In many past conversations with my clients and fellow colleagues, there has been a common thread – they’ve wondered what’s next for them, many of them recognizing they are at a career crossroads. Some don’t know what path they want to take, some are stuck on the road they’ve chosen, and some feel downright lost.
When we get into these situations, it can be comforting to know there may be signs along the way of which direction we can take. But the reality is that is not always the case and we often find ourselves:
- In panic mode, frantically trying anything and everything to find our way (for example, spraying and praying resumes into the internet abyss)
- Looking around for others for direction (for example, asking others what we should do or comparing our journey to someone else’s)
- Frozen in fear of the unknown or overwhelmed with the choices that lay ahead of us (for example, staying at a company out of comfort)
There is a better way. If you are finding yourself in any of the above situations, below are steps forward you can take.
Get to Resting & Recharging
Whatever path you are currently on, take a pause and a deep breath. The uncertainty of what’s ahead can often feel monumental. Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself in those moments is rest. Resting for you could mean enjoying being out in nature, reading, journaling, baking, painting, or playing with your kids. You may be surprised that by simply taking your mind off your career and giving your brain a break that you may have some breakthrough moments of clarity. We are so used to going, going, going or operating in panic mode, that that rest and recharge period can allow you to intentionally reflect on what it is you value in your life and career.
Did you know it can take an average of 3-6 months to find a new role?
Once you recognize the itch to make a change or that feeling that something is off and are ready to figure out what’s next, that’s your signal to get into discovery mode. Give yourself intentional time to reflect. Ask yourself questions and write down your responses to the following:
- What do I value most in a career?
- What motivates me at work?
- What am I good at? What do others often come to me for?
- What do I like and dislike about my current career situation?
- What would an ideal job look like? What would an ideal company be to work for?
You can take it a step further and create your Career Development Plan (here’s an L&I template you can use) where you can easily jot down your vision, goals, and action plan.
Once you have a better understanding of what may be next for you (or if you’re still unsure), utilize your curiosity to your advantage. Now’s the time to reach out and talk to others! Think about those you admire, those in positions at your company you are curious about, those in your career field at companies/industries you’re interested in, those who are running a business of their own – whatever is piquing your interest.
As you reach out and speak to those folks, make sure to voice your career aspirations and the outcome you are seeking from the conversations you have with them. And then, let your curiosity lead the way and ask them intentional questions about their career, their day to day, and their advice they may have for you.
Check out the blog post below about why these conversations – i.e. informational interviews – can be so impactful. You can also use this Networking Target List to get the juices flowin’. (My friend Rebecca, author of KNOCK: How to Open Doors and Build Career Relationships has a plethora of downloads to help here too.)
Also, if you are planning to stay within your company but are looking to what’s next (perhaps a new role or more responsibility/leadership on your team), make sure you are using your check-ins with your manager and leadership team to express your career goals too. Feel free to revert back to that Career Development Plan to showcase you’ve done the work!
Get to Facing Your Fears
Change is never easy and it can be scary as hell. But as I always say, action is the antidote of fear. When you’ve outlined the path that’s next for you, you’ll be put into a position where you’ll need to make a choice. Will you stay in your comfort zone? Will you let your doubts and insecurities halt you? Will you let your fear keep you from moving forward? Or, will you trust in yourself and your abilities and choose to take the risk? Once you’ve done the work and gotten to this point, my hope is your confidence will steer you in the direction you know you need to go.
All this being said, stay true to who you are. When you’re at a career crossroads, focus on your path and your path only. Don’t fall into the trap of comparing your path to someone else’s and wondering if you’re behind or don’t have the skillset to get ahead. You have the power to find and choose what’s next for you. Trust that. I’m rooting for you!
Kelly Nash is a Chicago-based writer, career coach, speaker and founder of Lipstick & Ink®. She also works full-time in technology as a Role Strategy and Employee Engagement Manager at Salesforce and has over 12 years of digital marketing experience. Kelly has been featured in Thrive Global, Chicago Tribune, International Association of Women, General Assembly, Salesforce, and SheFactor. She’s fueled by black coffee, sunshine, a good ink pen, and a bold lip.