Do you feel like you need a change but can’t quite pinpoint why? You know you want to be happier, more satisfied, and more fulfilled in your career, but you just don’t know what that means. You’re not alone. Many people often wonder if something better might be out there for them.
“How do I figure out what to do next in my career?” is one of the most common questions I get. While most people are somewhat content with their current situation they have a sense that something is missing. Somehow, the meaning they once attached to their job is no longer there. They want to know how they can best use their skills and talents in a more meaningful way. They also want to know how they can better align their most important values with good career opportunities.
When people feel this way, they generally launch a job search. They update their resume, post it online and see what happens. Usually they get a few nibbles but most often the response is fairly minimal. Then, they begin to wonder if they even have other options or if they’re stuck in place forever. They’re at a career crossroad. It’s at this point that career assessments can be of great value by providing personal insight.
Having a clear vision of a desired career path is very important since there are several career paths to consider. Among the options are advancing within your current company, moving to another company for a change of scenery and advancement opportunities, or making a more drastic career change. You may feel that staying put while enhancing your current career situation is the way to go. Or, you may ultimately decide to enhance your knowledge through education, enhance your visibility through project work or volunteering, or by actively cultivating a professional network.
What is most important, though, is that you are able to clearly describe the factors that will bring you the highest level of satisfaction no matter what direction you choose. Career assessment can help you get clear about your career aspirations. Assessing your skills, interests, values and personality and other factors and examining how they connect with potential career opportunities will allow you to get clear about such factors as your ideal work environment, desired salary and benefits requirements, regional preferences, and industry preferences among other variables. Taking inventory of those areas also will provide important insight into what career-related factors will bring you the highest level of satisfaction.
While career assessment can be a formal process that you go through with a qualified career counselor, it doesn’t have to be. There are numerous resources available and exercises you can complete on your own. I’ll outline two exercises you can do on your own.
First, you can start by simply taking inventory of your career progress. A really good exercise is the “Career Lifeline.” When, I use it with my clients, I first have them draw a horizontal line on a sheet of paper labeling the left side beginning and the right side end. Second, I have them plot their career highs and lows beginning from their first “career decision” such as deciding to go to college rather than work, or choosing x major, or turning down y project. Finally, I have them review their lifeline to date, and we discuss the career decisions they’ve made and what influenced those decisions. We also discuss the outcomes. The objective of the exercise is to analyze personal values and their impact on their decision-making, career path and career satisfaction.
A second exercise you can do to analyze your strengths is to ask people for feedback. When they think of your strengths, what words come to mind? Obviously, you want to do this with people who know you and whom you trust. It can be a little awkward, but explain that you are simply trying to get a sense of your strengths.