No matter where you are along your career path, it’s never too late to change direction. Periodically taking stock of your progress ensures that you remain bound for professional success and personal satisfaction. Map your way to a dream career! Grab a pen and paper, and start plotting your next move.
Know your starting point. Examine your current job situation. First, list five things that you love about it—what activities do you find most stimulating and fulfilling? What tasks do you wake up excited to complete each day? Next, write down five things that are tolerable, but not particularly enjoyable—things that usually wind up at the bottom of your to-do list. Finally, confront the aspects of your job that you dread most. What keeps you up at night? What would you eliminate if given the chance? (In an ideal world, you would have a hard time coming up with five things in this last category.)
Assume your role as mapmaker. After you’ve examined your surroundings, look inward. What skills have you mastered? In what areas are you known as the “go to” person? What have been your proudest moments at work? Next, shift your thinking from past to future tense. With your career trajectory as it currently stands, where will you be in six months? A year? Five years? Ten? Are your estimations in line with the dreams you have for yourself? If you could wave a magic wand without factoring in money, location, or even experience, what would you be doing? Explore whether this can potentially become a reality.
Stay (or change!) your course. Now that you have a better idea of where you hope to end up, take steps to get yourself on track. Physically write out or talk through insights you arrived at during your inventory, and let your current happiness level motivate any necessary changes. Determine whether a detour or reroute might be necessary. Perhaps assuming a new responsibility within your company will get you on track for a promotion, or perhaps you ought to start looking for a new opportunity elsewhere. In some cases, recognizing a dissatisfaction with your current field might lead you to change careers altogether.
Call in a navigator. At any stage in your reflecting process, you would be wise to seek out a career coach or mentor for guidance. If you’re looking to move up in your current company, find someone above you who knows the ins and outs and can help you advance. If you are contemplating a new job or career path, look for someone who can offer honest feedback and help you define your goals. Friends and family members can be wonderful sounding boards, but their opinions are often muddled by their own interests and experiences. An outside party can help you more objectively evaluate and implement your goals.
Toss out that rusty old compass, and turn off your phone’s GPS. For real assistance in mapping your dream career, consult the following resources: