Are You in the Driver’s Seat?

Dan came to see me a few months ago. He was in the process of transitioning from a company where he worked for 10 years to a new position at a new company. The transition was going well, yet he wanted to engage in 90 days of coaching to help him hit the ground running in his new job.

As we were getting acquainted, I asked Dan, “what is one you would have done differently in your last position?”

Dan responded almost immediately, “I was too internally focused. I lost sight of external resources that could have helped me be even more effective in my job.”

I was impressed with Dan’s honest appraisal of his career and how he took responsibility for being in the passenger seat for a period of time.

So often we put our heads down Monday through Friday and crank away at our jobs.  Years can quickly pass us by, during which time we may remain entirely internally focused. It’s a common belief that our bosses are responsible for our development. Certainly, they play a role in our development but when it comes to managing our careers, we’re in the driver’s seat. It’s our responsibility to tap into external resources such as books, training, conferences, associations, and relationships that can help us be even more effective in our jobs and career.

If you’re wondering if you’ve let too much time pass you by without engaging in resources to help you grow, here’s a general guide for your consideration:

2+ years in your current role: if you haven’t yet engaged in a discussion with your boss about your next role, now’s the time to do it.  Think about your key accomplishments and where you’d like to go in the company. Talk with your boss about what’s next and what you need to do to get there.

As a general rule of thumb, you should stay no longer than 2 years in the same role. If you’re in the same role for 3 or more years, it’s time to figure out why. It’s also a great time to tap into external resources to foster your development.

5+ years at the company: If you’re feeling challenged and you see great opportunity on the horizon, you’re likely on the right road.  To help you realize those opportunities, what training might be advantageous? Are there key skills you’d like to develop? How’s your leadership acumen? Start looking outside the company to become familiar with people, associations, conferences, and training that will help you expand as a leader and professional.

If you’re not feeling challenged or you’re feeling as though the time has come to find a new opportunity, the above advice still applies. Joining associations and attending conferences and training will help you meet key people who can introduce you to your next job.

10+ years at the company: Certainly you can be happily engaged at a company for 10 or more years. That said, give some thought to whether it’s active engagement and professional growth you’re experiencing or whether you’ve willingly settled into your comfort zone.  By our early to mid-40s, professionals begin to experience slower career and compensation growth. Do an honest evaluation of your current situation to discover what’s true for you and then take appropriate action by way of accessing external resources.

What’s next for you? Maybe it’s time to take your career for a spin and consider whether you’re on the right road?

 

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