Self

Ready To Get Un-Stuck At Work? Time To Get Real About Your Career Stage

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woman in glasses making frustrated face

Who's in charge of your career?

You, of course.

If it doesn't feel like it and you've begun to ask yourself how you got here and where you want to go, you've come to the right place.

They hire you to do what you do best and pay you to achieve results. With it comes recognition, a pay raise, and possibly even stock options. If you are outstanding, a ticker tape parade in the hallway. In the early phases of your career, that matters. You are motivated. Goal-oriented. However, over time, money and the perks associated with your status may no longer be an incentive.

Your needs are changing. Moreover, motivation and self-esteem will often hit the skids if you're not in control.

Consider a career plan.

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Your GPS to help navigate your working life

Assessing your skills, strengths, and needs is an investment in your life that will pay dividends in renewed confidence and self-direction. You will know where you are and where you are going.

First, discover what career phase you are in now.

As a coach to executives, I can always tell what career phase my employed clients are in using this tool. I typically have one or both of the following

Question: "What did you do for the company this week?"

The answer is typically a list of accomplishments and successes.

Question: "Besides a paycheck, what did the company do for you?"

Usually, this answer is much shorter. The client struggles to describe what they learned or experienced. Some will say, "I had a busy two weeks. I didn't think about it much."

In an ideal world, the give and take between a company and their employee should be about equal, 50-50.

Unfortunately, what clients have shared with me is closer to a 90/10 split. 90% of the compensation comes from the employee. The verdict: don't bank on your company as a source to revitalize your drive to learn and grow.

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Figure out your career phase, and then make a plan to move on to the next

Phase 1

You are considered a newbie with a high learning curve.

Moreover, you are blazing with confidence and a drive to get ahead. The job will test your mettle and learning capacity. As your successes multiply, so does external credibility. The money is OK.

Phase 2

You are viewed as capable but still learning.

Confidence and ambition are accelerating. The organization sees you as an "up-and-coming player." You're growing into your identity and career. With more accomplishments and experience, your salary increases.

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Phase 3

You are proficient and are on the cusp of mastery.

Learning inspires you, but at a slower pace. The once fierce drive to succeed may waiver. Management and your peers perceive you as credible and "right up there." Your compensation surges.

Phase 4

You have arrived.

However, the glory of a fat salary, promotions, and fulfilling your status as a subject matter expert is in the rearview mirror. There may be a sense of emptiness. Motivation and drive are a mere trickle. You desire to change jobs, but you believe the choices are few. Moreover, those options always pale in favor of the comfortable status quo.

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Phase 5

The idea of leveraging your expertise is abhorrent to you, regardless of the money.

Resentment, boredom, and isolation have eclipsed the hunger to grow and learn, and a sense of feeling trapped has emerged. This emotional turmoil can bleed into your personal life.

Have you found yourself in one of the five phases? That's a start! Knowing where and who you are is critical to taking charge of the next step in your career. Your employer may or may not be able to support your growth. A competitor of theirs may appreciate what you have accomplished and where you want to go in your career.

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With a career plan, you are in the driver's seat

When is the best time to start planning the next move? The easy answer is any time, but I recommend the third phase.

Why? Because you have the time to carefully look for your next position as a "passive candidate." Your focus is on your next move. You are not running from a dangerous situation. You are in a much stronger place career-wise.

Note to employers: The old days of using "golden handcuffs" to keep critical employees are going the way of the dinosaur. A talented professional is motivated to keep learning and developing. I suggest you sit down with each employee and request a career plan. Strike a delicate balance between the goals of the company and the employee.

It takes some courage for each of us to look at the truth of what is best for the company and what is best for our career.

In the final analysis, everyone wins.

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Randy Block assists professionals in management, leadership, job search, career planning, and team building. 

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This article was originally published at Forbes. Reprinted with permission from the author.