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CAREER TIPS - Ask These 5 Questions to Decide Your Next Career Move

Posted 17th March 2022 • Written by Rebecca Zucker on •

Answering the following five questions (and related follow-up questions) can inform your planning and actions for the year ahead.

How fulfilled am I?

To what extent do you find meaning and purpose in your work? Values are what you hold as important and are the key to feeling fulfilled. They represent who you are. Examples of values are collaboration, impact, fairness, autonomy, adventure, recognition, creativity, and security. Expressing your values at work improves satisfaction and performance.

Once you’ve articulated your top values, ask yourself for each value “On a scale of 1-10, where 10 is the ideal, how well am I able to express this value in my job?” For example, if you’ve rated your value of creativity a seven, then ask yourself, “What makes it a seven?” followed by, “What would make it an eight or a nine?” This might prompt a discussion with your manager to find ways to express more of this value at work or inform the types of projects or roles you pursue within your organization or at another organization altogether.

How am I learning and growing?

Learning itself can bring an immediate sense of achievement. To what extent are you building competence or expertise in your sector or function? Often, we don’t realize how much we’ve learned until we need to teach someone else on the job. What knowledge, skills, or traits have you acquired in the last year? Perhaps you learned more about the government contracting process, improved your presentation skills, or learned how to be more patient.

Am I headed in the right direction?

Day to day and even year to year, it can be hard to tell if you are headed in the right direction if you don’t look up periodically and assess where you are. I’ve worked with scores of clients who have said some variation of “I’ve never had to look for new opportunities. They just fell into my lap or came to me.” While it’s nice to have new opportunities come your way and it can be very flattering — or even seductive — to be recruited for certain roles, it can cloud your judgement and result in a more haphazard versus intentional path. Many of the same people who shared the above-mentioned experience (often 20+ years into their careers) also shared, “I don’t know how I got here. I just kept taking the next job that came up. I’m not sure that this is where I really wanted to be.”

What seeds do I need to plant now?

Whether it’s realizing a three-to-five-year vision or something longer term, career success is often the result of the cumulative effects of small, regular actions — what I refer to as “planting seeds.” A seed you plant today may sprout two months from now, two years from now, or 10 years from now — and it typically takes planting many of them. You can also think of this as your 20% time, outside of your regular job, as Google once encouraged their employees to explore and experiment with something new.

What relationships do I need to build?

Relationships are fundamental to career success. You can’t do it alone, no matter what the “it” is. Given your near, mid, and even long-term goals, who are the people who can help you get there? You may know some already and others you may have yet to meet. When you’re “heads down” in work, it’s easy to neglect your relationships. Take some “heads up” time to step back and take stock of your network by drawing a rough network map, identifying those you know to varying degrees (stream of consciousness is fine) and mapping them according to the strength of the relationship. Write your name in the center of a blank page. Note down stronger ties closer to you and weaker ties further away.

We all know that careers are not linear, and they evolve and unfold over many years — even decades. Asking yourself the questions outlined above can help you shift from autopilot to being in the driver’s seat so that you can be more intentional and ensure that you achieve your definition of career success.

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