Finding a fulfilling career path gets pretty complicated at times. Just when you think you have it all figured out, chances are you will find it’s time to adjust again. Here are my top tips for balancing all of your needs and finding a stimulating career that works for you – no matter where you find yourself in your journey!
1. Don’t let yourself get too comfortable.
Always be honest with yourself and constantly assess whether you’re getting too comfortable in your current role. There’s a big difference between just doing your job and getting stale. It can be tempting to just do a job that comes too easy to you. I have a husband with a demanding job and a busy travel schedule, two kids, and a priority to my children to make lunches, dinners, be there for every reading group and field trip, and keep up with all the demands of a busy household. Most days, coasting would be easier in a lot of ways. But ultimately, I don’t find that kind of work satisfying.
To prevent stagnation, I try to follow the five-hour rule (although I’m not always great at it)! This means that I try to devote one hour a day or five hours a week learning new things. This helps give me a competitive edge and keeps me moving forward.
Be strategic about what you learn. For me, it’s important to learn things that help me stand out from the competition. And overall make me better than yesterday’s version of myself.
Ultimately when deciding on my last career change, I took my current job, because it scared me—and that’s how I knew it was the right job for me.
2. Consider the big picture when you’re deciding between management and an individual contributor role.
I’ve always envisioned that my career would end up in management. What’s more, I’ve even been presented with the opportunity to move into this role. Ultimately, however, I turned it down. .
I threw a pity party for myself over this since I really did want to go into management. But the reality was that because I have kids and and a full time load at home, it just simply wasn’t the right time. I actually called a friend of mine who manages an entire customer success team, and admitted to her that sometimes I want to be her. She very quickly convinced me that just because I was saying no now, didn’t mean I was saying no forever and that my priorities could change in the future. And knowing that made the decision much simpler. Not no. Just not now.
So I’ve chosen to stay in an individual contributor role for now. I seek out roles where I can work from home, which often means working at a company that is headquartered in a different state. That’s the niche that works for my life right now.
It’s okay to make a decision that’s based on the whole picture. Think about what fulfills you. For me (and for most other people), it stems from a combination of things: work and family.
3. Remember that you can pivot later.
It helps me to know that while management may not be a good fit right now, this doesn’t have to be forever. In one or two years, I might revisit this decision as my life circumstances change.
Right now, being an individual contributor is what works for me. That could very well change, and I’m prepared to roll with it.
4. Set boundaries. But be flexible too.
It’s important to set boundaries at the workplace so that you can enjoy a fulfilling personal life. However, sometimes challenges come up that just can’t be avoided.
Last year, my company’s national sales meeting was on my son’s fifth birthday. The idea that I might not be there was quite upsetting to him. To solve that seemingly impossible problem, I decided to take my entire family to Chicago with me. In this case, I was able to do be at the sales meeting and celebrate my son’s birthday. And it turned out to be quite a memorable birthday!
At times like these, you have to figure out some creative solutions. Know what’s most important to you. Where are you able to take shortcuts and make compromises?
5. Leave your job when you have a good reason.
The best advice I ever got from my mentor – never run away from something–instead, always be running towards something. In my career, I haven’t been afraid to take on new risks and new positions when necessary. But I don’t believe in leaving just to leave; there has to be a reason. For me, the two most important things are culture fit and being able to contribute to my full potential. If one of those things isn’t working, I will begin to explore my options.
When your instincts start guiding you in a direction, pay attention!
6. Consider a full range of opportunities.
When you do decide to take on a new position, it’s important to make sure that you’re going to land in the right place. I like to consider a range of positions in parallel. Usually, I pursue one company that I really would love to work at, one very early-stage startup, and then a “safety school,” which is basically a company where I know I can get a job. I prefer not to consider more than four opportunities at the same time, because that is a good barometer for a well rounded evaluation.
By looking at a number of different options, I can feel better about my eventual decision. I had a great feeling about my current company just after an initial conversation with the recruiter and looking at the website. But since I was pursuing a number of options, I knew I wasn’t just going into it blind.
It certainly has its fair share of challenges, but it certainly is very possible to find a fulfilling career and personal life—you need to be willing to put in the hard work, visualize success, and trust your instincts.