What to do when you don't know what to do
by Douglas E. Welch
April 7, 2000
© 2000, Douglas E. Welch
Every career has its ups and downs, but sometimes you can find
yourself at a loss regarding your next step. Whether you are merely bored with your work or threatened by
downsizing, your options can be both frightening and confusing.
Having too many options can lead you to ponder endlessly until
someone else makes a decision for you. This is never a wise choice.
If you aren't sure which way to turn there are a few ways to break
through the confusion and make the best decision you can.
First things first
Changing jobs can be stressful at any time, but even moreso if
other aspects of your life are out of order. If you have the ability
to stay in your current job while you put your other affairs in
order, so much the better.
First, make sure finances are in order. Create a contingency fund
just in case you are suddenly downsized. In order to do this effectively,
though, you may have to address the issue of debt. Carrying too
much debt can cause many problems beyond the debt itself. It can
cause you to stay in abusive or low-level jobs only because of
the security of a regular paycheck. Excessive debt can keep you
from taking the risks that you need to succeed in your career.
Relationship issues can also hamper your ability to deal with
career decisions. It is a simple fact of human nature that none
of us think well when we are starting or ending a relationship.
You need all your attention to focus on career moves. If you are
in a relationship your partner can be an excellent resource for
helping you work through your career decisions. They will be effected
by your decisions and should be included. In most cases, your
partner often has insights into your career. Sometimes we are
just too close to our own job to see what is really happening.
Talking things out with a good friend can be one of the best ways
to develop a clear idea of where you want your career to move.
There is nothing wrong with letting your job simmer while you
pay attention to other important issues as long as you realize
that your career issues will need to be addressed at some time
if you hope to move forward.
Every career move is a risk, but you can be smart about the risks
you take. Often, for a high-tech worker, the riskiest jobs can
be the most fulfilling and the most career-forwarding. These risky
jobs can provide you the opportunity to learn about new technology,
new job skills and new ways of doing business. True, they can
also be the most unstable, but I believe that any job that helps
to expand your technical skills and your business knowledge is
worth the risk. The knowledge you gain will only make you that
much more marketable to your next employer.
You should, of course, investigate the prospective company to
insure that both they and the position offer you a significant
advantage. Talk to other employees. Talk to clients of the company,
if you can. Try to insure that you will actually be doing the
work the company describes in job listings and interviews.
You never want to move from one bad job to another, but experience
has shown me that it is almost always better to leave behind a
job you hate. The longer you stay in a bad job the more difficult
it is to leave. Your self-esteem takes a pounding each day until
you start to believe you don't deserve anything better. You should
try and insure that the risk you are taking matches the rewards
you expect in both finances and experience, but don't forget the
simple benefits provided by removing yourself from a toxic environment.
With each career move you gain experience. Experience about your
career, the job market and, most importantly, yourself.
Whether you are currently in the throes of a career indecision
or find yourself there in the future, hopefully these suggestions
can help you make the move in riskier and more rewarding career.
Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant
in Van Nuys, California. Readers can discuss career issues with
other readers by joining the Career Opportunities Discussion on
Douglas' web page at: http://www.welchwrite.com/
He can reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org