You know the traditional tasks you've been told to do before embarking on a job search or a career change: Polish your resume. Identify strengths and skills. Update your LinkedIn profile. Take the Mardi Gras photos off your Facebook page. Ping a few professional contacts to say hello.
Halt. Don't go there. You aren't ready, yet.
There are a few much more important steps you need to take first, steps most of us skip but that make all the difference in where we end up next.
The more frustrated and depleted your current job has left you, the more you need these steps. The more you want your next job to be fabulous and fulfilling, the more you need to attend to them.
Jobs we don't love, jobs that bore us, jobs that aren't a good fit take a personal toll. They tend to leave us with a lack of energy and creativity, amnesia about our strengths, and a darkened view of what's possible for the next job.
Before you can find a better job, or even answer the question, "What do I want to do next?" you have to recover from all that. You have to get your creativity, confidence, resilience and all-around-brilliance back. Here's how.
Give yourself 30 days for this work, focusing on these three simple steps:
1. Go into flow at least twice a week. "Flow" is one of the most remarkable, nourishing states human beings can experience, as demonstrated by a significant body of psychological research from the last 30 years.
Flow is that magical state we experience when we are extremely focused on a challenging, engaging activity. It's that state that makes you pick up your head and say, "Where did the time go?" or "Oops, it's 3p.m., and I forgot to eat lunch." It gives us that wondrous sense of becoming one with the activity itself.
Each of us has a unique set of flow state activities. These days, I find flow in writing, dancing and yoga. My friend Rick finds it in reading, hiking and playing chess. What creates flow for you?
Being in flow, even for just a couple of hours a week, has a magical effect on our lives. It restores energy, relieves stress, sparks passion, reminds of us our strengths, and lifts mood. Doing flow state activities regularly for just a few weeks will give you huge juice -- mental, physical and emotional -- for your job search.
2. Restore your body. Being in a job that isn't a good fit takes a toll on the body - whether because of long hours, the effects of emotional stress or daily "Am I wasting my life?" angst.
In addition, when we spend our days in environments that aren't well aligned with our strengths or values, we typically check out emotionally in order to survive. That numbing often takes the form of physically destructive behaviors -- a daily candy ritual (or two or three), workaholism (distraction ain't as good as fulfillment but it is...distracting), smoking. You get the idea.
Being unhappy at work also interferes with deep, restorative, restful sleep. More stress on the body.
You don't want to do career planning, imagining or exploration from this physically compromised state. You don't want to brainstorm what's possible for your next move while sleep deprived or high on milk duds. You'll see everything in a negative light. Your creativity won't show up for the party. Your emotions will be volatile and your mental clarity out of reach.
For a month, rejuvenate. Clean up your diet. Prioritize exercise. Start making more time for sleep.
3. Cultivate everyday joy. Start refilling your personal well by doing the little things that bring you joy. What momentary, sensory experiences give you a sense of comfort, fun and happiness?
Here are a few from my clients: "The smell of lemons." "My father's laugh." "Toast with great jam." "Pushing my kids on the swings." "A slow, meandering walk." "A tennis fame with good friends." "Listening to jazz."
Make a commitment to pay more attention to those experiences, as they already exist in your life. Slow down for them. Savor them. Where you can, create more of those experiences in your life. Make time for them.
Over just 30 days, you'll start to get you back. Your happiness. Your emotional generosity. Your creative thinking. Your strength. When you are feeling reconnected to a sense of possibility about your future, truly on your own side as a partner and friend, that's the time to begin to ask the career-focused questions: What kind of job do I want? What would fulfillment at work look like for me? What resources do I have to help me in this search? It's from that place of vitality and possibility that you are going to be able to see and pursue the future you want.
Tara Mohr is a coach, writer and the creator of Wise Living. Click here to receive her free goals guide, "Turning Your Goals Upside Down and Inside Out (To Get What You Really Want)."
Follow Tara Sophia Mohr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/tarasophia