Self-reflection of one’s career periodically engages the mind of most employees: “Am I on the right track? Is anything derailing my development? Is what I am doing now going to lead me to where I want to be? Why do I doubt the career decisions that I have made? Am I even making progress in my chosen pursuits?” Although self-reflection is necessary for positive planning and decisive action steps, unguarded self-reflection can also lead to despair.
Glen Llopis (Forbes contributor) suggests six “must-ask” questions to keep your career on track (italics mine):
- Are you managing your time strategically? As time is one of your most valuable assets, how you decide to use it will ultimately determine the fate of your career. “Time management” is foundationally how you optimise available moments and the way you use your week to make it count. Choices influence outcomes – saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a particular activity or focus area needs to be considered carefully or you may find yourself busy with tasks that neither make impact nor contribute to growing your career.
- Are you learning new things that accelerate your growth every day at work? If you are not learning, you are wilting. If you are wilting, you are going backwards, not forward, in your career. Going to work and just following instructions is not a career acceleration tactic. You need to create a learning environment for yourself constantly – you have a choice in designing what you learn and from whom you learn it. Map out potential learning activities for each week.
- Are you being entrepreneurial? As you manage your career, you must be on the look-out for career opportunities in the most uncommon of places. This means that you need to look around, beneath and beyond what you seek. The idea here is being entrepreneurial in your approach – not necessarily starting your own business, but being aware of what others are doing around you, understanding those actions that make others successful and getting to grips with the focused work that is necessary to establish your career stepping-stones appropriately.
- Are you challenging yourself enough? Are you earning the career opportunities inherent with the effort? Just drifting at work and expecting to be promoted because of longevity in the workplace doesn’t cut it. Don’t just go with the flow. Lead your work life forward in a way that will produce dividends and sustainable results.
- Does your employer appreciate your talent? Are your best talents being showcased, recognised and rewarded at work? If yes, keep up the momentum. If no, find out why not. Managing your career requires you to plot how your giftedness is being used and whether or not the results that you produce are considered to be high performance. In the workplace, competition is fierce – you must find ways to elevate your game consistently.
- Do you have the right support cast? While you must ultimately manage your own career, you need the right supporting cast to make sure that you are being held accountable. Build a network of trusted friends, mentors, coaches and those in your network that can provide strong support and wisdom. These people should be able to assist in continuous constructive feedback, linking you with other influential network partners and fuelling ideation and the opportunity pipeline.
Keeping your career on track requires focus and energy applied into appropriate activities that leverage your reputation and your opportunity network. Drifting at work is regressive. It will not initiate growth or place you firmly in line to be promoted.