Whether you are a committed freelancer or seek a path to a permanent role, you are very likely to struggle with career choices. Particularly in a world of complex and changing demands for technology skills, the path can be bewildering.
With too little career development or research and you find yourself “living job to job,” taking the next opportunity that comes to you without a sense of growth. Too many choices can be just as troublesome, as it can leave you guessing (and second-guessing) what you can or should do. Uncertainty can cause you to leave money on the table or hinder your chances to expand your career.
Whether you find yourself frozen in the face of unclear career choices or think you could be doing better, don’t fret. There are some things you can do today to ease your anxiety. To start, consider the three questions that follow. You won’t know the answers today, but they will open the doors to your full career potential.
1. Do you have visibility into your entire field of opportunity?
Are you so focused on one set of companies or one industry that you miss how transferrable your skills are? If so, you are not alone. During the turbulence of 2020, one study found that 57% of surveyed workers could not identify their own transferrable skills with any degree of confidence. Likewise, many professionals are typically passive when building relationships outside of their known circles, once again limiting the view into opportunities.
The most limiting factor in growing your career opportunities is that expanding your field, building your networks and understanding your capabilities seems like a lot of work—and it is! But a little goes a long way, so start small. Revisit your qualifications, understand your narrative and what makes you successful.
The problems you solve are as valuable as the technical skills you bring to the table. Challenges can be as varied as leading a team, educating stakeholders or overcoming specific hurdles in timelines or execution. Don’t underestimate the story behind your work. It can be a door-opener.
2. Do you have a practical working knowledge of the price you can command today?
Your potential worth to an employer may not boil down to a single number? You likely have a range of things you can do using different combinations of skills. Once again, start small—research what related roles are paying.
Any salary guide can be a starting point, but it can be misleading. Location, experience, and your match to the unique needs of a prospective organization can influence the actual amount an employer is willing to pay. Likewise, economic turbulence has been extreme over the past two years, so take any figures you find with a grain of salt.
Building relationships within talent communities can provide insight, and of course, recruiters deal with the fluctuations in rates every day. So make a goal of finding an excellent resource to have in your corner. It is easier to command or negotiate your rate with confidence when you have human intel on your side.
3. Do you know what you want to get out of your next step (besides earnings)?
Understanding the value of your skills and experience is essential. Likewise, it’s good to have an idea of what you want to learn, relationships you’d like to build, or accomplishments you’d like to achieve in your next assignment or role. Determine simple next-step goals, and then also dream big for your longer-term. You don’t have to report these to anyone, just be intentional in considering them and write them down.
And then, once you write them down, revisit them. This exercise is not a quiz. There is no correct answer. You can be creative. You can dream big, dream small, or stick to a simple career to-do list. Whatever you do, give yourself a chance to think about it, say “what if?” and then act.
Is it learning a new coding language, working with a particular company, breaking into management, gaining a new certification or seeing your name in lights? Think about it, and let your path inform the story you tell yourself today or your prospective employer tomorrow.
Don’t go it alone.
Find an ally that can give you an objective view, input and support. The three questions shared here are straightforward, but their answers are not. Look into those answers, and then even if you are not actively searching for a role, keep revisiting them. They are your career story. A knowledgeable partner, such as a trusted career advisor, can provide the sanity check you need to keep your story moving forward.