Perhaps it’s how the stars have aligned, but recently I’ve had many people tell me they needed to figure out the next step in their career path.
The good news is that these people are considering their career paths. It’s easy to ignore it and just show up to work daily, giving no thought to the career.
The tough thing is that figuring out your next step can be as complex as rocket science. There are many things to consider, like income, lifestyle, work content, responsibilities, and retooling. To make it more complex, there are usually considerations for potential opportunities at your current place of business.
How do you wade through all of this to gain clarity?
Here are some tips for you to consider when choosing a new career path:
1. Overarching Direction
First, what general direction are you headed? It sounds simple, but it’s really important. Your choices can be:
- Moving up, looking for promotion, or more responsibility?
- Something different?
- Same level and work but changes like commute, travel, or work pressure?
You can see the next few steps by defining your general direction upfront. Think of it like vacation planning. Do you want to go somewhere warm, culturally different, or historical? Each option poses highly different choices. The same is true for your career. Some slightly overlapping elements may overlap, but the core direction dictates different steps.
2. What Are Your Goals for the Next Step?
Do you want to make more money, or is job structure the driver? This sounds funny, but making more money isn’t always the big driver. One of the people making this statement to me is very satisfied with their paycheck. They would like to maintain the income but kick back and stop working at such a break-neck pace. Sometimes you sacrifice work/life balance to get to a level, and then you must maintain the level to improve the “life” side. Sometimes you’re working to get to that level.
3. Figure Out Your Timing Tolerance
One of the things that happen to some people is they think if they wait long enough, the universe will present an opportunity. While I do think this happens occasionally, it’s also the stuff regrets are made of. Too many people wait for something to happen, only to wake up, look around, and realize that everything has passed and nothing happened.
Too much time passed, and now they’re faced with a new set of considerations. There is a rhythm to careers. About every 2-3 years, substantial changes either do happen or should happen. If you are in the mid-point of this window, now is the time to figure it out. I estimate it usually takes about a year for all the planning and actions to culminate into a change.
4. Immerse Yourself in One of the Options
The problem with always standing back to think about things is that it doesn’t prompt a decision. When a decision is not forthcoming, you need to change your behavior. Pick one of your options and “try it on.” Speak to others doing the work you’re thinking of. Figure out what your career path from here to there would be. Drill down on the option as if you were pursuing it in earnest. Sometimes, this can inspire you or makes you put the brakes on. Either way, you’re better off than you were when standing still.
5. Be Change-Ready
Change is not a comfortable state of being. Many people avoid that discomfort at all costs. If you deliberately put yourself into changing situations, you will be more adept and open to making change. The reluctance to make change is often the reason for not moving forward. This is very toxic to great career management.
If you’re thinking about what your next career step should be, congratulations! Now, do more than just think about it. What will your next step be? Share Your Thoughts!
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