How to Break Through Your Career Indecision

A 5-step process for evaluating nexts steps in your career if you're feeling stuck.

Does this sound familiar? A quiet voice in the back of your head telling you you're not learning as much as you used to... Or the twinge when someone says the phrase "professional development" or "next steps."

You are comfortable. That is supposed to be good – but comfortable can lead to bored, stagnant, or even demotivated. 

Many Elphas have even described this as feeling stuck. Sara Anderson says it best in her post about the reasons we stay stuck, “Stuckness is a frustrating, yet inevitable, part of the human experience. Our lives are naturally made up of periods of movement, rest, and stuckness. Being stuck can be even more tiring than action because of the inner turmoil it causes.

So, what can you do? 🤔

We’ve put together a five-step process to help you break through your career indecision or “stuckness” and evaluate your next steps.

  1. Evaluate the present

  2. Evaluate your current role

  3. Talk to your manager about your personal goals

  4. Utilize your bandwidth for increased job satisfaction

  5. Carve out time for your job search

Evaluate the present

Don't try to think ahead to future steps yet. Be honest with yourself about where you are and write your answers down so you can look them over. ✍️

  • What aspects of your current role do you love?

  • What parts of the culture at your current company do you love?

  • What parts of your past roles or situations do you miss?

  • What challenges do you currently enjoy? What challenges do you dread?

  • What are you yearning for? (remember not to limit yourself! You can achieve anything if you give yourself room to dream here, but try to be specific. It is not just a job offer you are yearning for.)

  • If you were paid any less, would your answer change? What if you had to do the job for free? How would you change things if you weren't paid for this role?

  • What are you learning?

McKendree Hickory, Director of Performance and Development, encourages women to reflect on what they are learning as part of this evaluation, “A majority of our learnings happen on the job, so taking some time to capture those lessons will help you notice gaps, build upon lessons learned, and feel a sense of progress in your work. This will also help you be able to better articulate what you’ve done and where you want to go.”

With this brainstorm - the seed of what you are looking for exists. Perhaps this has confirmed that you are generally comfortable and happy!

On the other hand, perhaps this brainstorm confirmed for you what you secretly already knew... you are ready for a career move. 🌟

Evaluate your current role

Before you jump into looking for a new job at a new company, consider a quick evaluation of your current role. 👇

  • Do you yearn to share your understanding and begin to ensure others are executing more? Look into the transition to a manager - or ask to have coffee with a manager you admire to learn more about what that might look like for you. If this direction excites you, ask for a performance review and talk to your manager about your career goals.

  • Conversely, if you are already a manager and are yearning to execute more and be in meetings less, consider an internal career move. Have a conversation with your manager about your personal goals that include less management than your current job

  • Do you feel like you've learned as much as you are interested in for your current role or are you finding yourself more curious about what a colleague is doing? Perhaps you should review your company's job board to see if there are internal lateral moves. 

  • Or you could look at similar companies that have openings that compliment your current skill set, but include components that are more exciting to you?

  • Would you rather go deeper and become a subject matter expert? Are there colleagues internally that are doing what you'd like to be doing? Ask them to grab a coffee or lunch and learn more about what they do and how they got there. Find people on Elpha or Linkedin who are ahead of you in your career path and ask them to meet. Or join a quality community (like Elpha or Lunch Club) to be connected with individuals who are also looking to expand their network and learn from others.

👉  Check out Elpha Office Hours , an ongoing series that aims to make experts accessible so you can ask them questions, learn from questions others ask, and get inspired by their journeys.

Talk to your manager about your personal goals

Regardless of where you are, talking with your manager and letting them know what you are experiencing gives them the chance to come up with solutions as well. Part of a manager's role is to provide you with professional development support. Sometimes it takes a nudge to remind our managers about this! 

Managing up is one way to directly communicate your career goals to your boss. Not sure how to go about it? Here’s a managing up cheat sheet . 💁🏽‍♀️

Ideally, come to that conversation with your own ideas about what could change and an understanding of what you are willing to take on and what would be beyond the scope of your current energy. Getting back to good will likely not be worked out in one meeting, but keep communicating, understanding expectations, and checking in with them.

Tal Netanyahu shares how she transitioned from software engineer to manager, “Lucky for me, not only did my then-manager know better, he also knew to carve out the right opportunity for me, to dip my toes in the management pool and see how it feels. And to my surprise, the water felt fine. It felt great. I was hit with the revelation that, while it's true I was not producing code, my productivity was multiplied by leading others and helping them produce their best work.” ⚡️

If this step seems untenable (maybe your manager isn't great at listening to you or is too busy to stop and provide you the support you need) I encourage you to give them a chance, check in with them about what expectations you are meeting and what expectations you are exceeding. Understand why they value you. And also - start looking for your next role - having a quality manager can be life-changing. Don't limit yourself. You deserve to have someone who is on your side, advocating for you!

