I started a decluttering exercise in my own life way back in 2005 when I embarked upon a downsizing process. I carried out the final effort last summer when I came across the KonMari method. Like any philosophy it is simple in concept and can be applied not only to domestic organisation, but also other elements of our lives. I realised it is possible to KonMari your career.
Kondo, is a professional organizer, whose best selling book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing,” took the world by storm. It has a mystical or spiritual component underpinned by the belief that decluttering can change your organisation, but with other added benefits such as weight loss and overall well-being. Like career transition or job search changes made in your professional life will have a positive impact on your life as a whole. And like tidying up for the first time, when you have done it once you gain career management skills which you can apply again.
Some of her basic tenets are brilliantly simple which can loosely or even directly apply to career management. Here are some:
- Tidy all at once. Tidying a bit at a time never works.
- Visualize your destination and Identify why you want to live the way you envision.
- Tidy by category, not location.
- Tidy in the right order.
- Find out what sparks joy
- Discard before you place things back.
Here are 6 tips to KonMari your career
1. Commit to career transition with courage and conviction
The Kondo principle “Tidy all at once. Tidying a bit at a time never works.” can be similarly applied to career transition.
When anyone wants to make a career change they tend to just tweak their CV and then send it out to everyone they know. This is what we call “spray and pray.” In the way that Kondo discourages piecemeal de-cluttering, career transition is the same. Once you’ve made a decision to change direction in your professional life you have to be all-in. It means assessing and overhauling all your job search or career transition tools. This could include your resume, LinkedIn profile, networking strategy, carrying out a professional skills audit and refreshing your interviewing techniques. The job market and hiring processes are changing constantly and most people need an update. Recruitment platforms use AI now and hiring methodologies have changed.
Focusing on one small element only could lead to problems in other areas. If you have career clutter you have to tackle all elements with courage, commitment and conviction. To do otherwise is like transferring your junk from the living room to a closet in the guest bedroom. You still have the junk.
Watching Kondo fold clothes is a joy to behold and most of us are going to struggle with the focused attention required. But the underlying premise of belief and commitment also applies to recognising and owning your achievements. If you lack-self-belief in your own skills and achievements you will appear unconvincing in interviews even on your CV. The metaphor of folding camisole straps into the whole garment is spot on. Like any element of job search you don’t want untidy loose ends. And even better a folded item should stand up in it’s own, integrated and compact, just like a career story!
2. Visualise your destination
This is exactly the same principle in career planning and management. You have to visualise your ideal life and career and then create a plan to make sure you are on the right path. It’s important to understand what drives you including your values and passions. If you don’t know where you are going any path will get you there said Lewis Carroll. This is about setting goals and making sure that everything you do is focused and in line with your goals.
This includes both personal and professional goals so that you have the balance in your life that suits you. Make time for self-care and nurturing the things that are important to you. This can be hobbies, relationships or personal development.
Gaining insight into those drivers and values keep yourself on track although be mindful that they can and do change over time .
3. Determine what sparks joy
From here on in everything you do should be in line with your plan and vision. If you find yourself doing things that are off plan either your goals need changing or your behaviour does. This involves being aware of how you spend your time. This could mean learning to say no and opting-out of non-essential tasks or non-promotion work (also known as invisible work) which is a trap many women fall into. If you are the one that organises baby showers, takes notes in meetings or volunteers for extra projects, now is the time to re-evaluate that principle.
Every job has elements that don’t excite us. But if you create a balance sheet and there are more negatives than plusses, now is the time to KonMari your career. Make a list of the elements of your job that excite you and make you happy to get up in the morning and go to work. How does that list sit with your vision? If you are not doing enough of any of the tasks that spark joy, then now is the moment to take stock.
4. Your job shouldn’t have power over you
In a domestic sense it is about being attached to “things” that the block you from getting on with your life and moving forward. Don’t let “things” hold you back. If you Konmari your career the theory can be applied broadly to many aspects of your professional life, the philosophic root is so brilliant in its simplicity. It can be about:
- paring down your CV, pitch, LinkedIn profile and other tools until they are concise, precise and relevant. What I call applying CPR. I have urged clients to do that for years.
- letting go early or non-relevant experience so that your approach to your career or job search is streamlined and targeted. You’re 40, we don’t need to know about your sports activities in college.
- not getting distracted by “busyness” and using your time efficiently and effectively. The internet is a massive time black hole. Device addiction is on the rise and multi-tasking is now considered a big con. It doesn’t exist.
5. Search by category – streamline your search
Kondo advises us to tidy by category not location. So if you are streamlining our personal brand we have to make sure you carry this out on all platforms for consistency, constancy and coherence. It means you have to build a reputation that is in line with your goals and key core message and deliver it over different platforms consistently and regularly. It’s not a one-off exercise it’s a pattern of behaviour.
For job seekers when you KonMari your career you can move forward with a targeted job search that is liberated from all your historic baggage that you want to let go or have tidied up into a compelling narrative that reflects the new you!
It can also be about taking stock of other things. This could include toxic relationships whether at home or in business. It might involve overcoming perfectionist tendencies, when “done is better than perfect.” You might be someone who enjoys a reputation for being a “rescuer,” the person who everyone counts on in an emergency, but frequently doesn’t get full credit. This can sap your energy and lead to burnout.
Kondo reminds us also to appreciate the value of any experience even the ones we are letting go and to be grateful for the lessons we have learned. You might be changing some bad habits – but at some level they have served you well in the past. They are simply no longer relevant to the way you want to live our lives now. You have learned from the bully boss or the colleague who took credit for your work. That’s why it won’t happen again because those habits are firmly in your past.
She also advises us to focus on our own needs and not to get caught up in other people’s business or the blame game. We have to take responsibility for the things we can control and let go the things we can’t. We focus on our own de-cluttering. The line “swim in your own lane” is one I use to cover this.
6. A clutter free life is a streamlined life
When we commit to professional change it’s always a good idea to set aside a dedicated area. Look at your desk and make note of what is on it. Filled with junk and paper? What about drawers? In a world of hot-desking, lack of personal space in the office is becoming the norm. This means the junk usually transfers to our backpacks, handbags and lockers rather than being jettisoned. So apply the principles to your physical workspace and even your online filing system. Are you holding on to files from 10 years ago? Do you really need them? Your physical workspace might be pristine, but if you live in digital chaos you need to tackle that too.
Do you need to clean out your address book? Do you have contacts you have neglected or have people listed or moved on?
Another gender trap is an excessive amount of clothes most of which are rarely worn and end up in land fill. This is when you can really apply her principles directly. Time now to pare it all back and align it all with your future goals. Dress for the job you want but make sure it’s a sustainable wardrobe in an era of environmental awareness.
One Kondo suggestion which sparked a reaction was that anyone should only have 30 books. At one time I owned four thousand. Yes it hurt to give them to charity and some I even had to send for recycling. But now I have a Kindle and don’t have to throw any of them away.
Whether you are decluttering or considering a professional shift there has to be an inner openness to a new approach. With that comes a willingness to embrace alternative possibilities. It’s also about coming to terms with why we are in a place of resistance and that is never easy. We tend to feel safe hanging on to the old ways. None of us like change.
If you need help to KonMari your career – get in touch