What Career Choices Do You Need To Make Next for Your Future

Posted by Patra Frame
career choices

You’ve seen all the coverage of the “Great Resignation,” the various debates over how and where work will occur if we ever get to the “new normal,” and the wild coverage of how hard it is to hire. For many people, the volume of daily life and work changes from the pandemic has left us stressed and exhausted.

Perhaps you are wondering what your own future could be.

Too often we look back and think other people or other generations had a nice predictable, linear career path. Yet research on careers done from the 1940s on shows the majority of people, at every level, had a variety of work experiences that were unpredictable, often unstable, fluid, and full of changing circumstances.

Edgar Schein’s work at MIT is pioneering and his analysis is that most of us make a great logical career story only when looking back on what was a messy series of jobs. Career coaches now frame a career in images of rivers or forests, or pivots or a quest, instead of certainty.

Do not let yourself get stuck in a rigid or unthinking mindset about your work future. Your career choices are primary to your work future. Yet, you make them within a framework of changes—in technology, economics, politics, and yes, in pandemics, which all influence your options.

How To Think About Career Next Steps

Deciding the next career step often seems obvious: go for the next level job in your current arena. But the pandemic has many of us tired, discouraged, seeking new options, or wondering “is this all there is?” How do you effectively think through your needs, feelings, or worries? Read on.

A. Start With Your Current Job

What is the issue you need to address? Is it:

  • The work itself – are you bored, frustrated, or sick of the daily work you do?
  • The level of the work – do you still like the work but feel ready for a higher-level aspect of it?
  • The work situation – hours, demands, lack of flexibility or respect, etc?
  • The career field as a whole – does it no longer excite you? Or limit needed options?
  • The boss – are you having issues with your boss or their work style?
  • The department or division – is your boss fine, but upper management not so?
  • The organization – does its culture or values clash with your needs? Does it not offer the work you seek?

You need real clarity about what is wrong to successfully address it. Sometimes the solution may be within your company – a different boss, role, or division. Other problems, especially at the company level, mean you need to move on. Career changes also require in-depth research and may or may not be possible within your current company.

B. What Motivates You?

Understanding what drives you at work is an important aspect of being fulfilled at your work. Motivators are different than your core values, although both are important. If your current job, career field, or organization does not meet your motivating needs, you are unlikely to be happy or successful. Here are some common drivers. Which are your top five?

  • visible success
  • make a difference
  • creativity
  • be powerful
  • have structure
  • intellectual stimulation
  • be recognized
  • prestige
  • mentor others
  • ‘cutting edge’ opportunities        
  • shared goals
  • job security
  • sense of belonging
  • continuous learning
  • work with data
  • work with people
  • be valued
  • national/global opportunities
  • use current skills
  • solve problems
  • competitive
  • develop friendships
  • new experiences
  • freedom
  • influence
  • be respected

Once you assess the most important few, seek out information on whether your job, organization, and career choices ensure they will be met.

C. What Are You Good At?

All of us have a variety of strengths and abilities. But identifying our talents is vital to successful career and job choices.

  • What are you good at now? Include soft/power skills with arena expertise.
  • What do you do easily, even if it is actually difficult?
  • What skills and abilities have you been recognized for at work?
  • Which of these things that you are good at do you actually want to do more of?
  • What would you do if you had no constraints?

Spend time on your answers as you remember earlier work and learning, not just your current role. Working through this assessment carefully will help you make better choices.

Pro Tip: Ask 10-12 people you know well to list 10 strengths they see in you. Afterwards take all their lists and pick out the top few that are most common among their answers.

D. What Difference Do You Want to Make?

We often talk about passion and purpose during career coaching. Many people have difficulty defining those in terms that are useful to career choices. Spending some time thinking about the difference you want to make is useful. This does not require you to be doing something that will bring you great fame or money.

A common theme among people in cleared jobs is that they want to contribute to the national defense or to the country. Many immigrants want to make life better for their children. You may know people who want to make a difference spiritually, in social justice terms, or environmentally. Right now, many people are rethinking their priorities as a result of the pandemic and its impact. How has it influenced your thoughts?

Define the difference you want to make clearly. It might be within your family or community, or your career field or your company. Choose a focus and it will help with your career choices too.

Bringing This All Together

Clarity about what your career goals and issues are is much easier once you know what the problem is you are trying to solve and what strengths, abilities, and personal goals you have to do so. Mining the data you have gathered as you work through the steps above offers you a clearer focus on what you need to succeed on your own terms. You have every right to be happy – but you still have to make good choices to get there.

I started my career in the military and GlobalMegaCorp jobs. It took a while to realize I was happier when I could create solutions to problems and implement them without 27 levels of review; when I could walk into chaos and create systems that supported organizational goals; when I worked in fluid, growing companies where I could make a difference to their success. If I could do it, certainly you can figure out what choices you need to make now. And you can live through a lot of changes that life throws at us all by understanding the basics above.

Need more help? ClearedJobs.Net has a wide range of blog posts and videos on all aspects of careers and job search. Search for those on the topics you are stuck on or need more information about. An in-depth look but easy read, relevant to most career stages is, “Life Is In The Transitions: Making Change at At Any Age” by Bruce Feiler.

Patra Frame is ClearedJobs.Net’s HR Management Consultant. She is an experienced human resources executive and founder of Strategies for Human Resources. Patra is an Air Force veteran and charter member of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. Follow Patra on Twitter @2Patra.


This entry was posted on Monday, January 10, 2022 4:11 pm

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