5 Tips for Figuring Out the Next Step in Your Career
Perhaps it’s how the stars have aligned, but recently I’ve had a number of people tell me that they needed to figure out what their next step is in their career.
The good news in hearing this is that these people are giving some conscious thought to their career. It’s really easy to ignore it and just show up to work everyday 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 just so many things to think through, 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 any kind of clarity?
Here are some tips for you to consider:
First, what general direction are you headed? 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 a change in things like commute, travel or work pressure?
By defining your general direction up front, you’ll be able to see the next few steps. 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. There may be some slightly overlapping elements but the core direction dictates different steps.
What Are Your Goals for the Next Step?
Do you want to be making more money, or is job structure the driver? I know this sounds funny to hear, 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 need to maintain the level to improve the “life” side. Sometimes you’re working to get to that level.
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 all that time has passed and nothing happened. In fact, too much time passed and now they’re faced with a totally 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.
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 path from here to there would be. Really drill down on the option as if you were pursuing it in earnest. Sometimes, this can really inspire you or makes you put the brakes on. Either way it ends up, you’re better off than you were when standing still.
Change is not a comfortable state of being. Many people avoid that discomfort at all costs. The thing is, 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. (Tweet this!) This is very toxic to great career management.
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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 in the comments!