Life establishes a rhythm and a pattern. It is often referred to as the status quo. As the world continues to evolve, you may either feel as if your life is adapting along with it, or your career is never changing, growing, or moving forward. Days go by and nothing changes. Your thoughts of the future are focused on getting ahead and perhaps how you’ll create better traction for advancing the knowledge, skills, and talents you possess. Perhaps you feel under-appreciated, you’ve been over-looked for positions, and/or you believe you are under-paid for your role. Whatever the case may be, your daily routine may have been consumed with timely thoughts about achieving a better future.
Then when a significant lifetime event occurs, such as a worldwide crisis, it creates an opportunity to re-evaluate the thoughts and plans you’ve had for your career. When that occurs you have a choice, you can use it as a time to reflect and redirect your focus, or you can give into fear and become paralyzed with inaction. While it may seem counter-intuitive, take this time to re-prioritize your goals and re-review your career plan. The reason it may feel like an inappropriate approach to take, while you await resolution of a situation which seems so out of control, is that being productive can actually help to calm your mind and put you in a logical frame-of-reference.
While you are in the process of evaluating your career, and developing new plans to revive it again, you will find yourself better able to control your emotional reactions to the events you are hearing and reading. This is due to a shift in how your mind is processing information, or taking cognitive control once again of the flood of information being received through working memory. You can initiate this type of process by implementing a guided career overview plan and asking yourself a series of self-analysis questions.
Guided Career Overview
You first begin an overhaul process by clearing the mental clutter in your own mind. There will be information and misinformation you have been collecting about current events, which has been creating doubt, fear, and likely a sense of unease over time about your future. Start by evaluating the needs for yourself and those who either depend upon you or live with you. Then search for valid sources of information, not sources of second-hand information. Go directly to those sources which will provide you with facts, data, and statistics. This is the only way you can make any plans with certainty, and stop the flow of speculation from entering your mind. You will find you are also engaging the use of logic and critical analysis skills as you use this mental process.
After you have mentally prepared yourself for the basic needs required, and you have engaged your rational thinking skills, now you can begin to use those same reasoning skills for a review of your career plan. At this point in time it is likely your entire perspective of your career has changed, priorities have shifted, and the manner in which you work has changed. You may either work from home as a remote worker, or you may have found yourself without work now. Whatever the case may be, and as difficult as you may find it to be, this is the time to conduct a guided career overview. Now more than ever, you are viewing your career from a completely different perspective.
To get started, itemized your career goals. If you did not have clearly defined goals, create a list for your future in increments of two-year periods. This is a different approach than you will read within many self-help articles and it is one I’ve used as a career coach to help improve the success rate of achieving each milestone. When goals are set too far out, those goals seem too long term and can be easily forgotten. Shorter goals serve as checkpoints to keep in mind and also can become motivational signposts to celebrate along the way, as each are completed. Should you have career goals already, you can re-develop them into a two-year approach as I’ve described.
As you are thinking about career goals, it is possible you may not know exactly where you are headed or what direction you would like to take next in your career. This is when the idea of visualization can be helpful, as a tool for career development. Imagine yourself two years from now, with the current crisis resolved, and describe what you see, feel, and think about for your job or career. Consider what you aspire to be or become, now that you have a new perspective on life. If you are satisfied with your career and now want to spend more time with those whom you care about, perhaps your next goal will be seeing yourself in a stable position, becoming an expert in this role.
Now that you have begun the process of evaluating your career, from the perspective of examining what your future might be in the upcoming years, you can ask additional targeted questions to continue the process of self-analysis. I’ve implemented the use of the following questions in various forms as a career development coach and perhaps they will help you as well.
Targeted Question #1: Am I inspired by the career goals I’ve established?
What you want to develop are specific, not generic career goals. An example of a generic goal would be: I am going to be recognized for my hard work within two years. In contrast, the most effective checkpoints to develop every two years are those which inspire you to grow and make progress, depending upon what your priorities are for your life and career. For example, if you want to remain steady and stable, then visualize yourself becoming an expert at this time and point. If you want to advance, name a specific position you are interested in pursuing. As an example, if you aspire to move into a management position, set that as a marker for your first checkpoint.
Targeted Question #2: Will there be anything holding me back from reaching these career goals?
When you have established inspirational checkpoints, over specified two-year time periods, next you can ascertain if there will be anything needed to make certain you are prepared. For example, will you need any training or continued education? Will you need to gain new knowledge and/or acquire new skills in order to progress or advance? You may need to think ahead and conduct research, in order to prepare your self-development plan. After conducting research, you can then map out the upcoming months and further refine the steps you’ll take to work towards a new outcome.
