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The 'How To' Of Organizing My Future & My Career


July 3rd, 2019

- Updated on

August 26, 2019 - 4:11pm
A job search, career change or work-life balance arrangement may require quite a bit of personal reflection, company research and documentation. When I was job hunting or made changes in my career, I kept a notebook like a project manager. Making tens of calls during the day and responding to email or researching people or websites became a busy job and I needed to stay on top of all the pieces of the puzzle.

Getting Started

notepad and penI kept the notebook on my desktop so I could record every website I visited and if there was a job or person to pursue. I documented each call with time and date and when we agreed to reach out again.  
At first, it was a place to document my activities with words, then it turned into a place to draw diagrams of processes that I needed to figure out before making a change.
The notebook tabs included:
  • What’s the Goal – where do I want to be, what do I want to be? Written in black and white so I could read and re-read it to keep me on track.
  • Companies – names of companies I was interested in as well as ones that were nearby my home or where I wanted to live and why I liked them.
  • Websites – these included all the flexible and remote job sites as well as sites for companies.
  • People and Referrals – new contacts, discussions with people, targets for LinkedIn, targets for phone calls or email.
  • Job Opportunities – advertisements, word of mouth opportunities, anything that might be a possibility or interest.
  • Priorities/Tasks – Daily listing of priorities.
  • Must be Done Today – Looking at the priority list, deciding what I could get done in one day.

Attached at the Hip

Soon my career transition notebook became part of every phone call, every meeting, every discovery or idea. It was in the kitchen, in the office, in the living room…wherever I had time for thinking or calling, I made sure I noted important information.  
Every few days I would review everything I’d written and began to plot out a future interest for my work and my life. Each contact represented another opportunity, or not. I consolidated my notes on a spreadsheet and began to act on the real leads, the ones that took me to my chosen designation.

How I Uncovered Job Opportunities

It was a process of elimination for me. I applied the lessons from my time with my AJO Career Coach.
  • Stop thinking about what you’ve been – your corporate position – your duties.
  • Make the conscious choice to think about what you have always wanted to do, or what you want to do now.
  • Focus on the course to take you there.
  • Look back only to extract your expertise and apply it to the new you.
  • Ask yourself the questions. Where do you want to live? What hours do you want to work?
  • What kind of place do to you want to work (small, mid-size, large)? What kind of company culture will you seek?
  • What questions will you ask to decipher the situation at a company – to determine your fit?
  • Talk to your spouse, your friends, your previous coworkers, and ask them to tell you how they see you fitting into the place you seek.
Take all this input and comments to heart, look in the mirror, take stock in who you have been and who you want to be. Then decide.

Changing My Expectations and Habits

Someone once said to me, “Life is all about expectations.” That has been a constant balancing theme for me. You can keep a view of reality and reach for the next step; maintain the status quo or adjust to what may be next…which may not exactly be what was expected. It helps minimize disappointment and maximize success.
On the same note, they say it takes weeks to change a habit. Not getting up at 5 a.m., in the car by 6 and at work by 7:30 is something that takes time to adjust to. I needed to keep a schedule, but it might be that I’m working within another time zone or commuting a shorter distance…or not at all. Perhaps I won’t have the team support system I had in the past. In a new situation, I might need to prepare for supporting my own efforts with new software or processes – I might be the Excel wizard, the Zoom contact and the accountant.

women writing in notebook

Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels

Don’t Give Up

I gave up twice. So why would you take my word for it? But once I applied the courage, guidance, and tools from AJO, all the pieces came together. It isn’t about learning something new. It was about believing something new about myself. You can’t get that without reaching out to people who understand. I realized I couldn’t do it alone…no one at my company was going to help…I needed the experts to support my dream with reality.
My courage received a boost from AJO and that pushed me toward the high side of my expectations. When you want to learn to make bread, snow ski or climb a mountain -- you ask someone who knows how to do it to help you. Even if you do the basic research, getting the guidance from people who know is worth so much more.

The Result - What Happened?

Where did I go? What did I do? I sought out positions that got me away from managing dozens of people and focused on a small team that I could take the time to mentor. I enjoy that part of my work. I sought out unique locations and responsibilities I wanted and eliminated the ones I didn’t want anymore. I moved a few more times. Every time, I focused on the value that I was seeking from a position as well as the culture the company offered.

Learning from the Next Generations

I’m not a millennial but I started to think like one in the past few years. I learned from my young employees, my nephews, our children – don’t wait. Start doing what you want to do now. Work-life balance isn’t a perk, it is a requirement for today’s workers. Enjoying your life each day, be it a workday or weekend, shouldn’t be a choice you have to make. It should be part of the deal.
The “notebook” reflected these thoughts, ideas, and input from others back to me as clear as ink on paper. When it is in a spreadsheet or written word, it is more real. The pros and cons lists don’t lie. The impressions of interviews don’t lie. Your dreams and ideas for the future don’t go away. Keeping track and being organized about my search was paramount to success. 

Gail Petersen - AJO BloggerGail Petersen is an experienced communicator providing clients with strategic planning, writing and project implementation to engage and maximize the impact of messaging on target audiences. She practices and promotes quality written communications, mentoring and collaboration in all her projects. She lives in Easton, PA with her husband and two house rabbits; is on the Board of the Safe Haven Rabbit Rescue; is the grant writer for a dog and cat shelter and edits nonfiction books.