If you are fortunate enough to have a fulfilling career, you can probably distinctly recall the challenges you faced getting to where you are. You’re probably not interested in going through those again! Here’s the key to avoiding future career challenges: maintenance. We don’t often think about the maintenance of our career but, just like anything else in life, we need to. We need to check-in on our career regularly to make sure that it continues to fulfill us even as our life, priorities and the work itself change.
Aligning your career with what you want to do can be hard work. Trust me, I know. Even as a career coach and business owner, I have to be very intentional about continuing to align my career with the skills I want to be using and doing the things I am interested in. We continue to evolve over time and the work we are doing can evolve and head in directions we didn’t anticipate.
My job is pretty stable right now. Why wouldn’t it stay that way?
For example, new projects and new opportunities can cause a shift in the work we are doing on a day-to-day basis. Over time, small shifts, or shifts on a project-to-project basis can cause a significant change in the way we feel about the work we are doing. It can cause a conflict with how we want to spend our time. Additionally, we experience life changes, shifting priorities, and even changes to what we value in our lives and careers. The fulfilling career we once had is now less so.
How do I “maintain” my career and prevent this from happening?
It’s important to continue to evaluate what we want to be doing and how we want to be doing it over the course of our career. It’s regular maintenance… for your career. We need to do regular check-ins or conduct regular evaluations. This will allow us to make small shifts or small changes to keep us on track before our career gets too far out of alignment.
One of my clients calls this her ‘career tune-up’. She sets an appointment to see me every six months to make sure her work is still on track with her goals. She’s decided to take small steps on a regular basis, hoping to avoid a larger pitfall. Life is busy. We have so many competing priorities as it is. However, I strongly encourage you to schedule regular career check-ins or tune-ups with yourself.
How do I conduct a ‘career tune-up’ and make it a habit?
Get it on the calendar
First, get it on the calendar. Make it an immovable meeting. We tend to be quick to reschedule things that can nourish or feed our soul or better our lives in order to do things that seem more important in the short-term.
Determine your evaluation criteria
Second, identify how you are going to evaluate your career. There are many ways to conduct this career check-in. The most important aspect is that the questions you ask or the way you choose to evaluate your career are important metrics for you personally.
Set action items
Most importantly, determine the actions you need to take in order to reach the metrics you set for yourself. The actions don’t need to be dramatic but you can’t ignore them. The great thing about maintenance is that it isn’t hard and, hopefully, prevents having to make dramatic changes.
There is no right or wrong way to structure your career check-ins. Here are some examples:
- Evaluate your career goals and see what type of progress you are making toward those goals and what might need to shift.
- Review the skills you want to be utilizing in your career and see how many of those skills you get to use and at what frequency. What seems in alignment or out of alignment?
- Review your core values, see if any have shifted and how your career is currently matching those values.
- Revisit your life mission statement and see if your career is in alignment with that mission.
- Look at your list of 3 words for the year and see how you are adjusting your life and career to incorporate those three words.
- Use this time to evaluate any skills gaps you might have toward the next step in your career and develop an action plan around them.
There are so many possible ways to evaluate your career that are meaningful to you. The hardest step is often just making the time. Make this investment in yourself. Take some time each year to make sure you are on the path you want. This pro-active approach should lead to much more rewarding and fulfilling career and life.
Amy Wolfgang is a career coach who founded Wolfgang Career Coaching and co-founded Coaching 4 Good. She brings over 15 years of corporate and coaching experience to help organizations boost employee engagement while simultaneously helping her clients excel in their careers. She is a certified PCM (Professional Career Manager) and has a Master’s degree in Educational Psychology from The University of Texas at Austin.
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