Targeted Question #3: Have I been engaged in any form of negative self-talk?
You may or may not be aware of the thoughts being held about yourself, and this is something I recommend you start to become more conscious of and pay attention to. This self-talk can be supportive, and help you feel good about your life and the decisions you make, or you can be stuck in a pattern of negative self-talk that belittles and undermines your best intentions and efforts. Some of the hardest lessons I’ve witnessed others learn as a career coach is that of self-empathy, or being able to forgive oneself for past events and perceived mistakes. If you can support yourself, even when you find yourself in the worst possible situation, you will find recovery occurs much sooner.
Targeted Question #4: Do I believe I can reach and complete the first career goal established?
This question ties directly into the prior question about self-talk, and it relates to your self-beliefs. If you were to look at the career plan you’ve developed for yourself, would you honestly state you could achieve it? Do you believe you have the potential to complete whatever you put your mind to accomplish? Those may seem like obvious questions and yet, if you cannot reconcile your beliefs with your career plan, you may never accomplish the goals you have established. A belief begins by feeling some level of hopefulness rather than hopelessness. If you are developing a future plan, then you must believe to some extent your future can change. If you are creating this plan for any other reason, it will not occur. This is the time to decide: I believe in myself and I believe I can meet these goals.
Targeted Question #5: Do I know what I am capable of accomplishing?
In order to solidify your beliefs, and make them meaningful rather than hollow statements, you should begin with an assessment of your strengths. Your strengths are the foundation which creates your capacity to create change, learn, grow, and adapt. You will use these strengths to also work on areas of development. As you look to the future, and you are assessing what you need to be prepared, do not consider yourself to have shortages or weaknesses. These are opportunities for professional development. You also do not need to be afraid to identify areas that need improvement, just be aware and ready to prepare. You can adapt and you have both a capacity and potential to learn. This renewed sense of self-awareness will ultimately make you stronger as you look to the future with confidence.
Is It Time for a New Career Path?
Conducting a career analysis can be an eye-opening experience, especially if you have a new sense of self because of world and work conditions. Once you have completed the process above, you may know with certainty what direction your career path is headed in, assuming working conditions return to normal sometime soon. You may feel a sense of renewal about the type of work you are performing and want to remain in the same job and with the same employer. However, the analysis may cause you to consider a different perspective. Perhaps now your priorities have changed, or have been re-emphasized, and now you feel strongly about finding a new career path. The analysis has now helped move you in another direction and set a plan in place to begin a journey towards another destination. No matter which of these scenarios is matched to you, you should feel empowered to become better in charge of your career and ready to take action, once the business world is functioning again.
The Value of Productive Thinking
The economic health of the nation is troubling, and it is unknown when businesses will be functioning at some level of normalcy again. Yet this should not stop you from developing a career plan and preparing for the future. If history is any indicator of how humanity and the economy operate in times of global crises, there will eventually be a recovery period. It may not occur quickly and for many businesses, there may be a significant return to growth time period needed. However, you can still keep your mind sharp and focused on your own self-development, which in turn will allow you to better address both a time of crisis and recovery. As you work on your own developmental plans, you engage the rational aspect of your mind and this keeps emotional reactions under control. The more you can continue to think in a productive manner, the better you are able to care for yourself and others as well. Perhaps logical thinking will help to sustain you, and the business you work for, as you await the crisis to subside.
Dr. Bruce A. Johnson is an inspirational author, writer, and teacher.
Dr. Johnson’s career has involved helping others learn, including people and organizations. His roles have included Manager of Training and Development, Human Performance Improvement Consultant, Online Instructor, Career Coach, Curriculum Developer, Manager of Faculty Development, and Chief Academic Officer.
Since 2005, Dr. J has specialized in distance learning, adult education, faculty development, online teaching, career management, career development, and human performance improvement. He has a Ph.D. in Postsecondary and Adult Education, a Certificate in Training and Performance Improvement, and a Master of Business Administration, MBA. Presently Dr. J is a Core Faculty member for one of the premiere online universities.
As a scholar practitioner, Dr. J was published in a scholarly journal and he has been a featured presenter at an international distance learning conference. He has also published books, eBooks, and over 200 online articles about adult learning, higher education, distance learning, online teaching, and career development, helping to fulfill his life’s mission to teach, mentor, write, and inspire others.