There are times in your career that job search may seem like boot camp, where you follow your sergeant's orders unquestioningly. You just do what they tell you and trust they will guide you to the right destination.
You go along fine for a while, blindly letting others navigate your way from mile marker to mile marker, and from career city to career city. In fact, outsourcing the job of job search may feel calm, as you are head-down, performing the assigned tasks and feeling the glorious momentum propel you in new directions.
However, this method of career management can derail you—and your career—if not kept in check. For the most part, you must commandeer your own job search. Strategically enlist people, tools and processes to help arrive at your personally prescribed destination versus following someone else's orders.
Doing so requires confidence in your destination selection as well as a process of career and self-evaluation every year or so to determine what adjustments are needed.
Here are four ways to determine, and keep your eye on your career destination prize:
1. Be honest with yourself.
What is it that you wish for, going forward in your career? Do you seek a specific financial and salary compensation? Or, is there a day-to-day type task; i.e., writing or selling or programming that you want to perform? Perhaps it's more about title, and your goal is to become a manager or ultimately, a senior executive leading a division, or even a company. Write it down. Create clarity.
2. Realize your destination may evolve over the years.
Allow for a change of course during this journey. The best way to do this is to think about your career often, and go deep every year or two to reevaluate and adjust your career sails. REALLY think about it – in addition to writing thoughts down, voice them aloud to someone you trust and read articles and books on topics that feed, add muscle to and sharpen your thought. It includes dreaming and expanding your mind, and being inspired. It includes being introspective about how your career dreams mesh with your personal goals.
It's okay to take the time and energy to perform this introspection versus always being immersed in production. Always doing and not thinking about what you are doing may ultimately be counterproductive, taking you in a direction far from your personal goals.
3. Work-life balance or blend.
While some people merge their careers and personal lives well, others have realized that, for them, there is no such thing. In fact, they are perfectly fine using their career as a means to their real happiness, which they live outside of their office hours. Don’t get entangled in other people's hype. Just because you read it, doesn't make it true; just because a passionate friend or more experienced colleague exudes their beliefs with passion, doesn't mean you should embrace them as your own. In other words, your career is a discovery process and one that YOU own, nobody else. Do not give that power away.
4. Don't let the discovery process be an excuse not to land on, and act upon, goals.
While long-term goals create vision for which to aspire, short-term goals create traction. Without long-term goals, you may find yourself hopping from short-term goal to short-term goal with no real gain, so they are extremely important to determine. That said, pick your 'vision' and move ahead. You can make adjustments, as mentioned previously. While life indeed may seem short, it still is long enough to make a few tweaks, mistakes and even transformations, along the way.