At some point, most professionals pause to reflect. They wonder if they have reached the pinnacle of their career, or whether they have just become stagnant. A sense of dissatisfaction is often at the root of these questions.
By looking objectively at where you are through the lens of a career assessment, you can develop a clear path forward. It should be a path that leads you to the next stage, one that offers professional and personal satisfaction.
As much as this career assessment can have a clinical feel, you should use your own judgment and goals to make it a more personal process. It’s easy to look at your career in terms of metrics, numbers, and external factors. But at the end of the day, remember there is value in using your intuition to decide where you want to go next.
Conduct a Career Assessment
Identify what’s important to you.
Not everyone wants the same thing out of their career. That’s why your first step should be a personal inventory of your career objectives. These should include the personal results you get from your career, as well as specific markers that indicate movement over time. Think about things like:
- Work-life balance, time for family, and hobbies;
- High-ranking position in an organization, with ample responsibility;
- Track record of innovation and social or professional contribution;
- Financial security or personal wealth.
Your own career objectives may or may not include what’s on this list. But once you have your goals front of mind, you can move on to assess whether your career is actually providing what you want.
Take Stock of Progression in Key Areas
In your work, you are probably familiar with using metrics to determine the success of a project. Use that same method to see how your career measures up when it comes to what you’ve done over the past little while — and how others have supported you. Look at these areas as a kind of laundry list of what your work entails. Then do your best to match up the contents of each category with your personal goals.
List out your career accomplishments. Focus on things you are particularly proud of, like a product that had a positive community impact, or an internal development program that supported new employees.
If it’s been a while since you’ve felt a sense of accomplishment, take note of that. Ask yourself if there is still potential to replicate your past accomplishments in your present organization, or if it might be time to seek new challenges elsewhere.
Have a look at your trajectory within the company. Has your advancement been lateral, or have you progressed within the organization? If you are no longer getting the promotions you once did — and that is something that you want — ask if you have hit a ceiling.
If you have, the problem may not be you. It is possible your company’s structure just doesn’t allow for advancement above where you currently are. Give some thought as to how your advancement potential — or lack thereof — aligns with what you want from your career.
Every career has some basic nuts and bolts. Salary and benefits are two examples. So are common employee perks, like company-wide acknowledgment of the work you do. Not everyone needs this kind of recognition, but some people see these as key indicators of value to the organization.
Money is an important consideration, especially if you think you might seek out a role at a different organization. Does your current position pay enough? Does the position pay too much, in the sense that you may be reluctant to leave in favor of a role that pays less but offers more personal satisfaction? Take a realistic look at the role of money in your career choices, specifically in terms of what you are looking for.
There are different ways your work can have impact. Perhaps your role has become less central to the company’s mission, due to a shift in the organization’s overall focus. Maybe your advancement has had a surprising counter effect — as you’ve entered a leadership role, you have less hands-on involvement in work you used to enjoy.
Impact can also involve the broader industry and community. Has your company fallen behind in its ability to innovate, and as a result, given you fewer chances to make a difference? Jot down your thoughts in this respect and measure them against your personal ideas of what makes for a great career.
Look at your potential future with the company. You may have exhausted all avenues of growth, and there isn’t much left for you to do. There may also be new ways you can learn and develop professionally, but will have to move laterally to do so.
Growth opportunities are an important indicator of stagnation. While growth in an organization is typically self-motivated, there are usually parameters around what one can achieve within a company. Think about the place of growth in your career plan and next steps you can take.
Develop a Plan of Action
Once you’ve had a close look at your career, think about what to do next. Here are a few suggestions:
- Assess internal opportunities. Look at your company as a whole and think about whether you can move up, move laterally, switch divisions, or otherwise refine your role so it provides more satisfaction.
- Consider a new industry. Look at other opportunities to do your job in another economic sector. As an example, a lawyer who has worked for years in entertainment law might find new satisfaction working for a healthcare nonprofit.
- Think about a new role. Look at other jobs you can have within your industry. Perhaps you can take your industry experience to a new role, at a new organization, in the same industry. If you consider this, remember to document your transferable skills.
- Talk to contacts outside of your organization. Making a career change is a big step. Talking to someone who knows you, and knows your business, can give you a helpful new perspective.
Ultimately, your career is yours to create. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box, if that’s what you are comfortable with. Remember plans can change, so you can always pivot if an unexpected opportunity arises.
Stay Positive! Remember You Have Options
You put a lot into your career. Hopefully, that career gives something back. When you feel stuck, take it as a challenge to decide what you really want. Your career goals may be different now than they were when you first started. Make changes and seek out new opportunities to re-energize yourself and your career path.
Meet with an Ivy Exec Career Coach to get help with your personal assessment and progression plan.