Is It Time to Hit the Reset Button on Your Career?

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careerHas it been a while since you held a full-time job because you took time off to raise kids? Or maybe you feel you've been on the wrong career path for some time but quitting right now seems too risky. Or perhaps you don't want to leave your job, but your prospects for advancement are limited and you just feel stuck.

Sam W (not his real name) hadn't been happy at his job at a New York area corporation for several years, even though he was doing very well. His bosses kept promoting him -- and that was the issue. With every promotion came more responsibility and more money, but less and less joy. Finally last spring, with no other job in hand, he announced his resignation. He's now taking classes at a local university, actively looking for teaching positions, and is much happier.

When you're trying to make a big shift from where you are to where you want to be, small, incremental moves often won't be enough. Just like the characters of Lost who believed their only way back to present time was to set off a hydrogen bomb over a special energy field on the island, sometimes making a bold, dramatic move is the best option for resetting your career path.

But you don't want to venture out recklessly, especially if you have financial obligations and others depending on you. So, here's what you can do to start defining your new future while keeping one foot planted in your current reality.

Visualize what you want. It's easy to define what we don't want, but much harder to articulate what we do want. For example, it's more common to find ourselves saying, "I don't want to lose my job right right now" or "I don't want my time off as a mom to count against me." Do some research and talk to trusted friends and colleagues to begin mapping out your options and getting more clear about what you DO want.

Adjust your lifestyle. Like Sam, you'll have more flexibility to choose when to leave and what to do next if you start curbing expenses and increasing your savings. And if you're moving from a stay-at-home situation to full-time employment, you'll have to get your family used to your not being accessible every minute of the day.

Get your team together. Whose support do you need for letters of recommendations, references, and referrals? Even having people around you to brainstorm ideas and get feedback on your options can be valuable. Start rekindling those relationships before you need them by reconnecting casually on LinkedIn or more formally with face-to-face meetings.

Watch for openings. You know how you never notice a certain type of car on the road until you decide that's the one you want to buy, and then suddenly you see them everywhere? Having more clarity and certainty about what you want and knowing you have the support to back you up will make it easier for you to spot opportunities that can help you.

Not everything will work out exactly as you envision and you can't plan for every contingency, so be prepared to adapt as you go. Push forward with your plan; but keep an eye on oncoming traffic and potential bumps in the road. Luckily, all the work you've done up to that point will ensure you're better able to handle any upcoming twists and turns on the way to your destination.

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