Even though I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions, there is a lot to be said about doing a re-examination of your career and making some adjustments along the way. So, if you are up for a little self-scrutiny, here are some ideas to get you started. If you decide to take action on any of these ideas call it anything but your New Year’s Resolution. Resolutions are too easy to break.
- Remember how you visualized your career when you graduated? Are you about where you thought you’d be right now in your career?
Don’t be disheartened if the answer is “no.” It’s surprising how many people graduate in one specialty, only to take a completely different path. Life brings us many opportunities—and forks in the road– we never could foresee. The question is– are you using your talents in ways that bring you satisfaction? Or, have you taken a turn that you find unsatisfying but are stuck about what to do to get out of the rut?
If your answer is “No, I’m not a vice president yet.” I strongly suggest that you reframe your goal. Using a position as a goal is a poor measure of satisfaction. It often drives us in the wrong direction. I’ve known individuals whose sole ambition was to get the corner office, only to realize they aren’t happy in the job. In other cases, I’ve known individuals who feel like failures because they haven’t reached some specific level, yet they are highly successful in the job they currently hold. They rob themselves of career happiness, all because of some arbitrary brass ring they think they have to have.
- Do you have at least one opportunity for advancement within your current organization?
If you do, there is a good chance you are doing a good job and are highly regarded by your colleagues and manager. But if you are regarded as a great employee and there are no openings in the ceiling above you, it’s time to talk to your manager about growth on the job. Just because there is no open path, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be trying new things and building your tool kit. If you build a reputation for learning new things and being willing to tackle tough projects, you will have an edge over the competition—whether it’s inside or outside your company.
And if you don’t really want to advance because you found your sweet spot, don’t fret about it. In the past, the conventional wisdom was that we had to have upward career mobility. Today, we know that there are many paths to career “advancement”—one of which is to grow in the job you are in and never leave it.
- Have you identified at least two potential directions you could go, if you decided to leave your current company?
Think of this question as job insurance. I have seen many individuals who thought they were safe in a company, only to be caught unprepared when their company was acquired, or the company closed or moved. The interesting thing about constantly identifying opportunities is that you never feel trapped. In fact, you get a sense of empowerment because you are working in your job by choice, not chance.
If you identify a direction that interests you but you don’t have the required experience, you can take steps on your job, volunteer activities, or education, to fill the gaps. Even if you don’t leave your current employer, you will be a more valuable asset, regardless.
- If you are unemployed, have you kept up a robust search (even though you may have been unemployed for some time)?
It’s understandable if you are discouraged and have given up hope but there are enough signs that the economy has begun to awaken from its stupor. Unemployment numbers are heading downward and companies are showing signs of growth.
If you haven’t had much luck in your job search, get active in a job-hunting support group, or hire a coach and find out what is blocking you. If you need to increase your networking (which is the main problem in most cases) start an aggressive campaign
- Have you maintained a healthy network of contacts, both face-to-face and online?
The first thing I think—right or wrong—when I’m asked to accept an invitation on LinkedIn, is “This person is job hunting.” (Granted, a lot of savvy professionals are also using LinkedIn, and other sites to network.) But my second thought is “Why didn’t they spend more time networking before they really needed to?”
If you haven’t thought much about networking in the last few years, it’s time to step it up. Touch base with vendors, lunch with former bosses, keep in touch with former teammates. Not only will you enjoy it, it will be your safety net if you ever need it.
- When you are 80 years old, and look back on your career, will you be satisfied that you took the right steps in your career?
I asked myself that question (well, it was really my husband’s question to me) when I was debating starting my own management consulting and coaching firm. I’ve asked many people the same question many years since then. It forces you to look in the mirror and examine the risks you may be afraid of, and the opportunities you might let slide by, if you don’t push yourself to do things that may feel uncomfortable or require extra work.
If you identify one area to focus on in the coming year, write down some tangible action steps to move you closer to where you want to be. Just don’t call it a New Year’s Resolution.
© Joan Lloyd & Associates, Inc.