I've worked at an HMO for the last eight years in the accounting department. (However, I've never done a day of accounting. My job is revenue integrity; I tell others that my unofficial job title is keeping the front end honest.)
I'm one of those people who's well into their mid to late 40s and still doesn't know what their life path is or should be. The last 20 years, I've been in organizational finance. I recently got my masters in leadership and management.
Finding another job has proven to be more challenging than I ever imagined it would be, even though I paid to have my resume and LinkedIn profile redone (I have a lot of connections and have applied for jobs but nothing). I've never had the official title of manager or supervisor—at my age, I wonder if they're trying to figure out why I haven't ever been promoted?
I think that I've been doing everything correct, yet I keep hitting the wall. Then, boredom kicks in, and I end up wasting my time. It's driving me crazy. I'm super disengaged and have asked for projects. I've asked for assistance in career guidance or about the possibility of moving to another department, but no dice.
Miserable doesn't begin to describe my feeling each day as I head into work. It's so bad that I drink five-hour energy drinks almost religiously. Please help! Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Aimless and Confused
Dear Aimless and Confused,
Thank you for writing in! I can assure you that you're not alone in your five-hour energy drink coping cycle. The good news is that you sound ready to take a proactive stance and to bust through that wall. Based on what you've shared, you have some advantages with your years of experience, education, and network.
But to bust through that wall, you may need to clarify your vision and challenge your current recruiting strategy.
Get Clear on What You Want
I wish there was a simple formula to know what your life path is or should be. The keywords here, by the way, are "should be." It sounds like a source of your frustration is the belief that you should have this concrete idea of your life path. It's hard to create compelling and inspiring visions of yourself in your most authentic form when you think you "should be" doing something.
Instead, take some time to get really honest with yourself and what you want.
- In your roles, present and past, what problems do you love solving for yourself or your team?
- What projects or tasks have given you a deep sense of engagement and flow?
- If you were to envision a version of yourself in a land of ultimate possibility where there was no right or wrong, good or bad, successful or unsuccessful, what would you be doing?
- What new, upgraded action do you need to take in order to achieve this new, upgraded vision?
It's never too late to connect with yourself, update your definition of success, and take ownership of the actions you need to carry out to get there.
Craft a Growth Narrative, Regardless of Titles
Few things are more frustrating for your career than having job titles that don't reflect your best work.
If conversations to negotiate your title or receive a promotion aren't going anywhere, make certain that your resume showcases specific evidence of growth and leadership. Collect examples on times you have taken on a leadership role or grown as a professional and be sure to integrate these results into your resume, LinkedIn, cover letter, and hiring conversations with recruiters.
Also, look for ways to edit your job titles and the language of your bullets to better reflect your strengths, leadership, or contributions.
Finally, be sure to highlight your masters in leadership and management as well as any notable credentials or certifications. Your continuing education is further evidence of your dedication to growth and leadership.
Stay Proactive in Your Job Search
Most importantly, you've applied to jobs and aren't hearing anything back. So, we need to take a step back and look really closely at why that is. Some questions to ask yourself:
- Are you complementing each job application with a strong networking or outreach strategy?
- Are you tailoring your materials for each application to leverage your transferable strengths?
- Are you considering who may be your top competition for each role and making sure to highlight your unique combination of experience, education, or skills that make you the top candidate?
- Is there a gap between a company's ideal candidate and what your background indicates you do?
Also, important to know, a recent survey indicates you're 15 times more likely to be hired if you are referred (rather than applying blindly). So while it's great that you're connected, you need to actively engage with those people regularly. Try initiating conversations each week with a recruiter, hiring manager, or person who you admire by simply introducing yourself, sharing why you're seeking the next step in your career, and asking how you could learn more about their company or themselves.