Ever hear of the quarter life crisis?
It’s that time in your twenties and early thirties where you take stock of your life and career, and determine that things are falling way short of expectations. There’s usually a couple times a year when this comes into clearer focus; one is a birthday which always provides a good opportunity for self evaluation, the other comes in the holiday stretch, the time between Thanksgiving and New Years where you find yourself answering lots of questions from distant friends and relatives about what you are doing with your life. If they’ve got you thinking, don’t just paste over your career misery and knuckle down for another year. It’s OK to at least consider a change.
I’m not in the business of relationship advice but if you're questioning your relationship with your career I can offer some thoughts on how to proceed. Below are some options to consider as you ponder if it's time to move on.
Should I stay or should I go?
Consider if it’s really is time to move on, or should you stay the course? You may hate your current job but it's worth investigating the possibility of change within the company. Another boss, role or department may change the game entirely.
Consider all of the roles you play in your early career as learning experiences. Are there experiences you can gain, or responsibilities you can assume that will add practical experience to further your career? If so, begin the conversations about opportunities to learn and grow at your current company. Find a senior leader who can sponsor your development. If you find that they are unresponsive or uninterested in your development, that’s the sign that it's time to move on. But at least you know you tried.
Is it time to switch jobs?
The best advice I can give to job changers is don't get hung up on the money. Pay needs to be enough so you feel respected and can make ends meet; but in the longer term if you are good, the money will come. Change jobs to gain experience and skills and you’ll be able to monetize this later. Change jobs to gain exposure to leaders you can learn from; great managers and leaders play vital roles in career development.
A lot of the best opportunities aren't advertised, and if they are, it's usually after the fact. If you haven’t yet realized the critical importance of networking, now’s the time to wake up.
What can I do to “upskill”?
If you aren't building your skillset and knowledge base satisfactorily at work you’ll have to look elsewhere. You may have heard the expression “Your 20’s are for learning and your 30’s are for earning”. At minimum you should be shifting in your mid 30’s from learning to earning mode.
Sometimes backed by a generous employer, oftentimes inspired by career stagnation, the MBA has been the traditional go to tool for taking a career to the next level. But buyer beware: not all MBA’s are created equal. There’s dubious value associated with the output of the heavy advertising degree mills, and the top schools whose reputations are known to boost earnings must also be considered in the context of the overall cost of tuition and living expenses (elite institutions can cost you over $200k).
On the other end of the spectrum, whether it's Khan Academy, Coursera or Udacity, never has there been a time in history where so much great information is available for free to those who seek it.
Finally, if it’s a career in technology you are interested in, and particularly a role in the fast growing field of software and web development, you should be aware of the coding bootcamp revolution that is underway. The Coding Bootcamp has emerged as an elite kind of vocational school with competitive entry often requiring prospective students to pass coding challenges or aptitude tests to qualify. So far the model is producing encouraging results in job placement and salary increases leading more and more students to explore this more affordable alternative to graduate school.
It’s more true than ever that your career is yours to manage. You may have heard legend about the gold watch on retirement after 50 fine years of mutual loyalty, but those days are long gone. A quality relationship, whether romantic or career based, is one where both parties perceive and receive mutual value. You only get one shot at a great career, so never settle for less than your potential and get out there and make the most of it!