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Mentor minute

Changing your career course starts with in-depth questions Add to ...

THE SCENARIO

I've been at the same job for several years and I'm losing enthusiasm When I started, this seemed to be my dream, but lately I've been wondering whether it's still right for me or whether I should start planning to move on to something new that might offer more fulfilment. How do I decide my best career option?

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THE ADVICE

It's a good idea at any point in your work life to pause and ask the question: Is this the right career for me? If your answer is "no" - or even "maybe" - you should immediately start considering options that might be more satisfying. Even if your answer is "yes," a re-evaluation of your situation and goals can help you make your job even better. It's remarkable how many people don't make the effort to identify what it is they really want.

NAME IT

Begin by making a written list all of the elements of your career that work for you. What energizes you in your work? What kind of work do you excel in? What do you most enjoy? What parts of those elements exist in your current role?

Keep writing lists as long as you can. What often happens, however, is that it doesn't take long for the negatives to start creeping in - the frustrations and all the stuff you're procrastinating on because it's not that interesting. Write those down, too. Sometimes what you consider to be negative parts of your career can actually help create clarity as to what you'd be doing if you could have it your way.

REFRAME IT

Now comes the hard part: thinking things through. Determine what you would need to help you do your best work. Take your list of annoyances, frustrations and energy drains and reframe or rephrase each one into a situation that would be ideal for you. Keep your desired actions in the affirmative, reframing any of the energy drains or less desirable parts of your work into something you can work with.

For example, if it's, "I'm buried in administrative tasks," turn that around into what would work for you: "I have strong administrative support to keep me focused on getting results." This exercise takes time and effort, but it's worth it. After you have reframed and crossed off all the negative statements to create more forward-thinking actions, you'll be better able to articulate what you want in your newly transformed role. Not only that, but you'll also be more clear on what kind of work you want to delegate or steer clear of in the future. You have put those initial negative responses to good use by reframing them to focus on something more creative, meaningful and productive.

GET INTO ALIGNMENT

Sometimes when we're feeling frustrated in a career it's because we aren't staying true to what's most important to us - our values. Ask yourself whether the things you value are matching up with your work. Remember that simply because you're good at something doesn't mean it aligns with what you value. Many of us get caught in the trap of taking on extra, less enjoyable, tasks that end up distracting us from doing our best work. Taking on a lot of extra work that doesn't fit with what you most value - even if you're told you're good at it - is a surefire path to burnout.

CREATE A CHANGE STRATEGY

So, you have named what you want in an ideal career, you've reframed those negatives to work for you, and you've thought about how your values help you zero in on choosing the kind of work that helps feed your energy and passion.

What project roles or new positions would be available in your organization to make your job ideal? If they aren't available where you are, what alternative role or industry might make these available? What would your role, position or assignment and responsibilities look like? What kinds of results do you want to be achieving? What about the desired work environment - the qualities and expertise of those you work with, the office location and the corporate culture?

You need to be able to articulate in two or three points the kind of work you want people to give you, so they can give it to you.

FILL THE GAPS

Finally, you have to be honest with yourself about what skills and experiences you would need to do your best in this newly transformed role or position. Where are the gaps? At this point, getting some sort of feedback - informally or through a formal assessment - can help you accelerate your development.

We all have blind spots and strengths that are overused. Be open to the support of others to identify them so you can make the adjustments you need to be ready when that ideal position comes along.



Karen Kelloway is a consultant with Knightsbridge Robertson Surrette in Halifax and author of Nail It! Six Steps to Transform Your Career.

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