At one point or another, most professionals face a crossroads in their career. Whether they simply want to change jobs, pursue a different career path or still don’t know what their true calling in life is, there are a lot of questions a person can ask themselves before choosing a direction.
While there’s something to be said for trusting your gut, it’s wise to consider your options carefully and ask the right questions of yourself when trying to determine where to take your career next. To guide you, a panel of Young Entrepreneur Council members offered 10 key questions that can help you illuminate the correct “next step.”
1. Do I like what I’m doing right now?
I had a professor in college who went around interviewing Fortune 500 CEOs, and I remember vividly one CEO saying something to the effect of, “You spend so much time working (more than you do with your family, friends, probably even sleeping), so why would you spend that much time on something you don’t like?” If that describes you, it may be time for a change. And, it doesn’t mean the change has to be tomorrow. Sometimes it can’t be for financial reasons. But, it does mean you should begin actively working toward a new job/career/calling over time. – JT Allen, myFootpath LLC
2. Who do I admire within my extended network?
One question and exercise I like to use when I’m seeking direction is, “Who within my extended network do I admire and why?” I focus on those within my extended network using LinkedIn, for example, because those are people who I can actually contact and interview. At the intersection of those conversations, what I learn and what excites me is frequently a new opportunity, direction or calling. – Ben Landers, Blue Corona
3. What brings me joy?
For me, helping people brings me joy, especially when the person in need is in a tough situation. Because I am a criminal defense lawyer, many of the people who come through our doors are hurt people who hurt other people. Having meaningful conversations to really understand why a person got themselves into trouble in the first place brings me closer to having real empathy for the struggles a client may have faced. In the professional services industry, people hire people, not companies. The relationship is so important and it brings me authentic joy to connect with someone and help them navigate a scary and complicated situation with a clear strategy that has historically helped others. The cherry on top is when our clients feel seen, heard and understood. – Givelle Lamano, Lamano Law Office
4. What problem do I most wish I could solve?
One question to help refine your thinking about what direction to take your career going forward is, “What problem do I most wish I could solve, and how can I best leverage my talents to bring a solution to the world?” Personally, I need a career that challenges me mentally on a daily basis or else I get super bored fast. Repetitive work that requires little to no problem-solving feels like death to me, so first identifying the problems I could potentially work on is essential to my finding a fulfilling position. – Richard Fong, AssuredStandard.com
5. What do I want my day to look like?
When I transitioned from a nurse to what I do now, I asked myself what I wanted my day to look like. Did I want a regular routine with normal business hours? Or did I want a changing environment with challenges and different hours? It’s important to know what you want your day-to-day routine to look like because the reality of many jobs will help you narrow down your list. Think about what type of work environment makes you the most content so you don’t get bored and can find something you can stick to. – Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms
6. Am I appropriately challenged?
The start of my career was a mixture of reactions to events I had no control over and a determination to make whatever I had going for me work. Chaos and adversity nudged me toward the path I eventually took. And looking back it was one that was adequately challenging for me. The dot-com crash changed the direction of my career from tech to sales and eventually entrepreneurship. I don’t know if I’d have taken this path without the circumstances I found myself in at the time, but it paid off greatly. If you’re faced with a choice, choose the harder option, and do that as often as possible along the way. I’m talking about three- to six-month intervals. You don’t necessarily have to change jobs, but you can change departments or projects. – Samuel Thimothy, OneIMS
7. What do I want to do before I die?
I find this sounds pessimistic at first, but it is actually quite clarifying. If you answer, “sing,” you better start singing! If you answered, “travel,” buy that ticket. The point is, your career is going to be part of that answer, whether it’s starting your own business or applying to a job that’s just a little bigger than you believed you could ask for before. – Tyler Bray, TK Trailer Parts
8. What are my strengths?
Discovering and utilizing your strengths is key to propelling your career forward. You can test yourself by taking Gallup’s CliftonStrengths survey and then understanding your top 10. Focus on your strengths and use them to make you that much more resilient and confident. Work on improving the areas where you are weak. We all have things to work on, so try to find your blind spots. – Jennifer A Barnes, Optima Office, Inc
9. What would make me truly happy?
I think the one question anyone can ask themselves when trying to determine a career or a career change would be, “What can I do that would make me truly happy?” Many people choose a career because they heard there are a lot of jobs in that field or people are paid a great deal of money. They soon find out any job can turn into drudgery if you aren’t truly happy doing it every day. It’s not hard to figure out what would make you happy. Just look at your day, how you spend your time, what you look at that brings joy. These are the things that make you happy. Doing this exercise may even cause you to see yourself and your goals differently and head in a new direction that never crossed your mind before. Now, you just have to translate that into a career that you would love. – Baruch Labunski, Rank Secure
10. What job wouldn’t feel like working?
Ask yourself, “What’s one job I would like to do for the rest of my life that wouldn’t feel like working?” If you could work with your passion, your job would never feel like “a regular job” ever again. It would feel more like a hobby you’re passionate about and look forward to doing each day. Also, finding a job that makes you feel excited and fulfilled will significantly increase the chance of success within the job. – Benjamin Rojas, All in One SEO