You keep having these persistent conversations with yourself. Over and over again, you question how work is going and keep examining information or situations around you to see if there is any “answer” for what to do next. Then, the phone rings, or your daughter comes to ask you for something, or a colleague enters your office or………., or……….any of a million distractions happen, and you stop the career conversation in your head.
But about twenty minutes or two hours later, you start to spin up the exact same conversation in your head. The same career information and situations come to mind—day after day—and they enter your mental Tornado. Day after day, you feed the Tornado.
Certain tough or complex career management decisions often circulate in our thinking, over and over—in that Tornado. Much like in a real tornado, our mental Tornado contains valuable material. But when we suck up informational debris off the landscape and just keep spinning it with no productive end result, we develop a sense of burnout, fatigue, and discouragement. And daily distractions and responsibilities guarantee that, every time we get into the Tornado, we’ll get pulled away from our thoughts, and the Tornado will subside—for a while. Sound familiar? And discouraging?
On the other hand, conversations you have with trusted others will help you wrangle your mental tornadoes to the ground and sort out the contents to find the value. Remember, the best person to talk with may not be the most familiar person. You need to stop the spin. It represents only mental busyness, not pro-active career management. An insightful mentor, career coach or peer who is experienced and perceptive about career path and professional identity may be the right next conversation instead of your partner or friend who’s heard it 1000 times.
Consider these questions:
- The Tornado and networking. Did you see movie Twister? Are you just picking up more informational “debris” off the career landscape, or are you getting practical, personal, as well as critical, local market information to design your personal strategy?
- Spinning vs. applying the information? Do you find yourself coming back to the same “career conversation in your head” but never finishing it? Get the conversation going outside of your own head.
- Are you problem-solving when you should be decision-making? Good analyzers and problem solvers (engineers, financial professionals, R&D-types) love this one. They just keep gathering data to “solve the problem” even when data is not the issue—decision making is. Sometimes knowing your deeper needs, personal strivings, values, and even professional fears can pull together the valuable elements that have been swirling amidst the debris in the Tornado—and enable you to decide on a fulfilling course of action.
You’re at a career crossroads. There are three directions you can travel from here:
- You can Move Up if you like the work and/or the organization but maybe not the current job or boss.
- You can Move Out if there is no longer a fit with the work, boss, job or the organization.
- You can stay and Adapt Your Style if you like the work but aren’t getting the success you desire and are capable of. (*)
Meanwhile, back at your tornado, mental spinning turns out not to be so much fun (unless you’ve paid for it at Disneyland). But it’s significant because it represents issues that matter to you. So, honor those issues with a meaningful career dialogue with a trusted advisor.
(*)These choices represent The Three Career Questions which I address in my recently published book; Answering The Three Career Questions: Your Lifetime Career Management System ( http://www.threequestionsconsulting.com/books/ ).
Bruce Hazen, MS
Three Questions Consulting
Bruce is a career and management coach working with professionals who are at career crossroads and wanting answers and action strategies for one or more of The Three Career Questions:
1. When is it time to move up?
2. When is it time to move out?
3. When is it time to adapt my style for greater success?