It is late February in Michigan and although we have received another 8 inches of snow today, I thought an article about “spring cleaning” would keep spirits up! As a coach and consultant in the recruiting industry, I have become disciplined in the art of “career spring cleaning” and I wanted to reach out and offer some advice to the executives, candidates and fellow recruiters I work with on a daily basis.

I “empty the cup” on a quarterly basis, which is “code word” for spending an hour or two at the beginning of each quarter writing myself an honest and direct letter about how I am feeling, areas of concern, areas for opportunity, etc. and I make sure to walk away from the letter for a day and then think through my thoughts the next day. Here is a personal sample from Q1 2010:

I, like so many, do like “things” and material comforts, but I have been working hard to ensure that I don’t rely on money to determine my success. I gather excitement from sitting in a conference room and talking to a team of professionals who need my assistance with making their businesses stronger and more strategic and then watching their businesses grow. I enjoy teaching recruiting professionals to focus on “taking care” of the candidates and hiring communities we work to support and I continue to focus on being a better leader of people. I enjoy the quick paced nature of the Recruitment Process Outsourcing business, the deadlines that are forced upon you, the level of communication and the articulate communication required. Ironically, details can become a burden to me, so I have to embrace focus and discipline. I don’t get too jazzed about business process, but I am a purist when it comes to treating people/clients the right way, so I work hard to build those core competencies into my recruiting processes. I tend to care more about people and relationships versus gross margin and profit margin, which gives me a recognizable opportunity to focus on creating methods to build and execute profitable business while not surrendering the “human element” that I crave. I like to win, but am not willing to do whatever it takes to win. The privilege of being part of teams that make decisions, implement ideas and regularly execute on projects lifts my spirits. I like change. I detest stagnating and the concept of doing the same thing day in and day out (without variation or fluctuation) makes me want to crawl out of my own skin.

This exercise has helped keep me sane. It has enabled me to catch areas within my career and my personal life that I am stagnating on and it has helped me find areas that should become a future focus. My love of coaching, training and writing became more apparent in a “letter to myself” two quarters ago, which sparked my interest in building my “consulting and coaching” business model. As people, we’ll continue to grow and change (that is a given) and I have learned to accept that fact of life. As your life continues to move and develop, taking a deep look at the role you play and the experiences you have gained can be a valuable exercise.

Why is it that each spring we empty our garages, sweep out the floor, and hose down the walls? We do it to feel clean, to get “organized” and it makes us feel better, hence the popular term, “spring cleaning”. Professionals should spring clean their careers from time to time too.

Clearing out a garage is easy, but clearing out a career can be more complicated. Most of us have bills, house payments, car payments, etc., so reinventing our careers can be too daunting, can’t it? I am working to reinvent my career (from a tactical recruiting professional to a coach and trainer) and it is not as difficult as you might think it to be. After you complete this exercise (writing down how you feel about your industry, your daily routine and your energy levels) I am not suggesting that you quit your job and move to a desert island somewhere. Typically, you can find subtle ways within your current role, to create opportunity and most people thrive on new opportunities.

As you begin to explore your current situation; I have included a couple ideas that helped me get the “introspective thoughts” flowing:

Stand on a desk: If you haven’t seen the movie, Dead Poets Society, standing on a desk is a metaphor for looking at the world from a different angle (the classroom looks much different when you are 3 feet above the ground). If you sell recruiting solutions, go work a requisition and get engaged with the candidate again. If you are managing a heavy requisition load for a corporation, talk to one of your peers and engage a search in their business unit (learning a new set of hiring managers may create a spark that helps you perform for your current business unit). In short, sometimes a subtle switch of the routine can help you recognize areas that you need to improve on or areas that energize you.

Change up your routine: If you are a professional who comes in every day at 730am, talk to your management team about a “swing shift” because coming in a day or two per week at 9am versus 730am may give you enough of a change in your day to feel re-energized.

Clear out the file drawer: It can be cathartic to clean out old files and the mojo that comes with those files. Every quarter, look through your desk and your file cabinets and clean out the old/closed files, reorganize your desk and get prepared for the upcoming quarter.

Passion Project: If work becomes a grind, look at it as a blessing that affords you the financial wherewithal to do the other things in your life that give you energy. Get to work early, be structured and produce daily so you can devote 1 or 2 hours each day writing, volunteering, coaching or whatever it is that makes you tick.

Again, the world is always changing, so we have a choice; change with it or fight it and I advocate changing with it.

Travis Furlow is a Managing Director with Resource Recruiting and Learning Solutions. He has been in the recruiting industry for 15 years and devotes his time to training and coaching individuals and organizations who want to find, hire and train their talent with new and innovative methodologies. Read more about Resource and Travis at www.fearlessleadership.wordpress.com or at www.smartworkforce.com .

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