At certain times in our careers we need to make decisions about up-levelling our lives and careers. Some persons are loyal to their organizations, waiting for their supervisors to recognize their contributions and potential. They wait and wait, and sometimes they are rewarded with a promotion if they wait long enough. This is because the longer they wait, the more likely it will be that they will be the best choice, sometimes the only choice. An approach like this puts the power for making decisions about your career in the hands of someone who is probably thinking about how they will achieve their goals and more than how to develop you.
It is time to think carefully about who is responsible for your career. Does your organization dangle the carrot, sometimes perpetually, with claims that “We have plans for you” and they never take the time to elaborate on those plans. Or are you empowered to drive your career in the direction you want, at a pace that works best for you?
It is important for you to think about if it is time for something new for a number of reasons: a) You may wait to be developed and your supervisor may not support having your organization invest in your career. This could be because the department may be too busy, your supervisor may be rated on cost savings to the department, or he may be threatened by your potential – to name a few; b) Decision makers may develop you along a path that you are not passionate about so you have no connection to it; c) You may not live up to your fullest potential by having to wait too long to be considered for your next move; or d) You may not be considered for a promotion at all because of biases and power dynamics within your department.
The first step in determining if it is time for something new in your career is to connect with your passion. Sometimes leaders know what their passion is. Sometimes they don’t. If you don’t know then start by exploring what you enjoy doing that allows you to make other people’s lives better while at the same helping you to feel appreciated. Sometimes what you are passionate about emerges out of a difficult circumstance, sometimes you can discover it by working on different projects with the purpose of seeing if you can derive satisfaction from the work.
While going through this process, I invite you to keep in mind the fact that just because you have done something for a long time and you have mastered it, this doesn’t mean the work addresses your “why”. Dig deeper to determine how you really feel about your work.
Once you have an idea of what you are passionate about, the next step in determining if it is time for something new is to envision your future career. Where do you see yourself in your career? Will the path you are on now, get you there? How long do you want to take to get there? And what measures will you take to build the skills you need to ensure success?
Once you establish a vision for your career and define your mission it is useful to identify your values. Values include family, development, making money, health, trust, or ambition. There are numerous other values you can explore to see if they resonate with you, and if you need support with customizing your list you can conduct research on the internet. Once you list your values, prioritize your top ten values and analyse them. I have encountered values lists where the top five values are family related and that person has a demanding job. Persons like this tend to be conflicted because their work lives eclipse their family lives and some feel helpless to do anything about it because they have no plan.
When changing your career you have the option to make a dramatic change or you can take incremental steps. If you decide to make incremental changes because you are risk averse, once you are consistent, these small steps will have a compounding effect. So after you define your values the next step is to make decisions based on a few considerations:
- Based on your values and goals, are you in the right job?
- Are you working for an employer who will invest in and support your career growth?
- What path should you take to get where you need to go and develop your strengths along the way?
- Is employment your optimal path or should you consider starting a business?
- Taking another look at your values, is the environment you are working in conducive to your growth?
- Do you have the contacts you need to obtain information about your desired path?
- What are the skills you need to achieve your career goals? How long will it take you to master them?
- What is your plan?
These are only a few questions you can use to support discovery as you consider your career path. You can feel free to add ones that will help you.
Over the years I have encountered a number of talented leaders waiting to be noticed. Some wait for ten to fifteen years to be noticed, others are noticed and promoted within a few months. There are those who take their careers into their own hands and transition themselves into a new role when they feel the time is right. Both paths have their pros and cons. We have explored waiting as an option. Let’s take a look at the empowered path. This involves taking a step toward your path despite the risks. As with any decision there is a chance you can make the wrong one, but reflecting on your values, taking deliberate developmental steps, and strategically networking can minimize the probability of a misstep.
When it is time for something new in your career you should be able to recognize it, have the discipline to take the steps necessary for change and develop the courage to defy the naysayers who attempt to freely project their fears onto you. When it is time for something new, the old ways of managing your career will not work, give some thought to how you will attune to your why and how you can make your goals a reality.
Yvette Bethel is CEO of Organizational Soul, an Organizational Effectiveness Consulting and Leadership Development company. She is a Consultant, Trainer, Speaker, Facilitator, Executive Coach, Author, and Emotional Intelligence Practitioner. If you are interested Yvette's ideas on other leadership topics you can sign up for her newsletter at www.yvettebethel.com or you can listen to her podcast at Evolve Podcast.