In 5 steps happier in your work

Herman Rutgers 24 December 2018

Give your career an injection in 2019? A good resolution, but how do you go about it? For anyone who finds it difficult to think structurally about the next step in his or her career, below are 5 steps on how to approach it.

1. Start with reflection
Before you start thinking about the steps you want to take, it is important that you carefully list for yourself what is important to your job happiness. That sounds very logical, but how do you do it? Our advice: take a very concrete look at what were the moments in the past year for you when you worked with satisfaction. Analyze: what did you do when you were so comfortable working? What projects or topics did you work on? With whom? And under what conditions and preconditions? Do this in reverse as well: when did things not go well?
Through this analysis, you will discover when you get into your flow and what you apparently need to achieve it. Check out this great Ted Talk on The Flow to get inspiration.

2. Look ahead: what do you want to learn, develop and discover?
Now that you have listed for yourself when you are at your best, you can start thinking about your development. At Herman Rutgers Executive & Interim Search, we speak to professionals every day who are working on their next move. Our advice then: try to honestly consider with yourself what is important to you at this time. That may be broadening, or it may be subject matter deepening.

Check with yourself: what type of role do you aspire to in a few years, what competencies and professional knowledge are required to achieve this, and what steps do you need to take to achieve this? You can do this in your current position, for example, by taking a training course. Or maybe it’s time for the next step. And remember: to make a career you don’t necessarily have to be a leader!
A healthy work-life balance appropriate to this stage of your life also determines much of your job happiness.

We regularly speak to professionals who are in wonderful management positions, for example, but deep down are not happy with what they are doing. Taking control of your career and following your own path is very powerful. Choose to manage a smaller team, go for a purely content-driven position or work in a different type of organization or environment, if that’s where your heart is.

3. Name concrete and achievable goals for the coming year
Achieving a goal is satisfying. Name 1 or 2 and make them concrete and achievable. It doesn’t have to be immediately grand and compelling because the chances of making it then are much lower, with all the frustration that entails. Compare it to running: don’t run a full marathon right away, but start training for a 5 or 10 kilometer race first. Those goals can be fine in your current job, for example, you can take on a difficult or different type of project. Challenge yourself and discuss this with your supervisor.

Pursuing an education can also be energizing. One approachable way is to take a MOOC: an online course, on your own time. See for an overview or get a degree at

We also often speak to professionals who at some point in their careers want to do “something social” or be more creative. What we pass along to them is that you don’t have to put everything into your job. Switching to an NGO does not have to be blissful (indeed, these are also just companies) and also often has implications for your salary. Your need for meaning or creativity can also be filled alongside your job; go volunteer or take a creative course.

4. Dust off your resume again
Even if you are not aspiring to a new position or job, it can be very enlightening to revisit your resume; it is a useful tool to analyze yourself as a professional. How do you position yourself in your resume: does it match what you do and what you can do? Does your resume describe the core of who you are as a professional and where your talents lie? A good resume is your elevator pitch and is no longer than 2 pages.

5. Use your network
Talking with professionals who work in a position or in places you are interested in can be very enlightening. Talks with a career coach or a specialized executive search firm can also help you broaden your perspective and look at your career in a different way. A good agency will be able to advise you on your profile, the next steps involved, positions appropriate for this stage in your career and how realistic your ambition is. They oversee the entire market in your field and can hold up a mirror to you.


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