Have you ever heard of the "Quarter Life Crisis"? It's that time in your twenties and early thirties where you take stock of your life and career, and determine that things are falling way short of expectations. There's usually a couple times a year when this comes into clearer focus; one is a birthday which always provides a good opportunity for self reflection, the other comes in the holiday stretch, the time between Thanksgiving and New Years where you find yourself answering lots of questions from distant friends and relatives about what you are doing with your life. If they've got you thinking, don't just paste over your career misery and knuckle down for another year. It's OK to at least consider a change.
I'm not in the business of relationship advice but if you're questioning your relationship with your career I can offer some thoughts on how to proceed. Below are some directions to consider as you ponder if it's time to move on -
- Should I stay or should I go? You may hate your current job but it's worth investigating the possibility of change within the company. Another boss, role or department may change the game entirely. Consider all of the roles you play in your early career as learning experiences. Are there experiences you can gain, or responsibilities you can assume that will add practical experience to further your career? If so, begin the conversations about opportunities to learn and grow at your current company. Find a senior leader who can sponsor your development. If you find that they are unresponsive or uninterested in your development, that's the sign that it's time to move on. But at least you know you tried.
"Change jobs to gain exposure to leaders you can learn from because great managers and leaders play vital roles in career development."
A lot of the best opportunities are not advertised, and if they are, it's usually after the fact. If you haven't yet realized the critical importance of networking, it's time to wake up. Successful networkers will always expose themselves to greater opportunity than those who rely solely on online applications. Finally, when making changes, look for growth industries. A dynamic industry where growth and change is occurring will offer you more opportunities to assume responsibilities and prove yourself.
"If you haven't yet realized the critical importance of networking, it's time to wake up."
Sometimes backed by a generous employer, oftentimes inspired by career stagnation, the MBA has been the traditional "go to" tool for taking a career to the next level. But buyer beware: not all MBA's are created equal. There's dubious value associated with the output of the heavy advertising degree mills, and the top schools, whose reputations are known to boost earnings, must also be considered in the context of the combined cost of tuition and living expenses (elite institutions can cost you over $200k).
On the other end of the spectrum, whether it's Khan Academy, Coursera or Udacity, never has there been a time in history where so much great information is available for free to those who seek it. Even the citadels of learning have opened their doors to the rest of us, and minus a fancy scroll, the information is there for the taking. With high enrollment but low completion rates however, MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) are still struggling to fulfill their much heralded potential. Take a MOOC not for the credibility you might gain with an employer, but for the skills you might acquire and put to use, in turn leading to career advancement.
It's more true than ever that your career is yours to manage. You may have heard legend about the gold watch on retirement after 50 fine years of mutual loyalty, but those days are long gone. A quality relationship, whether romantic or career-based, is one where both parties perceive and receive mutual value. You only get one shot at a great career, so never settle for less than your potential and get out there and make the most of it!