Until recently, I have been reluctant to mention the details of my recent career transition. However, I am so grateful to those of you who have sent personal notes of support over the past several weeks that I thought I owed you an update. (Disclaimer: If you couldn’t care less about one man’s “professional voyage,” please continue reading anyway. I promise to sprinkle in some political humor, talking animals, car explosions, gun fights, football, and other topics that might keep you riveted.)
Anyway, it has been about two months since I moved 200 miles north and changed jobs. During that time, I have been a 30-something “grown up” living with my mom, seeing my wife and kids on weekends, trying to sell our home of almost 10 years, and looking for a new place to live. The kids have been on a weekly roller coaster of excitement every Friday and sadness every Sunday. To make things worse, I think my dog Pete is extremely confused. (Don’t you wish pets could talk?)
At work, I have been immersed in learning new responsibilities in a new office with new staff, new buildings, and new customers in this new town. Well, maybe Charlotte, NC is not exactly a “town.” Now that I think about it, compared to where I used to work (Charleston, SC), Charlotte is a mega metropolis!
Speaking of Charlotte, how about those Panthers?! It was exciting to be here during the playoffs and the two eternal weeks leading up to the Super Bowl. People here in the “Queen City” were united with such a common purpose that I don’t think the newspaper reported a single car explosion, gun fight, or anything related to election primaries. (I told you there would be talking pets, football, violence, and politics!)
It isn’t necessary to delve into the details of my job change-although there are vast differences in work order processing, accounting software, the company mission, and corporate culture-but I would like to share with you the greatest lesson I learned as a result. I found that it’s always important to believe in yourself and occasionally consider possibilities that might be outside of your comfort zone. (This lesson is particularly relevant here, since some of my enlightenment came courtesy of the feedback I’ve received about this column from TFM readers and staff.)
How can you tell if you need to shake things up in your professional life? Well, it’s important to remember that a serious evaluation of your career might very well lead you right back to where you started-which is not necessarily a bad thing. You might also be dealing with circumstances that have huge implications on your career decisions. After all, if you have important personal commitments that keep you tethered, your career considerations would be very different from someone who looks forward to time away from home and out of the office.
Is it time to dust off the old resume and look outside the box? Or does your career need a slight tune up instead of a major overhaul? Your answers to the following questions might serve as a preliminary career barometer.
- Do you routinely have trouble sleeping while wondering how you’re going to meet all your obligations and deadlines?
- Are the hours you’re working straining relationships in your life that are worth more than the next rung on the corporate ladder?
- Has your health been negatively impacted as a result of your professional responsibilities?
- Are you constantly concerned that you could be blindsided by a layoff, downsizing, or outsourcing decision?
- Is most of your day spent doing things you “must do” instead of things you “want to do?”
- If you could turn back time and “undo” education and career decisions that brought you where you are today, would you do things differently?
- Do you routinely receive positive and constructive feedback for your efforts and contributions?
- Do your superiors understand the value of your services and the true cost to replace you if you left?
- Does your position offer personal and professional growth opportunities?
- Is your compensation commensurate with your experience and responsibilities?
- Do you have opportunities to work on challenging projects and learn new things?
- Would you recommend your line of work and place of employment to your best friend?
Ideally, answers to questions one through six should most definitely be no, while questions seven through 12 should be answered with a resounding yes. But it’s never a good thing to generalize, particularly when it comes to career decisions.
In a case like this, it’s important to weigh the relative importance of each question from time to time. Consider talking things over with a mentor or trusted colleague who is familiar with your situation but objective enough to provide constructive feedback. Changing gears and/or moving to a new town aren’t simple tasks, but a brutally honest risk/reward analysis can help crystallize a hazy vision of your future.
As I wrap this month’s column, I am encouraged by the fact that the hardest part of this transition is probably behind me and my family. We recently sold our Charleston home and expect to close on a new house shortly-perhaps by the time this issue goes to press. Soon after, my family will be reunited, and my mom’s house will once again regain its status as a nice place to visit!
Crane is a mechanical engineer and regional property manager with Childress Klein Properties, a leading real estate developer and property management services provider in the Southeast.