Recently, a friend was considering going back to work after staying at home to raise her children. She said, “I want to go back to work. I just can’t find a job.” Those words struck me, as it was my fourth time hearing them from friends, all of whom are highly educated women with advanced degrees from esteemed universities and respectable prior work experience. In this friend’s perfect world, she wanted the option to work at a law firm around 5-to-10 hours a week so she could also take care of her children. It seemed like a big ask, and so she was stuck thinking in black and white: work full time or not at all.
The thing is, if I ran a law firm, I would hire this woman in a heartbeat. She is smart, reliable and efficient, and she knows what she is doing. Her 10 hours are valuable.
I realized then that if employers wrote job descriptions to find the right person for their business, it could feel like they have the control. What if job seekers design their perfect jobs instead — and find the companies that want the benefit of what that perfect job brings? I recently published a book,
Reframe: Shift the Way You Work, Innovate, and Think, to help others unlock their creative potential and start solving problems with design thinking. The same principle — thinking like a designer — can help you create a career that works for you.
List the Facts
When you start to feel stuck, list out everything you know. This can be a mix of what does not work in your current situation, why you cannot seem to fix the situation, and what the new solution will bring you. For example:
–I only want to work 5-to-10 hours a week.
-There are no law firms that will allow me to only work 5-to-10 hours a week.
-I have a law degree, so I should look for a job practicing law.
-I have been out of the workforce for a long time, and that makes it a bit harder to get a job.
-If I work more than 10 hours, I am compromising my ability to be a good mom.
-I should get paid the same hourly rate that I made before, but if I have to, I will take a cut.
Separate Your Facts from Your Beliefs
Read that list again. Are those facts of beliefs? We often misconstrue our beliefs as facts, and when we do this, we limit our creative thinking (therefore limiting our solutions). It is important to understand what information is factual to stay open-minded. By assuming your beliefs to be facts, you were closing yourself to the opportunity for change. Use this realization to help propel you forward into making the change to the career you want. Try to rewrite the assumptions as facts and start your brainstorming from there:
–I would like to work part time.
-I would like to use my law degree, but it does not have to be a traditional law firm.
-I am willing to compromise the hourly rate to get the flexibility I want.
Reframing limiting beliefs as positive statements help you open your mind to think creatively.
Ask “What If?”
Asking a creative opener like “what if?” is a great way to see the potential that lies before you. What-if questions help you see your career problem as an opportunity to find the perfect job for you. Take 3 minutes to ask as many what if questions as you can. Do that three 3 and you will have a set of ideas you may not have thought of before:
–What if I wrote for a legal journal or was a legal expert for a newspaper?
-What if I was a tutor for law students?
-What if I taught an LSAT course?
-What if I taught a course in a nearby law school?
-What if I start a legal-related business?
-What if I contact online legal startups to see if I can help them?
-What if I offered to barter 10 hours of my time at a smaller company for something else in return?
-What If I offer nonprofits free legal advice via a Facebook page?
-What if I start a legal-related blog?
-What if I teach dance (or monetize another hobby that has nothing to do with law)?
Ask Yourself These 3 Questions
Now that you see you have more than a handful of options to choose from, it is time to separate the good ideas from the great. Set your ideal career criteria: the things that are absolutely essential for you to be satisfied within your career. For my friend, it was flexible hours, insurance benefits and ability to pursue a career in law. Maybe you want more money, more creative power or more vacation days. Take the ideas from your ideation rounds through 3 layers of the funnel:
–Do I love this idea?
-Does this make sense for an employer?
-Does this make sense for my criteria?
Once you start looking at your career this way, the decision process will become much easier. You will have clarity around what career you are looking for; eliminating hours of skimming through job descriptions and postings that only sort of fit what you are looking for.
The last part of the process, of course, is up to you. You have no reason to feel stuck now. Finding that “perfect” job should not be difficult — you have already designed it. Now, get to work!
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
Image credit: CC by Fort George G. Meade Public Affairs Office