6 Questions You Should Ask Yourself About Your Career

I recently quit my job working for a large, successful corporation. I didn’t do it to gain status, money, or climb one more rung on the proverbial ladder, but I did have my reasons. In fact I put a lot of time, thought, and energy into my search for a new job, and I’m so glad that I did.

If you’re in a place right now where you need to evaluate the direction of your career, I want to encourage you to read and REALLY think through these questions that I asked myself as I began to asses my own career. I hope you find this helpful!

1)   Is your job creating an unusual amount of anxiety, stress, or unrest in your life? If so, what is the real reason?   

My decision to begin looking for another job started a bit over a year ago. I was extremely anxious over my job which was a new position I had stepped into as an internal transfer. After a few months of putting my head down, plowing forward, and trying to pretend it would get better, I hit a breaking point. I found myself questioning why I was constantly so anxious and stressed. The work was new to me, but it wasn’t harder than anything I had done before. It also wasn’t more visible to leaders or more strategic.

It was hard to peg exactly why my stress level had spiked so much since starting this position. I needed to really think through the source of what made me feel anxious.

What was I actually concerned about? Why did I feel on edge? Initially, I attributed it to my manager.  She had a very challenging management style to work under, and a very odd (and cold) way of communicating. But I wasn’t quite sure that was the whole reason for my unrest.  Eventually I was able to get to the core of the issue: I didn’t find value in the work itself, and it left me unsatisfied.  Having come from a background in Leadership Development, this new position felt empty, cold, and calculated by comparison. At the end of the day, I knew it was critical for my work to be meaningful to me.  Which brings me to my next question…

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2)      What DO you find meaningful and exciting?

So once you’ve realized you’re really not on the path you want to be on, where do you go? You could just quit and move to the next opportunity that offers a bigger paycheck, and while you’ll get away from the job you don’t love, you probably won’t be one step closer to where you actually want to be.  Do some soul searching here. Really think through your skill set, what you enjoy doing, what types of positions you’ve previously held that you found to be energizing or exciting, etc. 

Ultimately for me it came down to the fact that I needed to feel like I was able to impact people in a positive way and help them reach their goals.

I experienced this most vividly during my time in leadership development, so I knew that was the right direction for me.

3)     Are you at a point in life where a change is realistic?

So, this was a hard one for me.  I ended up delaying my search at the advice of family and friends due to the fact that I had some major life events going on. It was discouraging to feel stuck in a job I wasn’t in love with, but now looking back on the process of interviewing, I’m SO SO glad I didn’t try to pile that on back when I was engaged and planning a wedding.

Make sure you don’t overwhelm yourself by starting your job search in a season of life that is already full to the brim.

Try to plan your search at a time that makes sense.  With that said, you have to be prepared to know that there will never be a PERFECT time. Really. I was in the midst of two major projects and working long hours while I was interviewing. 

I knew stepping away from these projects would not be easy, but I’ve never known a time in life where all the stars aligned.  You will have to be ready to move forward despite the fact that it’s not a perfect time.

If you want it, you simply can’t wait until every condition is perfect.

4)    What is important to you in your next job and your prospective employer?

It’s important to think through what types of things you’re looking to do. What kind of experience would you like to gain?  If you’re going into a specific field, are there aspects of the line of work that appeal to you more than others?

What kind of company would you like to work for?

What are the advantages and disadvantages of publicly vs privately owned, big vs small, startup vs established and stable etc. 

5)     What do you want your prospective employers to know about you?

During the interview process your interviewers will have an agenda and questions they want to ask in order to learn certain things about you.  But there may be things you want your prospective employer to know about you that they won’t touch on.

Make sure you think through how you would weave that information into your answers to common interview questions

How could you steer a conversation to those topics via the questions you ask them?  Make sure they know your real value and what you can bring to their organization.

6)  What is your worth?

Do your research beforehand on salaries for similar positions in your area using glassdoor or other sites. Talk to your friends and don’t be ashamed to bring up a personal topic.  Especially as women, it’s important that we’re willing to hold firm to what we know our value to be. It’s a true fact that women are paid less than men for holding similar positions. Practice negotiating with your friends, family, or a mentor.

Standing up for yourself is sexy. So do it ;)

Once you’ve gone through the process of asking these questions, talking with recruiters, searching for the right positions, interviewing, and eventually landing the right offer at the right company... it’s your turn to enjoy the process. Don’t let anyone guilt you for leaving. Don’t let people persuade you to stay. If you are moving on because it is right for you, then stay the course and have confidence in your decision.  Make sure to be absolutely courteous and professional, but let negativity just roll of your back. 

And that’s where you’ll find me right now.  Enjoying the fact that I’m wrapping up projects and checking items off as they transition off to others.  The weight that has been lifted from my shoulders is unbelievable and I wouldn’t trade it for any pleas or offers to stay.  You have to know when the time has come and “go confidently in the direction of your dreams”.

With Love from Chicago,