Most of us have experienced Career FOMO—or fear of missing out—at one point or another.
For some of us, the sentiment is based in reality: there are attainable jobs out there that might make us happier, pay us more, and be a better fit. But for many, thinking about the “what ifs” can seriously interfere with being happy where we are—we cast doubt on ourselves, even though our current job actually is a pretty good fit.
About six years ago, I was quite happy in my consulting job. I loved the people I worked with, and I was doing well at the company. And yet, there was a little bit of lingering doubt in my mind as to whether or not I wanted to be in it for the long haul. Not having had many jobs before this one, there were so many unknowns—it was hard to know.
So I decided to do a bit of discovery and find out what else, if anything, I would prefer to be doing.
I started by browsing my alma mater's alumni directory. I searched by location, by industry, by similar background to mine, and slowly but surely discovered people who had jobs that sounded cool. I then did the same with my personal network on LinkedIn. I reached out to each of people on my list individually with a succinct message, asking for 20 minutes of their time. I was, I explained, contemplating a career shift and wondered if their field could be for me.
Over two-thirds of those people got back to me (hint: the key is to send a short email and ask very little time from them), and I ended up speaking to over a dozen people with very different jobs over a two week period, including a brand manager for Pepsi, a senior leader at the UN, and a special projects manager for the City of New York.
For each call, I did my research, prepared a list of targeted questions, and took a ton of notes. I quickly learned that sexy sounding jobs are often way less sexy once you're doing them. For example, after hearing all about how hard it was to get approval to change from one shade of red to another very similar shade of red, I crossed brand management off my list. I like being able to get things done quickly, and I knew an environment like that would drive me crazy.
Little by little I learned more about the day to day work in many different companies and industries—and came to the resounding conclusion that I actually did prefer my current job over all the ones I’d heard about.
Yes, it took some time, but the informational interviews lifted a weight off my shoulders—a weight I hadn't even fully realized was there. With my FOMO gone, I was free to focus on the great things about my current job and enjoy it. (Until, of course, life surprised me and my career took an entrepreneurial turn!)
If you, too, are having a case of Career FOMO, check out my upcoming book, The New Rules of Work. You’ll find loads of tips and tricks, from how to determine a target list of industries to explore to making the most of your own informational interviews, plus The Muse Method for narrowing down the seemingly unlimited career options out there into a smaller set that feel exciting to you.