Is Your Career Stuck in Neutral?

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In recent years, long-term career planning often has taken a back seat to concerns about job security. As a result, you may have been coasting along in neutral, without making significant changes to your career path. Now that the economy and the hiring environment are improving, it’s time to take a look at where you are headed professionally to make sure you are properly positioned to achieve your career goals.

Through a career audit process, you can better determine whether you are on the right track for promotions and other opportunities at your present employer, or if you may be better off at another company.

Find Your Calling
Think about the elements of your job that give you the greatest satisfaction. Do you enjoy devising solutions to complex IT problems, working with cutting-edge technology—or both? How involved do you like to be with interdepartmental initiatives? Do you prefer to be in charge or act as a supporting player?

Also, consider accomplishments in your career that have brought you a sense of pride. These achievements could be as simple as helping an employee resolve a challenging computer problem or as in-depth as devising the company’s new systems security strategy. Your selections can provide helpful insight into the factors that drive you to succeed.

You often can gain clues into the right professional move by looking at what you do with your spare time. If you enjoy serving in leadership roles in community groups, for example, you may find the same fulfillment in a management position at work. Or you might be able to take your IT skills to an industry that’s of interest to you, such as the nonprofit sector.

Reflect on your ideal job. If you could create a position from scratch, what would it entail? How does this role compare with your present job in areas such as responsibility, work environment and available technological resources?

Draw Up a Game Plan
Next, carefully consider all of your professional strengths and weaknesses. In addition to performing your own assessment, be sure to ask for feedback from trusted colleagues and advisers. Sometimes what you perceive to be assets or liabilities are viewed differently by others. For example, you may be surprised to hear that co-workers think of you as the department’s .NET expert, when you believe otherwise.

Follow up by taking steps to improve any shortcomings. If you would like to become a manager but lack experience, talk to your supervisor about leading an upcoming project team or enrolling in supervisory training. Pursuing advanced education or additional certifications also can enhance your marketability.

Consider the Possibilities
As you review your potential career options, be careful about deciding to leave your current position too hastily—there may be opportunities ahead that aren’t readily apparent. Subtle indicators that you might be up for a promotion include being invited to more meetings about strategic IT issues or being asked to work directly with executives. Management often evaluates internal candidates for higher-level positions by assessing how they handle increased responsibility.

If you’re interested in remaining with your present employer, it’s worth talking to your supervisor about your career audit. He or she can help you define a path within the organization and provide guidance on the necessary steps to achieve your objectives.

Involvement in professional associations can give you a fresh perspective on your situation. Through meetings, seminars and other activities, you will learn about the latest trends in your field, which can help you better define your interests and goals. You also may expand your network and put yourself in a stronger position to hear of new job opportunities.

Finding Fulfillment
Conducting a career audit can be just what you need to find greater fulfillment in your work. You will gain an understanding of what motivates you and whether any changes are necessary to achieve your ambitions. Regardless of whether you decide to stay in your current position, pursue a new one at your current employer or begin a job search, you can be confident you are on the right track.

Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a leading provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis, which offers online job search services at She can be reached at


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