The DIY project has been embraced by the world. (That stands for “Do It Yourself,” by the way.)
And why wouldn’t it be?
The reduced cost is great, but the real motivator is that you truly own the result.
It feels great to have a new deck. But to have a new deck that you built?
There’s pride in that.
So let’s forget for a minute anyone else that might play a role in your career search, and see how getting that new job is just like a DIY project.
(Heads up: pay attention to the last point. It’s the only one that counts!)
Know what you want
Any new undertaking might sound simple in the early goings, but the more you dig into it, the more complicated it gets.
Let’s say you want to build a desk: what’s the purpose? Is it for a kid, or an adult? How about strength? Are you going to just write on it, or do you have a massive computer screen that will need to sit on top? What’s the color? What’s the design?
Just as important: are you qualified to build it? Are you experienced with a table saw, or will this be your first time?
There is no point in establishing an objective without knowing where you currently are. It’s not enough to just know the obvious. Your employer and colleagues will tell you what you’re good at based only on what they see every day. And you might feel that your experience is insufficient – but maybe you only need a bit more practice to become really good at it.
Make sure what you want is right for you. If not either change your goals, or get learnin’!
You probably know by now that you don’t build things out of just “wood.” There are loads of different kinds of woods out there. Some are cheap and can be bought pretty much anywhere. Others are expensive and have to be ordered from out of town. Some are soft and easy to carve, others are difficult to cut but will support just about anything.
Knowing what your objective looks like isn’t just about the surface appearance. You have to know what goes into it, what the ingredients are, and how it will impact the result.
You want to get into human resources? Great! Pick from the menu of the dozens of things you could be doing: staffing, training, counselling, strategic planning, and the list goes on. If you love working with and for people, then this might be a great area for you. But unless you really know all of the stuff that goes into it, your search won’t be fruitful.
Research online all of the options you have. Talk to your network. Take a look at what you’re already doing and see if you already have some experience that can feed into your decision.
Know what you want on a specific level.
So you know what your desk is going to look like, you know that you’re capable of building it, and you know the wood (ie. ingredients) you’ll be using to build it.
Not even close.
You need to figure out when you’re going to be available to build it, how long it’s going to take, if you’ll need any help, what equipment you might need to rent, and of course: how much it will all cost.
And even if you know all of that, how are you going to translate that picture you’re using into a pile of wood in the garage? There are hundreds of steps you need to take between the future ideal and the present mess.
You need a plan that breaks all of the steps down into something concrete. One you can track and know if you’re on the way to success, or if you’re getting off-track.
Your job search should not be random, and you should not just “see how it goes.” That’s a guarantee for preserving the status quo. In my life as a project manager, I learned that, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
Don’t just keep busy. Run the process.
The big one: Results
Nobody at Home Depot actually cares if you build that desk or not. Yes, they want you to be satisfied and happy and keep coming back to buy more stuff. But once you walk out the door with a van full of 2x4s and more screws than you’ll actually need (why do we always buy so many??), Home Depot feels that the transaction has, more or less, been completed.
But you probably bought all that for a reason, and having a pile of wood in your house will only take up space.
It’s up to you put it together. And not just “together,” but sufficiently well done that you can actually use the thing. If it falls apart because you did a lousy job of measuring the angles and putting in the screws, who suffers? Not Home Depot, they got their money. You’re the one who has a hunk of wood doing little more than collecting dust.
If you did your research, put in the work, followed up as you needed to, but it still doesn’t look like it’s “supposed” to, then you need to own that. Maybe your planning was faulty, or maybe it actually takes a bit more work or time than you thought it would.
Either way, you can start blaming the situation or other people for the results, or you can insist on obtaining a career that does more than just take up space.
Fight for the results you want. You won’t be happy until you get them.
Write your own manual for your DIY project
The biggest lesson in all of this? Even the simplest projects require a lot of thought before you begin, during, and after you think you might be finished.
It makes intuitive sense if we’re taking on a DIY project. There’s an empty space in the room, we know it has to be filled, and you’ll know within minutes just how successful a random, unplanned approach will work out. (On top of that, we probably have an impatient spouse on the sidelines reminding us every day of the timelines.)
But with changing our careers?
Unfortunately, most people don’t apply the same kind of rigor. They put out a few feelers and talk themselves out of anything that seems too big.
But nothing is “big” when you’ve broken it down into small, manageable steps. Nothing is “forever” when you establish timelines and see how you’re doing against them.
At the end of the day, your success is your success – and your failure is your failure. No one’s going to complain if your career doesn’t satisfy.
But if you start complaining about your career, you’d better start taking steps to fix things.
Because you’re the only one who can build it.
Are you treating your career change like a project? What are some of the surprises you’ve encountered? Tell us in the comments below!