Considering a Career Change? Ask Yourself These 3 Questions First

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Considering a Career Change? Ask Yourself These 3 Questions First

Former Google exec Lexi Reese shares her process for knowing when it's time to start the next chapter.

· Agile Zone ·
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Frustrated at Work

Photo credit Flickr/Peter Alfred Hess

Lexi Reese knows a thing or two about making a career about-face. Although she started out as a documentary filmmaker, she followed this up with a stint in the sex-crimes unit of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office before moving into management positions with American Express, Google, and now Gusto, an HR software company.

While there may not appear to be much rhyme or reason to this trajectory, a recent article in Business Insider explains that this is absolutely not the case. In fact, the method to Reese’s seeming madness is so inspiring – not to mention reinforced by a healthy dose of data – that we’re sharing it with you here.

The following 3 questions helped Reese figure out when it was time to start the next chapter:

Do You Love the Work?

Love Your Job

(Just kidding, although it can sometimes feel this way.)
Photo credit Mari Andrew

While turning something you love into your job can be a one-way-ticket to a new hobby – because let’s face it, we’re not going to always enjoy our work – it can also be, under the right circumstances, just the thing for a long, fulfilling career. As Facebook learned when they set out to understand why their employees quit, people who find their work to be enjoyable, at least most of the time, are more likely to stay put than those who don’t.

This isn’t to say that these employees loved every aspect of their positions or were brilliantly happy all the time. In fact, the workers who stayed on only reported enjoying their work 31 percent more often than those who left. The distinction is important, though, because it speaks to a fundamental part of why most of us choose our careers in the first place: We do what we do because it brings meaning to our lives. And when this stops being the case, it’s probably best to hit the road.

This certainly rang true for Reese, whose early endeavors were undoubtedly labors of love.

But while she enjoyed filmmaking as well as being an advocate for victims of sex crimes, she knew she “wasn’t particularly expert” at either. “I didn’t see myself being able to be the best person or the most talented in those fields, just based on my skill set,” Reese said. “That’s a tough thing to navigate.”

A point that brings us to the next question:

Are You Doing What You’re Good at?

Because Reese came to see her work as not really taking advantage of her strengths, it lost meaning for her, a trend that Facebook’s researchers also noticed: The employees who continued their work with the company reported using what they felt to be their best skills 33 percent more often than those who quit.  

Is There a Big Need for What You’re Accomplishing?

While the Facebook researchers’ findings, as reported in the Harvard Business Review, suggest that the third key for keeping employees on the job is management’s ability to help them achieve sustainable work-life balance, “creating career opportunities that mesh with personal priorities,” Reese’s advice is a little different.

Obviously being able to balance responsibilities at work and at home is a huge deal for most workers, but Reese’s Business Insider interview highlights another important insight: It isn’t ultimately enough to simply enjoy the work or be allowed to utilize your best assets; it’s also crucial to know that you’re doing these things in an environment where it’s truly needed.

Speaking about her decision to leave Google after 8 years, Reese explained, “I loved the purpose of doing [work] to create a world where everybody had access to information, [but] I saw myself doing more of the management of the business, as opposed to the building of the business." She then had to be honest and ask herself, “How do I get back to serving a segment of the world that needs the service?"

The answer for Reese was taking on the role of COO at Gusto, where she proudly helps “small and midsize businesses give their employees competitive benefits and allow those employees to thrive.”

Final Advice: Trust Your Gut  

For Reese, deciding to bite the bullet and dive into a new career ultimately came down to her ability to trust her instincts. She credits "that internal voice that says, 'OK, I've done what I needed to do in this space, and I feel like it's time for me to grow and do something different.” That, according to Reese, is the “real internal journey.”

advice, career aspirations, career change, dev life, happy at work, work life balance

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