6 Must-Ask Questions Will Keep Your Career on Track

Do you ever doubt the career decisions you’ve made? Ever wonder if you are on the wrong career track? Is your career where you want it to be?  These are common questions that people ask themselves every day. As such, one often wonders if they are wasting time or making the most out of their careers. Many of my earlier stage career decisions where influenced by others. But over time, I realized that while those around me had good intentions about my career, future and well-being, I had to be accountable for making the right choices for my own career. The choices that were best for me. People often feel stuck about what type of career to pursue because they are scared to make the wrong choices. Ultimately, only you can be accountable for making the right career choices based on what you desire to accomplish in life. They should be choices that bring you happiness while leveraging the unique skills sets and character traits that define you.

Career management is an unpredictable journey. You can start down a perfect path, and then suddenly find yourself on the side of the road.  Not because you may have done something wrong, but you were at the wrong place at the wrong time. Or your boss, who influenced your path – left the organization. For many, they find themselves in this predicament today. Either out of work or in a work environment that does not allow them to advance or get noticed. I am amazed at how much untapped talent there exists in the workplace and out of it. Even more surprisingly, the talent that remains in influential roles that are not as deserving of it. Nevertheless, you must manage your career – or fall victim to someone else managing it for you.
Here are six questions that you must manage in order to keep your career on track:

1. Are you managing your time strategically?
Time is your most valuable asset and how you decide to use it will ultimately determine the fate of your career. Managing your time is making each hour count in your day and each day count in your week. For example, think about what you accomplish in each meeting you participate in or during your one-on-one meeting with your boss. Where is the time you are managing ultimately taking you? Time flies and if not managed correctly, so will your career and you may find yourself regretting the outcome.
Each time management decision you make influences the next activity you will take. Therefore, you must be wise about how to use your time and be mindful of the activities you are involved with to make sure your career is headed in the right direction.
2. Are you learning new things that accelerate your growth every day at work?
If you are not learning, you’re wilting.  If you are wilting, you are going backward – not forward in your career. You know your career track is working for you, when you are continuously learning and growing in the process. Too many people go to work and just do what they are told; instead of putting themselves in positions to develop themselves.
You have a choice in how you manage what you learn and whom you learn it from. Don’t be linear in your thinking, employ your circular vision and adopt a more wide-angle outlook in learning at least 5 new things every day and map-out a plan that allow you to put this knowledge to the test. Journal what you learn and how it applies to your career growth. If you adopt this mindset you will have learned a minimum of 25 new things this week.

3. Are you being entrepreneurial?
Most would think that I am implying you should start a new business or venture. That is not the case here. As you manage your career, you must be on the look-out for career opportunities in the most uncommon of places. This means that you need to look around, beneath and beyond what you seek. Broaden your observations and start thinking like an entrepreneur in the workplace. Pay close attention to those that are advancing and those that are not. Not just in your own workplace but what those in your network are experiencing.
Remember this: entrepreneurship isn’t just a business term anymore – it’s a way of life. You don’t need to be an entrepreneur to be entrepreneurial. You must just have the entrepreneurial attitude in today’s workplace to survive and thrive.
4. Are you challenging yourself enough?
This is an interesting question and should not be taken lightly. Perhaps you can do steps 1 -3; in fact there are many people that can.  However, are you challenging yourself enough to know that you are earning the career opportunities inherent with the effort?
To manage yourself, is to challenge yourself. Set goals that are attainable, but require you to work at it. Don’t just go with the flow.    Manage yourself to a standard that will produce a set of expectations and outcomes.   Don’t measure yourself based on a comparison to those around you, but based on what you desire to achieve for yourself. We compete in a dog-eat-dog world. Those that have a large appetite find themselves and their careers tracking ahead of plan. Notice how those that are challenging themselves are always investing in themselves!
5. Does your employer appreciate your talent?
Sounds like an easy question, but it requires you to do some research. For example, are your best talents being showcased, recognized and rewarded at work?  If yes, keep up the momentum. If no, (as is the case for most people), then find out – why not.   Career management and tracking requires you to know how your talent is progressing. Perhaps you are running on auto-pilot and don’t even know it.  Don’t assume that you are maintaining your high levels of performance. Competition is fierce and you must find ways to elevate your game at all times. You will know that you are being effective at this if your employer continually appreciates you and your talent contributions.
With things changing so fast, you must manage yourself to stand out from the crowd. Don’t self-promote; just stay focused on sustaining your talent momentum in your work. This means putting new ideas to the test, always being relevant and focus on being significant. Don’t be the victim of self-mismanagement.
6. Do you have the right support cast?
While you must ultimately manage your own career, you need the right supporting cast to make sure that you are being held accountable to the first five steps and beyond. Your supporting cast should include your most trusted friends, mentors, and those whom you network with that can provide strong input. Every month, evaluate your cast members and how they are specifically adding value to your career (of course you must also evaluate your ability to reciprocate). Remember this: your supporting cast can’t add value unless you have been deliberate in communicating your career goals, desires and aspirations.
Assuming that you regularly communicate your career goals to your cast, then you should be able to measure the value they all bring to the table across three primary areas:
  • Continuous feedback
  • Strengthen your network
  • Fuel ideation and opportunity pipeline