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New Year’s Resolution: Career Soul-Searching

by Brought to you by ACS Careers
January 7, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 1

Credit: Shutterstock
Take stock of where you’ve been as you map out your future career path.
This is a photo of a long winding road.
Credit: Shutterstock
Take stock of where you’ve been as you map out your future career path.

Welcome to 2013! As you return to the office after holiday parties and extended vacations, this might be a good opportunity to take stock of your career and understand exactly what you are coming back to. Are you happy to get back to work because you love what you do, or are you dreading that first day back? Did you miss your coworkers, or do you wish you could get by without talking to them for a little longer?

If you realize that you are less than thrilled with what you do, it might be time to take a long, retrospective look at your career path so far and make changes to improve your current situation—or start looking for a new one.

What have you accomplished? Think back over the past couple of years in your professional life. What were your most significant accomplishments during the past six months of 2012? How did those differ from your accomplishments in 2011 or even a few years ago? What does that trend predict for your professional future?

What do you do? Have your daily tasks changed over time? Are you still interested in the tasks that make up your job? Which tasks feel like they take up the bulk of your time? Is that because they really do, or because you don’t enjoy them? Spend a week or two tracking what you do with your time at work; the results may surprise you.

What are you not doing? Are there tasks or activities that used to be part of your job but aren’t anymore? Was that because you have moved on to bigger and better things, or because your skills are becoming outdated?

What have you learned? What new knowledge, skills, and abilities have you acquired recently? Are these things that you enjoy doing and that will help you develop professionally? If you haven’t learned anything new lately, could you make that a goal for the near future?

What has changed around you? Even if you love your job, every once in a while you need to look at the big picture. What has changed in your company and in your industry? Big, dramatic changes are easy to notice, but subtle shifts over time are harder to discern. Is it only your current employer that is moving in a new direction, or is your overall industry undergoing a transition?

Driving instructors say that if you want to stay in your lane, you shouldn’t stare at the road immediately in front of your car. Instead, keep your eyes farther down the road. Focusing on where you want to be in the long term allows you to gradually adjust your course and get to your destination safely.

This advice is also good for your career: Look farther down the road and see where you are heading. Decide whether that’s where you want to go. If it’s not, now is a great time to figure out why and make a plan to get yourself on the right track for the long term.

Get Involved In The Discussion. The ACS Career Tips column is published the first week of every month in C&EN. Post your comments, follow the discussion, and suggest topics for future columns in the Career Development section of the ACS Network.


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