Coming up to the next fork in your career road

Coming up to the next fork in your career road
There you were – engaged, challenged and fulfilled in your work that made the most of your innate talents and spoke to your passions and beliefs. You might have spent years developing a fully committed relationship with one of your closest friends – your job!

And now it is time for you to say goodbye to that friend forever. You have arrived, not necessarily for the first time in your life, at a point of self re-invention.

So often defined by our job title, we are poorly prepared for a walk in the desert to find new directions and meaning in our careers.

Out of touch

As a result of being fully committed to your job – you probably didn’t make a point of staying in touch with your old contacts as well as developing new ones outside of your company and industry. It’s a symptom that develops from being too far enclosed in your comfort zone and doesn’t really rear up to bite until you find yourself with nowhere to go – and by then it’s far too late.

It’s also likely most of your LinkedIn network is made up of people within your own company or those who do business with it. Your existing network is a good place to start but it needs to grow into something far more diverse if it’s going to have any value to your career aspirations. Otherwise it becomes a roadblock, rather than a passage to greener pastures.

You probably didn’t attend networking functions either, nor make the most of development opportunities when they were on offer. There are a number of excuses people use to justify this, but they can’t continue to burn through social and professional capital by being in love with their job at the expense of so many other things.

Preparing for your walk in the desert

Without de-constructing yourself completely, it is important to take time to reflect on how you will decide on your next career step. You will most likely have infinite options but finite financial resources to fund your walk – but it is important that you allow yourself time to be prepared for the walk and think about what is the right amount of change you need in your life right now.

Research suggests that successful career transition self-management involves being clear about what makes up your iceberg of needs, which splits up your demands and desires into different sections, both of which require unique management.

Your visible drivers – those that are above the water line – are stated seeds such as your desired position, company, money and level of job security.

On the other hand, you have your invisible drivers – those that exist below the water line. These drivers aren’t static. They move around based on circumstances and context.

What are they for you right now or moving forward? Here are some examples:

●     Reputation

●     Recognition

●     Respect

●     Status

●     Acceptance

●     Security

Beyond that, there are a range of questions of varying difficulty you can test yourself with. I regularly talk to people who are all approaching the fork in their career path, and these queries can help bring certainty and direction at a difficult time.

●     Do you know what it is you want to do with the next seasons of your life/career?

●     Are you clear about what you love to do, what you are good at and what values drive you?

●     Do you have a general sense of direction for yourself professionally from this point?

●     What is the best possible job, role or portfolio of gigs you could imagine for yourself right now? (One that would feel custom made for you.)

●     If you had to find a middle ground between focusing on a few specific paths or options versus opening up lots of diverse opportunities – what is clear and what is fuzzy?

●     Who are your career champions? (The people who will help you most in your career steps)

●     What kind of track record do you need to create for the subsequent steps in your career – not just the next one?

●     In what ways might different opportunities open up further career opportunities or narrow them down?

●     What’s the right amount of risk to take at this point in your career?

Then, consider these traits as an action plan of sorts that can help you get moving.

●     Having a clear sense of your strengths and weaknesses

●     A broad sense of life purpose

●     Analyse your executive career to identify key critical competencies and critical success factors that are the basis upon building your next phase of your career and for developing your unique personal value proposition

●     Achieving a reasonable degree of clarity about what you do and do not want – and what you will and will not choose to consider

●     Shaping how influencers and decision makers will assess your potential and categorise you

●     Being clear about your personal brand

●     Having a sense of what your personal business model might need to be (e.g. multiple sources of income)

●     Planning the stages and steps to evolve into your next stage career

●     Critically assessing your network and then strategically putting it to work

●     Developing your social proof beyond “LinkedIn”

●     Finding a middle ground between focusing on a few specific roles versus opening up lots of diverse opportunities

●     Designing a personal activity and development plan

●     Building a next stage career and track record with both depth and breadth

●     Regularly assessing and adjusting your portfolio of business interests, roles or gigs

●     Create a plan for personal and professional growth

Where are you now?

Before you can move on, you need to develop a clear idea of where you currently are. Everyone’s circumstances are different – but realistically – what age are you expecting to work until?

Is your industry and job type under threat of digital transformation, artificial intelligence, robotics etc. that might beat you to that age?

If you have an idea they might, you need to start doing something about it now, such as retraining or relearning in preparation for a shift to a new industry.

How long have you been in your current role and company? Is the assumption that you can and will stay there until you are ready to leave the correct one?

Life is one big decision making process and is full of trade-offs, often having to be made on the run, using intuition (with fingers crossed) rather than having a definitive answer or set guidelines to follow.

Career choices used to carry the luxury of plenty of time in an ordered world, with you always in the driver’s seat considering all options completely. It just isn’t the case anymore, the pace of the modern world demands that you be proactive so you can react to changes as they occur, not weeks or months down the road.

There are new paradigms now and if you are facing a fork in the road of your career – take time to consider how you would purposefully drive change rather than be a victim of it.

Mark Twain spoke into existence one of my favorite quotes of all time, “The two most important days in your life are the day you were born, and the day you find out why.”

Make your decisions based on what is best for your life, personality and career.


Trent BartlettBy: TEC Chair, CEO mentor and coach Trent Bartlett