By now, we’ve all heard of the Great Resignation in the American workforce. A record number of Americans quit their jobs in 2021—about 47 million—and the attrition rate doesn’t show any signs of slowing down anytime soon. The massive layoffs at the start of the Covid pandemic, and the subsequent remote and hybrid work environments that the pandemic necessitated, got a lot of people thinking about what they really wanted in a job.
March 2022 was the 10th consecutive month in which more than 5 million Americans resigned from their jobs. Workers are citing higher pay, better benefits, and more flexibility as their reasons for leaving.
However, even after switching jobs, many people find themselves unhappy in their new roles and end up switching jobs multiple times in search of something better. They’ve fallen into an unsustainable and unhappy work pattern without knowing how to achieve their dream job. So how can you avoid falling into this pattern?
First, you must identify what I like to call your “area of greatness,” where your skills, passions, and purpose intersect. A great way to do this is by using my G.R.O.W. model, which I will walk you through below. Then you must tackle the two most common challenges that people face when pursuing their dream careers: finances and connections. Without addressing those two major challenges, you’ll probably fall back into the cycle of bouncing between jobs and remaining unhappy.
The G.R.O.W. model
Let’s take a look at how to find your area of greatness. I like to use the G.R.O.W. model with my clients to help them identify their strengths, weaknesses, passions, and hurdles so that they don’t fall back into roles they’re not suited for. G.R.O.W. is an acronym that stands for the four steps of finding your area of greatness: Gain insight, Realize new possibilities, Overcome obstacles, and Win at life.
Gaining insight is the first step and requires a little bit of self-exploration. This is where you think back on your previous work experiences and ask yourself, what parts of your previous jobs did you enjoy the most? What were the things that you didn’t enjoy about those roles? Putting aside considerations about money and what connections you may or may not have, what would your dream career look like?
The second step in the G.R.O.W. model is realizing possibilities. This is where you explore where in your career that you’ve seen the most success, regardless of whether you enjoyed those activities. What do you feel like your strongest skills are? When in your career did you see other people notice and value those skills? You need to think separately about skills versus passion. The skills may not be what you like to do, but you need to take stock of everything. Consider what motivates you and where you want to make a difference. This is also the time to think big and dream about the possibilities of where these skills and passions can take you. Your dream career is the sweet spot where your skills, passions, and purpose overlap.
After you’ve had some time to reflect, it’s time to think about how your answers work together. What sort of role utilizes those skills in your dream career? What are some ways you can apply the skills you have to your passions and make an impact? This is where your area of greatness is located and is exactly the type of job you should spend your time applying for. Now comes the hard part.
Jumping the hurdles
The two most common barriers people face when pursuing their dream career are a lack of connections and insufficient finances. You either don’t know the right people to get the job, or you don’t have the capital to go off on your own or take time off to pursue your passion.
Connections are essential because access to your dream job will very likely come through another person. It is crucial that you do not burn bridges when you move jobs and purposefully keep in touch with old colleagues and bosses. Even sending holiday cards or calling on birthdays once a year goes a long way.
Thanks to the internet, making new connections is easier than ever. Get on LinkedIn and Upwork and start networking in the digital realm. You can also join industry organizations and professional trade groups. Look for every available opportunity to get yourself out there and show people who you are and what you can do.
Another option is to look at taking classes at universities. These days, nearly anyone can go to, say, Cornell or the University of Chicago through professional certificate programs. As you study, you’ll be surrounded by like-minded people who can really help you out in the long run. Plus, these programs usually have alumni mailing lists and networking opportunities.
If tuition is a hurdle, you can look into grants and scholarships. Apply for everything for which you qualify. There are plenty of funding opportunities out there, especially for higher education for industry professionals. Sometimes, your company may even pay for you to go back to school or complete a certification program.
Finance is one of the hardest hurdles to overcome and is also a major reason people are leaving their jobs. New hires are negotiating and receiving much higher salaries, higher than what the loyal, long-time employees are getting, which is creating a wage gap. This incentivizes even the loyal employees to look for better opportunities or aggressively renegotiate their contracts.
A great way to scope out a company you’re applying to is to look up the retention rate of that company. You can also ask things like, “How often are employees promoted from within the company?” in your interview. Do employees stay and make careers at this company or are many leaving after one to two years?
Something else to keep in mind is that now is a great time to go off on your own and start your own business. There are tons of funding opportunities out there, so do your research and apply to as many grants and sponsorships as possible.
The last step to the GROW model is winning. This is when you’ve taken all the steps we just outlined and are pursuing a career that you are both passionate about and successful in, while serving a distinct purpose. Working in that sweet spot in your area of greatness will provide you with sustainable success in a career you enjoy while you make a positive impact, so that you don’t have to keep bouncing between jobs. You want to be at a place where you don’t have to worry about finances or your happiness, and sometimes that means becoming your own boss and starting your own business.
WRITTEN BYLisa L. Baker