My Career is Stuck

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Its back to school time and I’ve been watching all the photos in my feed of kids with new lunchboxes and big smiles as they get ready for their first day of school. The great thing about school is that the curriculum is laid out for you. You know what is expected of you in order to pass to the next level. Your career, not so much. Its more like a “choose your own adventure book.”  Each decision is based on the ones before and depending on what you choose there are different paths to get to your destination. You may even find new adventures along the way.  Getting started isn’t the hard part, its often figuring out, where to go to next. There are lots of options and sometimes people aren’t sure where to go next.

Before we can talk about why people get stuck, let’s lay down some of the basics. To get back on track, first you will need to do a career assessment. Ask yourself a few questions:

  1. What skills do you already have and how can that help you in your next opportunity?

  2. Is there a road generally traveled? Take it one step further and ask what could be next?

  3. Does that opportunity exists?

  4. Is there an opportunity where your skills fill a current business need or gap?

There are a number of different ways to go about this: leverage any tools that you have at your firm, talk to your manager in your 1x1s, talk to a mentor, talk to a colleague who has had a similar career progression (or one that you’d like to have) and get some ideas. I’m a big believer in having regular career discussions with your manager.  I know that not everyone is there, but your manager can be your biggest advocate in finding or shaping where you think your next career move may be. So if you are not including them you may be missing a powerful ally.

Next, evaluate of your current skill set and competencies against the new career or role that you are considering. A 360 would be a wonderful tool here. If your company does not offer one try using a free or low cost one that has templates built out. It is crucial to get feedback from a large sample of people in order to get a view of how you see your skill set against how others see your skills and competencies. To get the most of this feedback, you’ll want to take a partner — have your feedback sent to a colleague, life/executive coach, or manager or your HR representative (HR for HR) who can help you work through the results.  This feedback will do two things. One, it will help determine readiness. Are you ready for a career move now or in 36 months? This is also a good time to inject a bit of a reality check to see if your next career move is realistic. Two,it will help your determine developmental activities to help strengthen or leverage you key or under utilized skills/competencies that you will need to take you to your next step in your career.

In my opinion there are 4 main reasons why people’s career planning get stuck or stalled:

  1. People lose interest in them — the planning exercise is stale or too complicated. We’re busy people so career planning should be thoughtful, but simple to execute and update.

  2. Employes don’t share their plans with the right people. IMHO,I think that this is because people do not know how to talk about career development — career development does not mean you don’t like you current job or team.

  3. Employees have unrealistic expectations about their career development. This could be due to any number of reasons, but likely due to a misalignment between the manager and the employee.

  4. Developmental activities are not approached correctly by managers or employees.

I want to explore how to counter some of these career planning stallers in upcoming posts — but in the meantime — what are some of your thoughts — any to add to the list?

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Comments

  1. Great post, Andrea. I completely agree with your belief that people don’t know how to talk about career development. Sharing your “stuckness” with an employer requires a willingness to be vulnerable, which no one enjoys, yet I think most employers would appreciate the chance to help a good employee get back on track.

    I also think people shy away from the conversation because they can’t quite pinpoint what’s not working for them. They know they aren’t as engaged as they’d like to be, yet may not be able to put words to that sentiment so they aren’t even sure what to share.

    Thanks for the words of insight!

    Reply

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