Career Transitions – What now?

You’ve probably guessed by now that I really love planning and I’ll admit that it’s a fairly accurate assessment.  I enjoy taking an idea and laying out the steps, knowing what needs to happen next and even knowing what to do if it all fails.  My personality isn’t particularly open to uncertainty, and that covers most aspects of my life, not just work.  I don’t often feel the need to plot out every single detail but I do like to have a strategy, especially if it contains actual measurable steps that I can tick off along the way.

For many years now reducing work stress has have a high priority for me. I had taken a hard look at my life and determined that the aspects that were causing me the most work related unhappiness were also the ones that were causing me the most stress.  Things like project planning, priority shifting, contention with other groups, contention with customers, and constantly fighting over scope creep and resources, were the foundation of my work existence. When I took a step back and looked at that, I was lucky enough to have a friend and mentor that had already become involved in Agile and recommended that I look at the process to see what I could apply to fix these issues.  Now, more than five plus into our agile process, I am very happy with what we’ve implemented and I’m happy to say that I’m much less stressed too.

That being said, this last six months or so I’ve really been struggling with the what now? My development team is doing really well and I have a plan to get my QA team there too. And while I have had plenty of new challenges to work on, they’ve all been very tactical. There is no next step for me, what my next job will be or a clear sense of where I fit into the future of my company beyond the immediate goals. That leaves me with this gnawing feeling that I’m not growing. And that I don’t really have a direction.

It feels a little like a mid-career crisis, just without whatever the career equivalent is to a fancy sports car and a new wardrobe. What occurs to me is that outside of my yearly goals (project related) I haven’t had a current development plan for myself, the last one I created maybe 5-6 years ago, I don’t have anything that tells me what new things I should learning, what I need to be better at and what my next career steps are. Or what my next job should be.

Back in 2009, I created a mind map of what I felt like I needed in order to meet my career and personal goals. It included all of the typical learning goals but also had creative pursuits and volunteer work that would expand my abilities beyond what was available to me within my job. At the time, I wanted more leadership opportunities, more exposure to different communities and groups that could show me new ways to tackle problems and goals alike. Now that I’ve gained everything that I set out to do, I’m realizing that I didn’t really ever take the time to identify an end state, I was entirely focused on filling gaps.

Now I’m going to redo that mind map with the end state as the goal, working backwards from where I’d like to be in 3-5 years in my career and creative life, and what I’d like my life balance to look like in that future. My first step is to define the end state, pick a destination (or maybe two or three) that meets all of my needs and then sort out the way there. I think this may end up being a yearlong series, outlining the steps along the way but we’ll keep that open for now. At least until I figure out where I want to go.


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