Maybe it will arrive in your 40s. Maybe in your 30s. Maybe even in your 20s.
But there will eventually come a point in your career where you reach a certain level of success and find yourself thinking: should I stay or should I go?
You might be in a workplace where, on the surface, everything feels comfortable, stable and steady. You may wonder if you should hold on for a little while longer before you jump. Maybe it’s okay to downshift, prioritize the rest of your life and coast for a while.
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Or, you might have felt that way at one point, only to find yourself in the midst of major structural changes or downsizing that could be causing tension—and find yourself feeling like it’s time to move on—now.
But, where should you go?
You don’t necessarily want to just jump to another role for the sake of moving up the ladder…you want to make a conscious move that prioritizes the best of your strengths and abilities so you know you’re moving up the right ladder . . . or quite possibly, not a ladder at all, but to a building of your own creation.
“The feeling is often a combination of frustration and fear,” says Karen Elizaga, career coach and author of Find Your Sweet Spot: A Guide to Personal and Professional Excellence. “You’re frustrated with the status quo, but you’re fearful of changing it. You can conceive of all that you have to lose, and it’s hard to imagine what you have to gain.”
But, she says, if you can shift your thinking and do some investigating, you’ll either find renewed interest and passion for what you do. Or, you’ll confirm the sinking feeling that it is time to move on, and figure out what’s holding you back from taking the leap.
And many times it’s not you, but your “life,” with its increased family, health and community demands that might have outgrown your job.
“I advise my clients to think about: What are the non-negotiables as I consider my next job? What lifestyle changes do I want to consider i.e., how can I best take care of my physical, emotional and spiritual health while pursuing a meaningful job or career?”
Since you entered the workplace, it’s likely gone through many rapid shifts as well. Over the past 20 years, it’s become increasingly gig-based, and you may have even found yourself trying to spend less as you take the jobs you can to keep up. The next economy is really still forming thanks to technology and an expanding global workforce.
Be ready to pivot and understand your unique, “functionless” value in the market
Building a five-year-plan and laser-focusing on an end goal may have been great and important strategies to get you where you are, but to be an asset in the current job market, it’s about being ready to pivot and understanding your unique, “functionless” value in the market.
“Functionless” value is a term coined by Nacie Carson Pereira, professional development expert and author of The Finch Effect: the Five Strategies to Adapt and Thrive in Your Working Life.
Independent of a job title, what’s the one skill or strength or value you uniquely bring to all your work?
She advises clients to think through the following to regain a feeling of calm:
- What value can I trust myself to provide without question?
- What strengths or examples of work wins could I easily ask my colleagues or clients to provide testimonials about?
- What new skills am I excited about practicing and honing?
- What does the market need right now that you can offer?
- How can I present these in a compelling, easy-to-digest way, both when meeting new people in person and online in my professional and personal profiles?
Once, you have these answers, it’s more about shopping for the right next job or gig that fits you — rather than fitting into a predetermined role.
It’s almost like the shift from dating around to searching for “the one.” Your search will be less about the next step in a climb up a mountain to one of discovering the one skill that could work on any mountain.
“Your core value prop is the sweet spot between what you can uniquely offer and what the market is desperately searching for,” explains Elizaga.
“Discovering it will help you feel solid in your confidence about what you do, because when you share your unique value proposition with this kind of a posture, you’re really convincing.”
It’s okay to go easy on yourself throughout this process. We’re facing an entirely new market, where all the rules have shifted.
It’s going to take some time to learn the ropes, especially when you are also likely balancing kids, aging parents and taking care of your own wellbeing. You might even find it helpful to identify a “working parent mentor” to guide you through your efforts to balance it all.
“Think of it like a marathon, and not a sprint,” says Elizaga. “But you should keep pushing yourself and setting goals so you don’t remain stagnant.”
And in the end, don’t forget, success is a numbers game. “I can’t say it better than Michael Jordan: ‘You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take,’” says Elizaga.
“So simply staying in a job because you’re afraid to take the shot . . . you definitely won’t get that next amazing opportunity.”