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  • Judy Sims

5 Key Moments to Stop and Assess Your Career (and Chart Your Course Forward)

Stick figure woman with stop sign

Our careers are a big part of who we are. They shape our daily routines, contribute to our sense of purpose, and impact our overall well-being. Yet, in our day-to-day busyness, it's easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. How did you get to this place in your career? Did you set your career path, or did it just kind of happen to you? Do you like your job, or just the idea of it? Regularly taking a step back to assess your career path is crucial for ensuring it aligns with your evolving goals and aspirations.

Here are 5 key moments that serve as a natural prompt to stop and assess your career:

1. Annual Performance Reviews:

Performance reviews are more than just opportunities for feedback. They offer a valuable chance to reflect on your accomplishments over the past year. Think about:

  • What projects or tasks brought you the most satisfaction?

  • Did you develop new skills or areas of expertise?

  • Were there aspects of your role that felt stagnant or unfulfilling?

By analyzing your answers, you can identify strengths you want to leverage and areas where you might seek further development. Don't be afraid to discuss your observations with your manager and explore opportunities for growth within your current company.

2. Feeling Stuck or Unchallenged:

We all experience periods of feeling stagnant at work. Maybe your daily tasks have become monotonous, or you lack the intellectual stimulation you once craved. This feeling can be a sign that it's time to explore new challenges. Consider:

  • Are there additional responsibilities you could take on within your current role?

  • Would pursuing professional development opportunities reignite your passion?

  • Could a lateral move to a different department broaden your horizons?

It’s perfectly natural to feel stuck every once in a while. In fact, I worry more about my clients who say they never get stuck than those who do get stuck. Simply consider your stuckness as the door to an exploration of possibilities.

3. When You Achieve a Major Milestone:

Reaching a significant career goal, like a promotion, closing a big deal, or completing a major project, is a cause for celebration. However, it's also a perfect time for introspection. Ask yourself:

  • Does this achievement align with your long-term career goals?

  • Did achieving this milestone shift your priorities or aspirations?

  • Are there new challenges you'd like to pursue now that this goal is met?

Taking stock of your achievements helps you adjust your compass and ensure you're still headed in the direction you truly desire.

4. Significant Life Changes:

Life throws curveballs – marriage, kids, aging parents – all can significantly impact our professional aspirations. These events necessitate a career re-evaluation. Think about:

  • How do these changes affect your work-life balance needs?

  • Do you need more flexibility or remote work options?

  • Is the current career path still financially sustainable in light of these changes?

Be honest with yourself about your evolving needs and adjust your career path accordingly. It might involve exploring flexible work arrangements, pursuing new opportunities in different industries, or even taking a temporary break to focus on personal priorities.

5. Feeling Burned Out:

Burnout is a serious issue that can drain your motivation and negatively impact your physical and mental health. Chronic stress, long working hours, and a lack of work-life balance can all contribute to burnout. Here's what to ask yourself:

  • Are you constantly exhausted and dreading work?

  • Have you lost interest in your job and find it difficult to concentrate?

  • Is your work negatively impacting your personal relationships and well-being?

If you're experiencing these symptoms, it's a clear sign that a change is needed. Prioritize your health and explore solutions like taking a vacation, setting stronger boundaries, or even seeking a new job that aligns better with your well-being.

Beyond these key moments, consider incorporating regular career assessments into your routine. Schedule dedicated time – quarterly or biannually – to reflect on your professional journey. Utilize online career planning resources or even consider consulting a career coach for additional guidance. Remember, a fulfilling career is an investment in your overall life satisfaction. By taking the time to assess your path and make adjustments as needed, you can ensure your career continues to serve and inspire you.

Bonus Tip: To begin your career assessment journey, access The Expansive Woman Project’s Career Assessment Toolkit. It’s free! And always will be!


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