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What To Do If You're Confused About "What's Next"

11 June 2015

Do you still enjoy your work but can’t quite imagine doing the same for the next 10, 20 years?

Or are you starting to drag yourself to work as your job is getting less and less satisfying ?

Either way, you’re probably starting to think about ‘what’s next’. And if you’re like many executives I’ve met at this point, you’re feeling a tad confused and conflicted; and perhaps even a little bit lost. The good news is that it’s perfectly natural. You can navigate to your next chapter and move on to even greater success in your life.  

Most of us spend the bulk of our adult life climbing the ladder in our chosen profession. Our sole focus everyday is to perform at our best while keeping an eye on that next shiny thing up the ladder. So not surprisingly, we’re blindsided when our well mapped-out career path loses it’s lustre.  Or we’re forced to rethink our careers in today’s volatile economy.

Even though it doesn’t seem like it on the surface, there are more people out there than you think, who are in the same situation. Trust me, I know. I’ve been there, moving from a career as a global marketing executive with Timberland to owning my own personal developmnet business for executive women.

Here are some things to consider  -

Be clear about what truly matters to you 

And I mean what really, really matters to YOU in your life. Consider your whole life, not just your work/career. What life do you really want for yourself? Are you living your life ‘following the masses’ or are you spending your time on what truly matters to you?   

If you say both your family and career are important, have you defined specifically what that means in terms of what you want from it? And importantly, are you clear on why this is important - how will doing this make you happier and bring more meaning into your life? Are you also clear on what you might have to give up to make this work (eg time with friends), and are you comfortable with that?  

I can’t stress how important it is to be super clear on your values, especially if you are at a crossroads. Yet it’s often overlooked or not given sufficient attention. Think of your values as your guideposts. Identifying them needs to be your first step.

Find new ways to leverage your strengths

We all have innate strengths. Areas where we perform at our best with little effort. Think of your crossroads as an opportunity to flex your strengths muscle. Explore new, different ways you can leverage your strengths in and outside of your current vocation.  

Overlap your strengths with your most important values. How can you leverage your strengths in aspects of life that truly matter to you? How can you use your strengths to do things that make you happy and fulfilled? Finding that sweet spot that overlaps your strengths and values is gold; and the key to success for your next chapter.

Work on your mental ‘demons’ 

All of us have mental demons - that irritating little voice in your head that reminds us of our fears and self doubts. Identify which are your biggest mental demons and work on getting past them.  Search the web and you’ll find a ton of resources on how.

Get your financial house in order

Be prepared to go through a period of uncertainty. If you spent the last however long building a thriving career, it’ll take time to figure out your next path and rebuild momentum especially if you decide to pursue a new career path. Being aware of this and building some financial buffer just helps take the pressure off.

Give yourself adequate time and space

Don’t rush the process. Depending on how much thought you’ve given in the past as to what you truly want from your life, this can be a confronting process that will take some time. 

Communicate with and enrol your family

Not everyone likes surprises, much less the kind of surprise where you walk in and tell your spouse/partner that you’ve just quit your job to go ‘find yourself’. Even in the best of relationships, these conversations are hard. Engage your loved ones early on so that their needs are addressed and you’re best set up for success. 

Find the right mentor to support you on your journey

Ideally someone who has navigated crossroads in their own life so that they can share experiences and highlight potential opportunities and pitfalls.  

I leave you with one of my favourite quotes.

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined” - Henry David Thoreau

Others have navigated their crossroads with great success. And there are resources and tools to help you chart your next path. 

Be strong. Be brave. And don't sell yourself short of a life and career you truly love.

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