Karolina Numminen
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What’s Up Next for You in Your Career?

Deciding what’s next in your career can feel like a big puzzle, especially if you've been at it for a while. You’re probably not the clueless graduate anymore. You’ve ticked off a few promotions and have an idea of what you enjoy and what’s important for you. But you might also have more responsibilities (house loan or family) so there are more aspects you need to take into consideration. That’s a lot to think about especially when there are many different options to look at.

In fact, the question ‘what next’ is most commonly what clients want to address with me. So in this article, I break down the main options you may want to consider and give you some pros and cons as well as words of caution when deciding on your next steps.

1. Should You Stay or Should You Go

The first question we need to clarify is if staying in your current job is still the right fit for your journey. You can determine this only if you know your long-term goals and discuss with your manager if achieving these goals in your current company is possible. And not only theoretically possible- there must be a clear path from where you're now to where you want to be.

Seeing your next steps within your current company is always the best starting point before deciding to move on to more radical solutions. But you need to be careful not to stick around just because it is easy and familiar. If you seek growth, too much ease and familiarity is the last thing you want.

Is It Time to Look Elsewhere?

Now, I don't advocate for endless job-hopping, which can be equally tiring and harmful to your long-term growth. But you may find out that the stage or the financial situation of your company can't provide you with any real growth right now. 

For many people, this can be a scary realization. Looking for a new job requires a long-term effort that sometimes ends with disappointment. Moreover, for our hunter-gatherer brain, new = danger. We prefer stability over anything, so a predictable hell seems way better than adjusting to something new. I'm often terrified of how much people will endure in their current jobs just to avoid the perceived risk of changing employers. 

But job hunting is a bit like dating. After a bad breakup, we can't imagine we'll ever be happy again, and a few years later? We can't believe we haven't ended things sooner, knowing that something way better was awaiting.  

Beware of Fake Promotions

Now, here comes a warning. If you hint to your manager that leaving might be an option for you, the company might pull some moves to keep you. Be on the lookout for:

  • More work for the same paycheck
  • A shiny new job title that comes with no real change to your role
  • Doing someone else's tasks but not seeing their benefits.
  • Endless postponing of a promotion (new conditions appearing as soon as you meet the previous ones)

You can't be mad at your boss for trying to keep the good employee you are, but if your company can't give you any real growth now, it doesn't make you greedy to want more. It's always okay to weigh your options and decide that a fresh start is the correct answer for your career. 

And remember, you don't need to (and shouldn't even) burn bridges. Instead, leave on good terms, allowing both sides to look for their next perfect match.

Stay for the Right Reasons

If you decide to stay, make sure it's not out of fear or laziness, but with the genuine belief that this is the best possible home for your skills and expertize right now. 

I also want to discourage you from staying to make your CV look (supposedly) more attractive. I often hear people say they must stay at least a year or two years before looking for something new. Or they must wait for the next promotion to show they've grown. None of this matters in the job market anymore, so it's not worth wasting your precious time and energy. 

There is a reason why the recruitment processes are so long nowadays. Having several interviews is daunting, but it also ensures the other side gets to know who you are and what you’re capable of. Your CV isn't your ticket to your next job; your CV is just a ticket to the first interview, where you’ll have the opportunity to explain your situation and show your potential. 

2. Being the Boss Isn’t for Everyone

The standard narrative is that you should ultimately become a boss, a manager, a lead, a head (sometimes all in one title). But the managerial path isn't right for everyone. 

Often, the image clashes with reality- instead of big-picture thinking, inspiring, and passing on your wisdom, you'll find yourself in a hamster wheel of approving your team's time sheets and dealing with personal dramas. 

Becoming a leader is also hard to step away from because you may lose touch with the actual work. This can be a deal breaker in our fast-paced world if you ever wish to return to a specialist track. 

Leadership can be extremely rewarding, but you must go into it with the right intentions. It's a long journey that requires a lot of learning and commitment. As a leader, you impact others' work and lives both positively and negatively. And it's okay to admit to yourself that you're not ready for (or interested in) this level of responsibility. You can do well and earn nicely by ‘just’ being excellent at your job and growing your skills. Focus on what feels right for you, and the rewards will follow.

3. Side Hustle

Got a skill or hobby you're pretty good at? Maybe it's time to consider whether you could turn it into something bigger and even make some extra cash. Whatever it is, the digital age has made it easier than ever to turn your skills into blogs, courses, eBooks, or even consultancy gigs. 

We often overestimate the level to which we need to know something for someone to pay us. But you don't need to be the world-class champion to provide value others would benefit from. However, remember to check your intention: getting better at something and sharing your skills with the world will get you further than 'get rich quick' ambitions.

Actually, having a side hustle can also boost your main job. You'll learn new things, meet different people, and perhaps discover talents you didn't know you had. What started as a "little project" could become a full-time role. If you are toying with the idea of having a business, starting a side gig might help you translate that idea into reality. 

4. Change of direction

Sometimes, smaller adjustments, a new job, or a side hustle won't address your fundamental needs. Maybe there is a little voice inside saying that years of studies and work haven't led to the place that you’re happy with. Maybe it's time for a more radical change.

These thoughts are common, and it can be painful to admit you're not in the right place, especially if you're now doing something that was once an unachievable dream. But there is no other way than to trust your gut feeling and look at what might tick your boxes instead.

Don't Overestimate the Effort

When it comes to bigger career changes, many people get discouraged by the perceived effort it would take to pursue something new. Rest assured that you won't need another degree or endure more unpaid internships to give a new field a try. You have a ton of transferable skills that will help you in any field. 

Taking a new direction in your career isn't about discarding everything you've learned. Instead, it's about leveraging all that experience in a fresh setting. Think of it like moving houses: you're not throwing away all your belongings; you're just putting them in a new space where they might fit better.

Karolina Numminen

Still unsure about your next steps?

Let’s explore your options together and think about what would best support your long-term goals.

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To Wrap It up:

The journey of figuring out your next career step can be filled with questions and doubts. But it's really important to start this journey as soon as you feel the current direction is no longer making sense.

Whether you're thinking of staying put, aiming for a leadership role, kicking off a side gig, or jumping into a whole new field, remember it's all about what makes you happy and fulfilled. That perfect match is out there somewhere, and it's worth going after it, even though it feels risky or scary.

Karolina Numminen
Author:
Karolina Numminen

Hi there!

Thank you for reading! I'm Karolina, a career coach with a passion for helping people have fulfilling and successful career journeys. I love writing about all things work and sharing the insights I’ve gained from years of coaching clients.

I would love to connect with you on LinkedIn and continue the conversation. I’m always curious about different professions and career paths!

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