“Life moves pretty fast; if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Do you think John Hughes’ titular character from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” really became a fry cook at Venus? After a few years of dodging grease burns and sweeping to the tune of “Twist & Shout,” do you think he ever stopped and asked himself “how did I get here?”
We’re working in a time when “right now” is already too late and people are constantly inundated with information without a beat between alerts. Finding the time to assess how you’re feeling about your job, or what you’re doing with your life, is more difficult than ever.
If you spend the majority of your work day stuck in the weeds checking off monotonous tasks, it can be difficult to see the forest for the trees. That might have been one too many plant idioms… but we’re talking about career growth here! So stick with us as we take you on a journey of reflection, like you’re standing at the edge of a lilly-filled pond… sorry, enough with the plants. Let’s get down to business.
Here are a few questions worth asking yourself if you haven’t recently taken a step back and analyzed the career path you’re heading down:
How long do you see yourself staying at your current company?
The first question might seem like the most obvious, and the quick answer is probably “I don’t know.” But spending time assessing potential for career growth in your current role, as well as how you align with the company culture can help drastically narrow your answer. Sometimes these answers come as a surprise, and while the signs it’s time to start looking for a new job aren’t always glaring, once you get a feeling of insecurity or stagnation you can’t shake, exploring outside options is probably a good idea.
The amount of time you should spend in a role or with a particular company varies greatly by industry and your personal ambition. But realizing you’re standing on a stepping stone and not a place you see yourself for the long term is the first step in determining your next move in your career path. The key is to maintain personal progress.
When was the last time you felt challenged at your job?
To answer this question, you’re going to need to dig deeper than “yesterday when Karen brought in a dozen freshly baked donuts.” The more time you spend in a position without new challenges, the easier if is to mistake complacency for contentment and lose sight of your long term career path goals. Seeking out new challenges in an unfulfilling position can also be difficult.
Being challenged in your current position is the only sure-fire way to keep yourself focused on your career growth. If you find yourself, despite numerous attempts, coming up empty on ways to make your job more creative, it might be time to make a change.
Have your career goals changed since you joined the company?
Change is the only constant, and personal growth will undoubtedly influence the trajectory of growth in your career. This doesn’t mean it’s not ok to change your goals over time, it actually means the opposite.
Just because you wanted your career path to end with you being a rockstar when you were a kid doesn’t mean you have to stick with it, and it doesn’t mean you were foolish to ever have that dream (everyone knows you were a regular Travis Barker at that fifth grade talent show!). You’ve simply outgrown it, and that goal no longer serves you. If you still have the same goals you did when you joined the company, there’s still a need to assess how you have progressed toward those goals in the time spent there.
What step can you take today to help achieve your career goals?
Worst case scenario: after asking yourself the above questions, you find yourself in a job you hate, but can’t afford to quit. Don’t panic, there are plenty of options out there for you, but it will require patience. For example, try speaking with a person who does what you want to do in your company and ask about how you can make a department change. Another option is to find someone who works at your dream company and reach out for the best way to find out about new opportunities. Use today to step back and think about if you’re on the right path. If not, what can you do to correct course?
The journey, not the destination of your career, is going to define the person you become along the way. The best way to guarantee you don’t wake up one day after spending twenty years in a job that you hate with nothing to show for it is to keep an open dialogue with yourself and regularly assess if you current job is serving your ambition and career goals.
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