Utilize your bandwidth to improve your job satisfaction

If you feel like you don't have time to do this - then you should skip to carving out time for your job search. Otherwise, here are a couple of best practices:

Do you have an interest in growing your skillset? Brainstorm the skills you'd like to improve and do some research on options. Get guidance from your manager about what opportunities your company might support. 🧠 

Anna Miller, Career Coach, suggests asking friends and relatives to give you some perspective on your overall skills since they know you best, “You can also ask your peers at work and managers for feedback on performance and other metrics. I believe that working with someone, either a manager, peer, coach or mentor to provide feedback on your experiences and to reflect back to you what you already know is very valuable.”

It is in your company's best interest to retain their leaders while they are growing their skills!

How are your interview skills? When you aren't actively looking for a job, you can still be searching and interviewing. You might find an even better role than you thought possible. You can also keep your interview skills sharp. Lastly, you can confirm that you are being paid fair market value. If you get an offer, you have leverage and can make an informed decision about your next steps. 🗣

How could you improve the culture in your current role? Are there ERGs or could you start one? If you need some inspiration, there are many Elphas who have paved the path. Here’s how Vinciane de Pape, Lead in DEI Advisory, started a women’s ERG at work, and Events Coordinator Nicole Felter created an ERG for caregivers at her company. 

Want to grow a community service program within an ERG? Rosie Mottsmith, Manager, shares five steps she follows to do just that. 📚

Are you missing quality connections? Start a book club with your colleagues or offer up board games after work to see if others are missing connection as well. 

Here are some ice breakers and activities Elphas have shared for getting to know each other at work, both in-person or remote. 🎯

But remember, it is not on you to change the culture. Saskia Hill, Product Manager, reminds us that change is one of the hardest things to bring about. Here are some of the key parts for effecting change according to Saskia:

  • Identifying the change that is needed (people don't always agree on what's needed, even if they agree it's broken)

  • Having the resources to make the change (if you can't afford to invest in the change, it can't happen)

  • Having/creating the power to make the change (change needs to come from the top, or else have a big enough support from across the org to happen. Plenty of examples of junior people making change, but generally, you need to bring people on the journey and get them to back you)

  • Belief that the change needs to happen (if this is a 'maybe', people will stick with the status quo).

  • Executing the change itself (change takes time, commitment, accountability, and reflection - it won't happen overnight)

If you feel like there's something you could add, this is a great way to stick around, be a positive influence, and have an anecdote to add to your future interviews. ✨

Maybe this is all you needed to hear. In that case, congratulations and good luck with these steps!

Or, maybe, reading all this has reinforced a tiny voice that has been saying it is time to move on. 

If so, keep reading. 👀

Carve out time for your job search

Right now, go to your calendar and decide what part of your day you are going to take for yourself. My suggestion to start is an hour a week, but this can be divided however you see fit. Replace an Instagram or Reddit scroll session each day with the following:

Define your perfect role, skills, and culture. What do you want in your next role? Go back to your initial brainstorm in step one. Use this to create an ideal job description. It can have large holes, but identify any deal-breakers for yourself and anchor the rest of your search in these deal-breakers. ⏳ (1-3 hours)

Update your resume. I hear the sigh. I know. This is no one's favorite part. Stephanie Heath, Career & Job Search Advisor, suggests reframing this as spending time adjusting your personal brand and honoring the work that you've done up until now. ⌛️ (2-4 hours over 1-2 weeks)

👉 Check out Stephanie's step-by-step process (includes scripts!) for updating your CV and getting connected with recruiters at companies with roles that align with your interests.

Browse job sites. You don't have to start applying yet. Refine your resume based on the roles that make you sit up straighter or bring a smile to your face . ⏳ (minimum 2 hours/week)

Start applying! If this step gives you a shudder, then start with a role that you don't want, but think you can get. That way, if you get an interview, you can practice without feeling the weight of wanting it to be successful. Set up time with a trusted friend or colleague to do a mock interview. Answer interview questions in the shower, out loud. Interviews don't have to be scary - and the more you practice, the easier they become. Especially since you have a job, this can hold less weight. ⌛️ (1-3 hours/week)

Learn from the application process and adjust your expectations as you go! There are so many factors to getting a new job and you are only one of those factors, so don't take it personally if the job search doesn't work out right away. Just keep going, learning, and growing! ⏳ (ongoing)

So – what do you think? Email me at [email protected] and let me know what's missing or what your experience has been. We'd love to continue sharing resources to help you and others feel successful and engaged at work ✨

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