Every day, you have to decide whether to continue working at the same job or to look for something new. Most days, the decision may be subconscious; you just get up and go to work. If you have a really bad day, you may think about seeing what else is out there. But to be a good steward of your own professional destiny, you need to consciously stop every once in a while and really consider where you are in your career and whether that is where you want to be. Below are a few questions to help determine if you’re on the right career path or if it’s time to start seeking a change.
HAVE TO, OR GET TO? When you wake up in the morning, are you excited about going to work, or do you dread it? Do you find yourself pondering work problems when you’re not at work but don’t mind doing so? Do you read books and articles on topics related to work in your spare time? If you truly enjoy what you do, you will look forward to it and not be bothered when thoughts of work creep into other parts of your life.
FAMILY & FRIENDS. Do your family and friends think what you do is really cool? Are they proud of you and eager to tell others about what you do? Or do they think your job is an endless list of boring chores and wonder why you do it? Where do they get that opinion, if not from things you have said to them about your job? Your attitude toward your work is reflected in the people who are closest to you.
MEETING EXPECTATIONS. Even the best-laid plans don’t always work out. You may have tried something different on a lark or been forced into a suboptimal position by circumstance. After you’ve been in the situation for a while, you need to take a step back and decide if it is as bad as you thought it would be or if it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Are you where you thought this position would take you? Sometimes, taking a chance puts you in a place you never thought you’d be, but that unanticipated destination ends up being a perfect fit.
ACCOMPLISHMENTS. When you look back over your career history, what are you most proud of? What do you consider your most significant accomplishments? Can you picture more exciting accomplishments on your current path? Are you working toward something you will be proud of? If you can’t answer “yes” to these questions, it might be time to move on, shifting into a career path with a future you can be excited about.
You should get into the habit of pausing on a regular basis to evaluate your career situation—at least once a year, or even once every six months. If you find yourself saying, “This is okay, for now,” too many times in a row, it might not be “now” anymore.
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 (www.acs.org/network-careers).