like yourself at work? If these aren't there, this is your minimum, and anything else would be a deal breaker. Otherwise, if you're accepting anything else, then automatically you are settling, right? Once you've defined your must haves, that's where you can start to dream bigger and focus on your ideals. You might ask why do we separate out minimums from ideals. The biggest reason that we found is that psychologically, we have a struggle to dream big and think about what could happen or might happen in the future if we have not already addressed the most pressing needs that we feel like we have. If we haven't handled the basics or drawn a line first with those minimums in terms of where we will and won't accept for us to be able to continue to have meaningful work, then it becomes really difficult for us to look beyond that, and actually start to dream. So this in itself, the way that we've set up the ideal career profile, and no, it didn't actually start this way, this has been a product over the last, I guess, ever since 2013. We've noticed that people struggle if we don't separate this out. So we've built it into the tools that we use, because particularly that ideals section can be one of the most intensive parts of the career change process. Why? Well, we find that when people start working through each of the areas of meaningful work, they're not able to get as specific as they need to in order to make it actionable for themselves. You may have found this too. I've struggled with it as well, that just means that we're all human. The funny thing is, when we think we're being specific, we say things like, "I want to be excited when I come into work each day." That sounds great. And that is true. But there are so many more layers to what you need to understand about what creates excitement for you, or how that's created, or what makes you most excited, or what even causes you to move through that up and down. Once you begin to understand these layers and the contexts, that's what allows you to get to what you really want, and what an ideal could be for you. One great example of this that we hear all the time when working through the flexibility and autonomy section is "I want a remote role." Here's Ben giving a great example of how he walks our clients through this and gets them to get specific on what they truly want.

Ben Fox 08:41

People will often say, like, "Yeah, I'd love hybrid or remote." And I have to clarify with them. "Well, you say hybrid. What do you mean by that? Do you mean that you would like the ability to go into an office whenever but primarily be at home and have the flexibility to choose where you are whenever? Or do you want a company that's like we are in the office Tuesday and Wednesday. And the rest of the day is your home or somewhere else?" And people are like, "Oh my God, I don't even know it could be that flexible." It's like, well, we're not basing this off of any reality that you've noticed. We don't want to use what already existed. We want to dream. Dreams are from the collective unconscious. So we need to get into a different mindset. And what I tell people is like if you had exactly what you wanted, what would that look like as far as location. And some people are like, "I want the ability to be anywhere in the world and do this work. And that there's an office that can sometimes go to see my colleagues because I still like to see them. Or if it's not an office that we meet a few times a year." I'm like, "Yes, that is specific." Now we're talking way different than "I'd like hybrid."

Scott Anthony Barlow 14:00

So if we're talking about getting super specific, when it comes to defining your ideal career, let me give you another example of what this can look like. Because it can be really hard to break down. One thing we hear all the time is, "I want to work in an organization that is mission driven." But when we start to dig, we discover that it's not just about an organization that's mission driven, often is about more than that. It's about things that are deeper or more specific than that. Let's play this out. Let me give you an example of how this normally goes when we are doing this internally with our clients. And you can use this progression for yourself. Is it going to be the end all be all or the magic pill or anything? Probably not, but it's enough to get you started so that you can think about this a little bit differently so that you can get to your own set of meaningful answers. Okay, so we start with, "I want to work in an organization that's mission driven." Well, that's fantastic. But what does that actually mean? What are the types of root missions that resonate more than others? Is it about your values? Is it about something that you value? Or is it about a problem that you're excited about solving? Or still, it could be about something else? But I just want to give you those two examples. So we start to say, okay, well, what are the missions that you identify with? Let's point to some that you identify more with in the real world. And maybe it's about something that you have personally experienced. Well, I recovered from, this isn't my example, this is an example from a client. "I was able to work through and beat cancer, and that is something I'd love to be able to help have an impact on with other people." Okay, that's fantastic. That is more meaningful than other types of missions. What other types of missions are meaningful to you? And it might not just be from the, it's impacted you negatively standpoint, although that's a great place to start looking when you're thinking about, like, what is the type of mission or problem that you want to solve or work on? But it could also be about like, what are the types of missions that get you excited that you find yourself already being drawn to? For example, maybe it is the impending change to electric cars. And that idea in itself, is something that you get really, really excited about and have been thinking about for years and sort of can't stop thinking about it. If that's the case, then that doesn't mean you should immediately go into the electric car industry. But what it does mean is that that's another sample. That's another data point to question, okay, what is it about that that gets me excited? Is it about that problem itself? Is it about the idea behind the technology? Is it about the fact that it is changing an entire industry, or entire section of the world? Is it about something else that we haven't identified yet? These are the questions to help you peel back layers in order to get specific enough. So we already covered a few what has been very challenging for you or emotionally a problem that you resonate with, because something that you've had a not so great experience with, or a terrible experience with in your life and overcome. Another area could be those things that you are drawn to, because you're particularly excited about it, and then start to break apart. What happens from there? Because those alone are probably not specific enough. People have a tendency to jump at the first thing. "Well, I should definitely go work in solving cancer. I should definitely go work in electric cars." But how can we get more specific? How can we continue to peel back the layers? So as we mentioned, what if you ask yourself, well, what is it about that, that you like? Is that true for other situations? Or why is it that you want that? Or how could we get even more specific about what are the contexts that are the situation? So this exercise of continually asking yourself questions to get deeper into the specifics of your ideal role can help you get past mental barriers, and you didn't even realize were there. I also fully recognize, like, this is part of the reason why coaching is one of the things that we do as an organization. Sometimes it's really difficult to do this on your own. I often work with a partner or a coach or somebody else, in order to help me recognize when I'm getting up against my own limitations that I can't see for one reason or another. Because I only know what's in my head. And so I recognize that. So working with a friend, working with a mentor, working with a coach, working with, you know, someone else often can help you dig deeper than what you might have done alone, because often you'll get to something that seems obvious to you and it's actually not the answer for what's going to make you happier fulfilled later on. Which means that, chances are high when you thought you've been specific enough, you need to get even more specific. And it's easy to see why often these come from assumptions that we've made about work, or how we grew up or what we've seen in society and they formed your thoughts around what work is for your entire life, just like the 40 hour work week, for example. Here's Ben again.

