Asking What’s Next in Your Career?

This daunting question seems to smack us in the face every few years.  We want to be better and get better, and often find ourselves stuck wondering, what’s next?  Having honed my craft through three plus years, supporting 100+ women through their successful pivot points, I wanted to share our lessons learned.

What your past tells you about your future

My favorite read on career transition (other than Pivot PointJ) is Now What by Laura Berman Fortgang.  She offers success stories, tools, and practical exercises to navigate your “what’s next” moment.  In fact, I have all of my career transition clients read it and do the life history exercise.  The life history exercise often reveals nuggets and themes from the past.

Try it yourself by:

  1. Writing down all major life experiences by age ranges (newborn – child, child – teenager, teenager to young adult, young adult to 20’s, 30’s, and so on…)
  2. Then, reflecting on how each event made you feel, document a succinct and bullet-pointed list with the event and the emotion
  3. Circling the overlapping themes and feelings
  4. Reviewing with peers, family, mentors, and coaches

I have never failed to find a golden gem in a life history exercise.  Laura says, “it is like reading tarot cards.”  In our pasts, our futures often lie.  Chances are your true calling and passion lies in everyday activities that bring you joy, or in choices you have made in your past.  I had a client complete this exercise and circle the theme of speech pathology.  She had a master’s degree in it, had passion for the topic, yet had never done any professional work with her degree.  Fifteen years later, she has found her calling working as a success strategist for a cultural training organization using that degree.

Know your skills and wills

Take an inventory of what you are good at and what you enjoy doing.  Asking yourself simple questions – what am I doing on my very best days?  And what do I consistently get positive feedback on? – help to illuminate areas you have intersectionality between strength and passion.  One of my favorite stories to tell is a client that completed the life history exercise and had lots of pain and personal loss in her story. As she was sharing her story with her husband, he acknowledged her losses in a way he never had been able to, and then shared his observation of how happy she was when she was teaching their children “life lessons.”  Intrigued, she shared how she has a toolbox of lessons to emotionally prepare young adults for life.  Ding!  Ding!  Ding!  It was like a light bulb turned on, and as she shared this, she rhetorically asked, “so I could do that for work?”  Yes, and she is now living her purpose in her own business.

Having a plan increases you chances of success

Research shows that when we have a plan, our chances of achieving career success are 80% higher.  Those that set goals for themselves, achieve higher rates of success in their careers.  Knowing what we want, and having a plan to get there is pivotal.  Whether it’s taking our careers to an even higher level, pivoting industries or functional areas, or advancing to a leadership role, high potential women in transition wrestle with having a solid game plan to facilitate success.

In my leadership and career training, I collaborate with women in career transition, and believe that there is a solution to this challenge:  The Career Game Plan.  It is a simple four-step process.  It is unique to us, and defines what success looks like.  It fits on one-page and is easily shared with our managers, mentors, and coaches.  It paints the picture of what good looks like, with a clear road map to get there.  First, we must be able to articulate what we want, and what we are uniquely skilled to do – our purpose statement.  Then, we build goals to support our purpose coming to fruition.  We then brainstorm the competencies and action steps to achieve our goals.

Picture a tree – its roots, trunk, branches, and leaves.  In many ways the Career Game Plan process resembles a tree.  Our purpose statements are the roots.  Our purposes are the basis for everything we do.  They are deeply connected to who we are and what we stand for, strengthening over time.  A strong tree grows outward through its branches, which are similar to the goals of our plans.  A tree’s branches need a strong base to rest on, the trunk.  The trunk is vital to the stability of the tree, just as our competencies are for our plans.  Competencies are the skills, behaviors, and/or attributes that define how we will fulfill our purposes and achieve our goals.  Then, a tree expands with its leaves.  These are the shorter term action steps we take to achieve our longer term goals.  With a strong base of roots, the tree grows.  Just as a strong purpose does for our Career Game Plan.  Here’s a visual to illustrate the process:  1) a purpose statement, 2) goals, 3) competencies, and 4) actions.  We will start with our purpose statement.

Messenge if you are interested in learning more about navigating your “what’s next” journey.  Reflect on your life history, skills and wills, and plan for success.  We’re here to help you get started.