Tune-ups can smooth the career ride

Too often, our jobs chug along aimlessly while we are asleep at the wheel. Years later, many are jolted awake only to find themselves at a dead end, spinning their wheels in a job they hate. Others realize, too late, that their batteries went dead long ago and they can't get a jump start in a new direction.

Your career requires regular maintenance. Every ten years, it's a good idea to give your career a tune up. Your career will cruise along if you take time out to check under the hood to see if you have updated technical skills, check the map to stay on course and update your chassis so your style keeps pace with the competition.

Most twenty year olds are so busy revving their engines they forget to check out their equipment before leaving on the long trip. They tend to choose a major in college because it seems glamorous or because their parents thought it was the thing to do. With little awareness of what the real day- to- day grind holds for someone in their chosen field, they put their foot to the metal looking for that first job.

A twenty-year-old needs to understand how their engines work. They need to ask themselves:

"Do I want to work for a big company?" If you hate being told you can't take a detour when you want to, a large conservative company isn't for you.

"Do I like to travel solo or would I do better working with peers in a team effort?"

"How do I cope under pressure?" For example, if you blow a gasket in a traffic jam, steer clear of high stress jobs over which you have little control.

"Do you like the tried and true path or do you prefer the open road?" Choose carefully between a job that's clearly defined or a job you can shape as you go.

Ten years later, the thirty year old has put on a few miles and needs to reexamine his or her destination and figure out what is needed for the rest of the trip. Their questions are:

"What am I good at and what more do I need to boost my performance?" This is the time some continue their education or take a lateral move to get ready for a bigger move later.

"Am I thinking in terms of my career rather than just a promotion or money?" Job hoppers who speed from one job to another often find they've spent more time buffing chrome than changing the oil.

Many forty-year-olds need to decide if they should make repairs on their careers or trade them in for a new model. Many at this stage are reaching a plateau and are in danger of becoming too comfortable. They need to ask:

"Am I really doing what I want with my career?" Some answer this question with a career change or begin their own business.

"Am I protected against corporate pot holes and other set-backs?" "Am I getting the recognition and advancement I deserve?" Many turn to outside organizations to keep their network alive in case of trouble and also to get the recognition that may be lacking on their jobs.

Ten years later, the fifty year old is looking for road signs that point to achievement, contribution and security for the future. They ask:

"Is my knowledge base rusty? Do I think I know it all and don't need to learn anything new?" Many companies fail to send seasoned employees to seminars because they think they are too close to retirement. Rejuvenation is vital for employees at this stage.

"Am I making a difference? What have I contributed? What have I achieved?" Money isn't the only thing to work for, since you're not able to measure yourself against it... someone will always have more.

"Am I passing my knowledge and experience to the next generation of workers?" Employees with technical know-how should share their expertise with subordinates and peers. Even though it is likely you won't retire for quite awhile, you need to begin now.

If you take the time to keep your career tuned up and in good repair, it will carry you over rocky roads and through hairpin turns. In the end, most travelers find it wasn't the destination they remember as much as the adventures and experiences along the way.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
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