Ben Fox 19:51

One of the things I've noticed people get hung up on in this process too is hours that they worked. The hours and when. A lot of people come into coaching conversations, working more than what we consider full time, and I have to tell them like, "Hey, if you're working 60 hours, you're working time and a half, by the standards we've set a full time." And if people are coming in feeling kind of overworked, burnt out, when I get to this question of, "Hey, what would the ideal hours look like for you?" Like, "Oh, you know, full time's fine." And I have to pull them back, pull them out, show them, especially for, like, people who are becoming parents, new parents, and tell them, "Hey, listen, let's take everything you know about the way the corporate world is set up, and put it to the side." And if I said to you, "Hey, you can work however many hours per week that makes sense for you, and the life that you're creating, what would you then say? Would it be like, hey, I don't really want to work on Fridays. And I don't want to work more than 32 hours. And I'd like to be able to start at 10am because I have to bring my children to school. I want to get the full eight hours up and show up ready to work. And I'd like to end by four. Because I want to be a parent or I want to work out and explore my city, or pursue this creative art, like, I want to be a painter as well and I want to have time for that. And still get paid well. So I can live in this place I want to live in." Like, oh, okay, so we're not talking about nine to five, we're talking about, how do we allow you to have the lifestyle you want and how does that relate to your time? These kinds of innocuous little questions. How many hours do you want to work? But what do you want in terms of location? Are actually quite informative conversation starters where people coming from. Because so often, it's based on this history that was way less than ideal.

Scott Anthony Barlow 22:18

Isn't that funny?

Ben Fox 22:18

I think it's our job and this is the beginning. Yeah, it is funny. I mean, it's sad. I personally feel sad, that that's the case. But I feel so relieved that I can have this impact on people, like, "hey, it can be anything you want." Doesn't mean it's gonna happen exactly how we're saying right now. But we need your brain to open up in that way.

Scott Anthony Barlow 22:43

I think what's fascinating about what you're talking about is that when we come in as professionals, just even asking those what you call innocuous little questions like, what hours do you want to work? Or, you know, what does flexibility look like? It gives us a sense of where people are starting from in terms of gives us little clues into what some of their existing beliefs about what is possible are based on how they're answering those questions. Which is cool, because then I mean, every single person can only start from where they're currently at. And then to your point, that we get to make the impact of helping people think more broadly than that, or more holistically than that, or reimagining what they believe to be true. And I think that's really powerful and fun.

Ben Fox 23:37

I like that you said fun, because that's what was going on in my mind as you were talking. I literally feel like I'm in a playground, beckoning my clients to come down this slide with me into this ball pit, or jump on this trampoline. Like, I'm literally saying, let's have fun. And they're like, "Oh, no, I can't."

Scott Anthony Barlow 24:04

"I can't slide down on the ball pit. No, I don't. There's a lot of balls in there".

Ben Fox 24:10

Yeah, people have let society, culture, fill in the blank, create what these boundaries are. They're already created. Full time is a concept that has been created relatively recently in human history. And doesn't even hold for most people, at least in corporate America. They're working more than full time and they're okay with it because they're making a good salary. If we are not defining these things, they're already defined by other people and people who don't really care about what you want. So the space definitely showing up allowing people to be wherever they're at. And then yeah, like allowing them to take off all this baggage and slide into the ball pit with me.

Scott Anthony Barlow 25:01

Well, let me ask you about this then. What about if something feels impossible? Because that's something I've heard over and over and over again throughout the years, where it's like, you know, is that even possible like, or that doesn't feel like it's a possibility or that doesn't feel real or that doesn't seem realistic. I don't want to focus on that, because that doesn't seem realistic. Tell me about how you think about that.

