Coaches Corner: Navigating choice – next career steps

Welcome to the TGIM Work-Life Coaches Corner. This Q&A was first published in the Careervision online newsletter by the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA) – where  I co-author a monthly coaching column. If you have a question for me – send me a note or a comment and I’ll do my best to address in a future post.

Dear Coach:I work as a senior manager with one of the large firms in Advisory services. The company is great and the work is generally interesting. I have worked with some great people domestically and internationally both in industry and public practice. I have performed well in all of my jobs in my career; however, much of my recent work has been outside of technical accounting, governance and reporting issues.I look forward at the next step in my career and question the lifestyle, work load and know how requirements of a partner and wonder if I have what it takes to fill the role. Something doesn’t feel right and it is starting to show in my attitude at work. Yet at the same time I question my ability/skillset or desire to fulfill a finance role in industry. I am restless but am unable to figure out what the next move should be or even if I should be making a move.I know I am not alone based on conversations I have with peers, and I would welcome any tips/pointers or comments you may have.Stuck in a good place

A: Dear Stuck in a good place…. You certainly do sound like you are standing in a good place with a solid track record of performance, success and enjoyable work experiences. You’ve got a great foundation to build on. Yet your instinct is telling you something is ‘not right’ as you consider the possibility of becoming Partner. I encourage you to listen to that inner voice carefully to ensure your next stage in your career truly aligns with what is important and meaningful to you. Before we look externally at the various career options, I invite you to begin with some internal reflection. Exploring and clarifying what’s most important to you right now and for the next few years for both your work and life will serve you well.

Work and lifestyle
You are questioning if you have what it takes when it comes to lifestyle and the possible demands of becoming Partner or a finance role in industry. Perhaps a more meaningful first question would be: “do you want what it might take”? Clarifying first for yourself what you are wanting from your work-life will help you navigate your career possibilities more powerfully.
I think I’m hearing a pull towards a career change that may or may not be internally driven. I’m wondering if there’s an expectation (from others or yourself) influencing how you are seeing your next career steps. Often people get into ‘career tracks’ where there is an implied expectation of moving up the ladder and what that looks like – i.e. “Partner” being the most logical next step at your firm or moving to industry. I invite you to pause on that automatic assumption and check in with yourself: how much are expectations – of others and yourself – playing in to your perspective right now?  And what if you let go of any expectations or prescribed paths and just spent a bit of time with a ‘blank canvas’ and reflect on what you want to create for yourself in your work and life in the next few years. Start broad and we can hone in from there. The key is to get clarity around your authentic ‘must-haves’ to make your work and life truly meaningful for you.

Questions to start the reflection
What are your lifestyle priorities for the next few years? Outside of work – what other areas are vying for your attention and time? What are your passions that you may want to pursue (besides career)? How hard do you want to play and how hard do you want to work? Is there room for both? Where do you want to expand and grow the most?
There are no right or wrong answers here. Just make sure your answers are true for you.

Pursuit of meaningful work
You said your work has been generally interesting and the company is great. What about those experiences have made it interesting and meaningful? What were the high points that engaged you most? Any themes emerge? To what degree is the “people factor” important to you? Or what about the work itself – what energizes you? Understanding what makes you tick is important because not all jobs will inherently offer that same fulfillment for you.
Another area of inquiry is how important is it for you to progress in title, rank and responsibility? Or is it ‘challenge’ that invigorates you? If the latter, what other ways can you get that challenge?  

Other options to explore
You’ve mentioned two areas of possibility (Partner or industry) that might be viable but before focusing exclusively on those two, what else is possible? What about staying in your current job? To what extent does your existing work still engage you? What would it take to keep you interested – within the same or slightly adjusted role? Are there new threads of learning and development that you can engage in within your current work – or possibly take on new responsibility within your company?

Self awareness as a compass to navigate your possibilities….now add the external piece to get the full picture
The above reflection might start to open up some new awareness for you that will be helpful. You’ll also want to get some tangible information about the specific career possibilities that you are honing in on to have a clear picture of what is involved. This will help you get some of the answers you raised regarding workload, skills and expectations.
What can you do to get a better look at what’s really involved? Who can you talk to either within your firm or, confidentially, within your broader network? Skills and abilities
You questioned whether or not you have the skills and abilities for the role of Partner or some of the finance roles in industry. These are valid questions and you may need to add to your skill set. But do remember that skills can be learned and acquired – you’ve done it before. Once you’ve determined if it’s a meaningful goal you can then figure out how to address any gaps you may have on the skill front.
Listen deeply and trust yourself
As you explore these and other questions for yourself, it may not be a bad idea to partner or collaborate with someone – either a professional coach or someone else you trust — who can be an objective partner in this process with you.

The most important theme anchoring this whole journey is an enduring question that can change over time with our life stages: What does work-life success mean to you?

Stay in that question as you investigate your options. If you listen carefully to your inner core, answer authentically and trust yourself, I’m confident you’ll create your next work-life chapter with as much or even more success and fulfillment.

To the journey!

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2 Responses to “Coaches Corner: Navigating choice – next career steps”

  1. Terry Mack Says:

    I am very interested in a career in life coaching. Can you educate me or advise me of any resources?

    Terry

  2. Eileen Chadnick Says:

    Hi Terry – well, good to meet you. A good place to start is the International Coach Federation (see http://www.coachfederation.org). They are the standard-setting boday (for coaching credentials) and membership organization for coaching worldwide. You’ll find all kinds of info explaining what coaching is all about; where to go for training; etc.

    I don’t know where you are (region, country) but there are also many local ICF chapters that provide additional membership benefits.

    If you wanted more information or have more questions, I’d be delighted to connect further. Just send me an email (see “Contact Eileen” in sidebar of this blog) and we can arrange a phone chat.

    All the best!

    Eileen

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