Remember that career test your high school guidance counselor provided to help guide you in choosing the right college major, and potential career path? It likely asked a series of questions about your interests, your personality, your strengths and weaknesses to determine where you’d likely be best suited in the working world. Regardless of whether you took the advice to heart, the fundamental notions of the traditional career test still has value in your professional life–even if you’ve been working for several years. Here’s how you can take a cue from career tests of days past, to reinvent a stalled career, or be even more valuable in a job you love.
What can you do with your expertise? One of the hallmark goals of a career test is to assess the subject matter you have existing interest and skills in, and translate how you can apply the knowledge into something actually get paid to do. But, when you’ve been in a career for several years, what was once exciting and new begins to feel like the dull and mundane. As a result, you’ll probably start to devalue just how much you do know–and underestimate how necessary and important that knowledge is to someone else.
Use the fundamental idea of a traditional career test to reassess where you can invest your professional knowledge to help someone else, and in turn, your renew your own level of interest. Join a networking group, whether by way of a local gathering, or a robust online industry-specific community. Pay it forward and act as a mentor to interns or junior employees in your company. At worst, you’ll get a confidence boost from the reminder that you are indeed a professional force that adds value. At best, you’ll find a renewed curiosity for your role or profession. Either way, you’ll benefit.
Focus on you. There is no “I” in a team-based work environment, but there is some value in putting yourself front and center of your professional life to tune in with the best path for your professional future. In the book The Art of Doing: How Superachievers Do What They Do and Do It So Well, c0-authors Camille Sweeney and Josh Gosfield explain that shifting your professional focus from extrinsic motivation (things you do primarily for task accomplishment, accolades from leadership, or a raise) to intrinsic motivators (the things you do for your own interests and enjoyment) can help you identify what originally drew you to your profession. (Even if your role is a far cry from your personal interests, identifying how you can solve for that problem is the first step to course-correcting your professional path). Consider whether there are specific departments and/or job functions in your company that you find interesting, and would like to know more about—even those unrelated to your job description. Set a personal goal to spend some time each week educating yourself on the topics that pique your interest, including participating in Twitter chats, professional groups on LinkedIn, and reading the blogs of industry thought-leaders. Because you’re learning for your own benefit, you are in control of what deem interesting– and how you’ll use the knowledge to contribute to your career. Learning is a lifelong process; you might be surprised at how interests seemingly unrelated to your job actually have potential bearing on your professional life.
Take stock of your accomplishments. Careers go through period of ebb and flow, like any relationship in life. If you’re in a professional low point, take a step back and consider the journey your career has taken you on thus far.What many different responsibilities, managers, co-workers, and compensation packages have you had throughout the years? How did they contribute to your life at that time, and your ability to get where you are today? When you remember your proud accomplishments along with the professional challenges you’d rather not have experienced, you can appreciate the sum total of the journey and recognize that ultimately, it’s all temporary. That recognition can help you push past any negativity you’re feeling about your work life, and reignite your desire for recreating the exciting times when challenges felt less like a roadblock–and more like a positive hurdle to overcome.