Why do you go to the doctor?

Either it is a regular periodic visit, to check on how you are doing or it is to address some area of acute concern. As we become more tenured, we look at certain areas more frequently or more in-depth. If you are a more tenured individual, you know what I am talking about. The goal is to stay ahead of any issues and deal with them as early as possible.

What about your career? How regularly do you officially check on your career progress? Maybe more importantly, do you have any symptoms of an acute issue that needs attention?

Reviewing your career regularly is a good practice.  Retrospectively many professionals wish they were more proactive in their career management. They did not ignore their career; they just allowed the “system” to manage it for them by following the standard career path.

Take the typical consultant path. A new hire on board as an associate consultant gets promoted to consultant in 2 years and is expecting to make partner in the next 3. For various reasons, budget, staffing or contracts, that individual is now at the 6-year mark and not promoted. She also had designs to move into a new sector but has held back because she wants to be promoted first.

What difference do you think a regular career checkup would have made on her path?

A military officer is promoted to Major at the 10-year mark, has completed grad school, and received orders to work in a staff job writing operations and training policy. An expert in this area, however, these are not the orders he wanted.

How could a career checkup make a difference in his next step?

An executive MBA program graduate joined a startup with a team from her cohort. She has been an operations manager for 5 years. The team has gotten the product to market last year and is slowly making progress. Her long-range plans were to get the experience required to be able to be the founder of her own startup.

How could a career checkup make a difference in her next steps?

In every case, a career checkup should make a difference. My thoughts are that whatever decision you make, you want it made with clarity. Be clear on the reasoning for your decision. In each of the above cases, it sounds as if a change should be made. Not necessarily true if the individuals thought through all the factors.

The question is, what factors should be considered? Here is my opinion, two big categories to consider; the lifestyle you are after professionally and personally.

And no, you cannot consider each in a vacuum, one affects the other.

What do you want your professional lifestyle to be?  (Short term and long term)

  • Professional position
  • Leadership roles and responsibilities
  • Health
  • Wealth

What do you want your personal lifestyle to be? (Short term and long term)

  • Relationships
  • Fun, leisure, and recreation
  • Giving back
  • Personal growth

I have assisted numerous individuals to think through the process of what was most important about each area. Once they came to the conclusion the path forward became clear. The above anecdotes come from those cases.

In your career journey, circumstances change your perspective. Just like your health, choices that made sense earlier in your life, do not seem that sensible now. Does running 20+ miles a week as you did when you were in college sound like a healthy practice when you are 49? For some of you it may. A bit of reflection may build clarity around the amount of running and exercise that is healthy at 49.

What about acute issues. At every phase, acute problems need to be addressed with some urgency. Do you have pangs, jolts of adrenalin, or other triggers that occur related to work or your career?  They are indicators something requires your attention. We have all had indications of illness or injury we hoped would “run its course” or disappear. When the symptoms keep coming back, we do something about it.

Same with your career. Do not ignore the symptoms. Sometimes those symptoms show themselves in our personal lives. You may be crushing it at work, but the travel time is making things miserable at home. That’s a symptom.

How are you ensuring your career path is a healthy one?

What would be the impact on your life if you treated your career the way you treat your health?