Reflecting on my decade of work experience, numerous instances stand out when I contemplated significant career shifts. From minor adjustments to major transitions, I’ve navigated through five companies, various roles, and industries, switching from aspiring CPA to communications professional, freelance writer, and podcast host. This diverse journey has equipped me with ample insights into making career moves.

Over the years, I’ve crafted a set of fundamental questions that guide me when contemplating career changes, whether due to feeling stagnant or encountering a career crossroads. Making life-altering decisions can be a mix of excitement and trepidation, and shifting careers is no different. The essence lies in evaluating your past, present, and future aspirations to strategically plan your next move. Ellen Taaffe, an esteemed leadership coach and speaker, emphasizes reflecting on what currently holds significance in your career and life, and where you envision yourself heading in the near future. Taaffe suggests starting from your current position and charting a course towards your desired destination.

If uncertain about your career path and seeking clarity, consider these 10 crucial questions:

1. How am I feeling?

Prior to any decision-making, pause and tune in to your emotions. Assessing your current state aids in determining your next steps. It’s essential to gauge your satisfaction level in your current role. Question yourself: Are you possibly burnt out or unsatisfied with your tasks? Do you find your work challenging? Are you feeling either underutilized or overwhelmed? Understanding your emotional standing enables informed choices about your next career move.

2. What am I really good at?

While introspecting, identify your strengths. Recognize the tasks where you excel both in your present and past roles. At this stage, focus solely on your proficiency in tasks, regardless of your personal preference towards them.

3. What work brings me joy?

Proficiency doesn’t always equate to enjoyment. Identify the tasks that bring you fulfillment and purpose in your work environment. Pinpoint activities that ignite your passion and make you feel fulfilled. Recognizing these areas will steer you towards the appropriate career direction. Remember, interests can evolve throughout your professional journey.

Sometimes, it’s necessary to slow down so we can move forward.

4. Where do my strengths and fulfillment align?

Now, align your strengths with activities that bring you joy. Identify where these two aspects intersect. Assess if your current role resonates with your strengths and passions. Understanding this intersection enlightens you about your unique value proposition and guides your career decisions.

5. What are my non-negotiables?

Work nowadays transcends mere paycheck considerations. Evaluate various facets of an ideal work setting. Define your non-negotiables and determine how many align with your current job and company. Explore alternate roles or companies that better cater to your essential requirements.

Factors to consider include:

  • Work Location: Preference for in-person, hybrid, or remote work.
  • Benefits and Perks: Essential benefits like medical coverage, paid leave, etc.
  • Work Environment: Desired industry, company size, and culture.
  • Team Environment: Team dynamics and collaborative preferences.
  • Finances: Salary expectations and financial considerations.
  • Growth Opportunities: Potential for career advancement and development.
  • Responsibilities: Tasks that are crucial or unwanted in your role.
  • Title: Desired job title.
  • Work-Life Balance: Integration of work with personal life.
  • Risk Tolerance: Willingness to take risks and assess potential regrets.

6. What are my values?

Apart from company values, consider your personal core values. Reflect on what you cherish in life and your career. Your values may revolve around serving others, environmental sustainability, or promoting diversity in male-dominated sectors. Craft a personal mission statement to serve as your guiding principle in career decisions.

7. What are my career aspirations?

Having gauged your past and present, focus on your future aspirations. Whether aspiring for a leadership role, industry change, entrepreneurship, or further education, dream without constraints. Your ambitions shape your strategic career moves, enabling you to progress towards your goals.

8. What do I need to support my career advancement?

Identify the support required to propel your career forward. Determine whether you require enhanced visibility, mentorship, professional affiliations, or skill enhancements. Upskilling is crucial in the evolving technological landscape, ensuring your marketability and adaptability. Envision the next steps necessary for your career growth, be it assuming leadership roles or acquiring new certifications.

Remember, you need not have the entire career blueprint now, but a clear vision of the immediate steps. While your goal may be a major promotion, interim actions like project involvement or skill development can pave the way.

9. What’s next?

Having introspected and planned, now decide on your next move. Taafee advises reflecting on your development, learning, and intrinsic motivations to assess your readiness for change. Evaluate if your current position aligns with your aspirations and ascertain one of four possible paths: grow within your current role or company, seek a new role within or outside the organization, or transition to a different company or position. Whichever path chosen, remain open to supplemental opportunities like side projects, new hobbies, education, or skill acquisition.

10. What’s my gut telling me?

While data analysis and rational thinking are vital, trust your intuition—the gut feeling that may contradict logical reasoning. Your gut instinct, honed from diverse life experiences, often steers you in the right direction. Align your decisions with your internal compass, fostering contentment and confidence in your choices. Embrace both data-driven analysis and intuitive guidance for fulfilling career transitions.


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