Ben Fox 25:25

It's important to pick out the word "feel" here. This is often what in our heads based on our experience of our past we believe, in a feeling of impossibility. There's no way that could happen. I've never seen this, I've never experienced this, it just probably doesn't exist. And I think part of the work here when you start talking to a coach is feeling the impossibility. Like that's a heavy weight. My dreams equal impossible. Okay, there's something really important for us to uncover here. Because along the way, in your life, you are told "No". Or you are forced to do certain things that then close the door over time towards what it is you really wanted. So now this way of impossibility that you feel or experience or believe to be true, becomes the part of the prerequisite to actually getting the things that you want. We need you. And I feel this way right now, as someone who's stepping pretty fully, it feels like there's no way I can make this happen. And when I'm in those moments, and when I'm in those moments with clients, I have to remind them and myself like, "Hey, this is actually a good thing." The fact that it feels so hard and impossible means that we are clarifying where you're coming from, like your whole psychology as it relates to these things that you want. And I'll just speak again, personally, I had it in my head since I was young. Because I have a lot of artists in my family. If I wanted to be an artist to professionalize in this thing, or not do it. And I've known this about myself. And I've got to the point this year, or I said, "I'm done with that." I don't want to think like that anymore. I have so much fun when I act, I'm gonna go for my dreams now.

Scott Anthony Barlow 27:47

Making an intentional career change is an opportunity to create a vision of a career that truly fits your life. This process isn't about trade offs, like I wouldn't take less money if it just meant I was happy at my job. It's not about settling. It's not about toleration. If I had to go into the office three times a week, I could totally make it work. If you find yourself any things like that, then you're probably accidentally settling. The reason you go through all the time, effort, energy, to identify what you must have in your life and what is ideal for you in your career is so that you can get to the point of thriving. Now, the other thing to acknowledge here is that while this work may seem tedious, it has huge ramifications on whether or not you will find your version of your ideal career. Most people are not clear on what they truly want. And when that happens, it becomes difficult to find what you truly want, nearly impossible. But when you do understand what you want, it creates a competitive advantage for you because it helps you be able to immediately move closer and immediately focus on what you're looking for. Also, organizations and hiring managers will come in with their idea of what you need. But when you already know what your must haves and what your ideals are, you can turn the table and be able to integrate into the conversation and ultimately negotiate for what is the best possible solution for you and the organization you might work with. I personally believe that every person in this world at this point in time deserves a freaking amazing career. I really do. And it's more possible in so many different ways than what it was for people 20, 50, 100 years ago. And is it the same for every single person in the world? No, absolutely not. But the majority of us in many countries at this point, have this possibility. I think it's your responsibility to define what you want, and not waver because that's going to impact other people. It's going to impact productivity in the world, it's going to impact your happiness, which then gets passed on to other people. And spreading positivity is something that can strangely come from having a fulfilling career. Okay, if you want to get started on this, let me leave you with two things. If you haven't already been through our Figure It Out 8-day mini course, then I would encourage you to start there, we'll put this link in the show notes too. And what it'll do is it'll ask you a couple of questions every single day that will help you begin to create your own version of your ideal career profile that we mentioned earlier. Or you can go to our website, and it's right on the front page. Just click, put in your email, you'll get an email every day for eight days. And then from there on out, you'll get some of our most valuable resources right in your email box. So go check out the show notes for that 8-day mini course.

Scott Anthony Barlow 30:55

Now, here's a sneak peek into what's coming up next week, right here on Happen To Your Career.

Scott Anthony Barlow 31:00

Out of all the things that we get to do here at Happen To Your Career, I have a lot of favorites, I gotta tell you. There's one thing that I almost always make the time to do, because it's absolutely fascinating to me. It's fascinating because of the psychology that goes on behind it. It's fascinating because I love to look at it as a gigantic social experiment. It's fascinating because I want to see how far I can push the boundaries in some different ways to really understand how we work and think as human beings. And this particular area is negotiation. And guess what, I realized that we really haven't done very many episodes on negotiation whatsoever. We've been doing this for seven years. The Happen To Your Career podcast has been going on for seven years, well over a million downloads, and we've never, ever really done a sizable episode on negotiation and telling you how to do it. And the crazy thing is, this really is one of my favorite topics. Yes, I know that makes me a weirdo. I'm 100% okay with that. I absolutely love it. I can't stop doing it, quite frankly, because it's so fascinating to me. Even the, oh my goodness, just in the last week, my kids are getting into hockey, and then negotiating on hockey equipment just because I want to see how people react. And this is something that really plays a massive difference into you, your career, your life, your lifestyle and, ultimately, many of the choices that you have.

Scott Anthony Barlow 32:46

All that and plenty more next week right here on Happen To Your Career. Make sure that you don't miss it. And if you haven't already, click Subscribe on your podcast player so that you can download this podcast in your sleep, and you get it automatically, even the bonus episodes every single week, sometimes multiple times a week. Until next week. Adios. I'm out.

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