Does Your Career Need a Check-Up?

Take time to think about where you're at professionally—and where you're going.

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Michael Wade
When your career needs help, it won’t send a signal. You won’t feel a twinge in your stomach or a desperate thirst. You may continue on that career track for years without recognizing the need for change, failing to seek help because you don’t know it’s needed.

That’s why you should take time for a professional check-up. It doesn’t necessarily require an expert or consultant, and it may be as simple as an informal meeting with someone who’s trustworthy, experienced, analytical, frank. Someone who understands your industry.

Here’s what you should ask that person–and yourself:

1. How does my current job strengthen my ability to achieve my goals? How does it harm my ability to achieve my goals?

2. What skills and credentials are commonly held by professionals who’ve attained the job that I envision for myself in the future?

[See 14 Secrets to Career Change Success.]

3. How much experience is usually required for that job?

4. How “political” is the selection process for that job? Would I need to have connections?

5. Is there anything in my background that would be an absolute bar to my progress? If so, can I get around it?

It’s vital that this conversation be a candid exploration of your career needs. Don’t take your advisor's pronouncements on face value; ask about the reasons behind them, as well as examples. You don’t want to fall prey to corporate legends like, “Everyone must have this degree” or “You have to first serve in this position” and later learn those rules are groundless.

If possible, seek out opinions from more than one professional to see if a pattern emerges.

[For more career advice, visit U.S. News Careers.]

Through the check-up, you may realize your plans are reasonable—or discover that you need to tweak those plans to reach your goal. You may even learn you’re not on the correct path. Either way, a periodic check-up can be just what you need to distinguish between what you know and what you need to learn.

So take time for a career check-up. Even if you don’t think you need one.

Michael Wade writes, an eclectic combination of management advice, observations, and links. A partner with the Phoenix firm of Sanders Wade Rodarte Consulting Inc., he has advised private and public-sector organizations for more than 30 years.