Often we spend too much time analyzing or agonizing about where to go in our careers and too little time moving forward. This article provides a few practical tips to break out of career analysis paralysis and start taking the steps that will build forward momentum behind your career.
You might be ready to take forward steps to advance your career but not quite sure where to start. Worse yet, you might have a bad case of “analysis paralysis” and be focusing all your energy on where you should be going or how you will get there while your career remains decidedly stuck in the same spot.
Today, I’d like to challenge you to stop planning or agonizing over where to begin and just start moving. Invest a few minutes reading this article, and then go forth and do something that takes your career a measurable step forward. It will be easier than you think. I promise.
A Career Direction Is Not Necessary
You might be surprised to learn that you don’t need to have a career plan or even a career direction to get started in building a career. Early in my career, I was opportunistic. I took advantage and made the most of job opportunities as they came up. For example, in my first job as an assistant editor, one of the senior editors went on a three-week vacation in the middle of a technology project we were working on together. I stepped up to take on some of his testing responsibilities, and a few months later, that effort landed me a job in QA.
In retrospect, I followed this pattern throughout my early career, and each experience helped get me where I am today. This approach eventually landed me in a middle management position, even though I never foresaw myself taking on this role and actually resisted the promotion at first.
Taking Small Steps Is Better than Analyzing Big Ones
Even if you have a clear career goal, you might be overwhelmed by its largeness. If you do want to become a manager, lead a project, or move up one level in your role, how do you get from where you are to where you want to be?
Remember that you do not need to achieve your goal in one giant step. In fact, it’s often preferable to take multiple steps. Just like agile practices are teaching us how to learn and succeed through small, incremental software releases, our careers can benefit from myriad small, achievable steps.
But what should the first step be? Take a look at your competencies and find one to improve. Analyze how your job provides value to the organization and seek out ways to increase that value. Find an opportunity to improve one practice or invest in one stakeholder relationship. Or, just do something new that feels right at the time.
We often worry about what the “right” step is and that fear convinces us to do nothing until we figure it out. If you are stuck and your career is stagnant, any step that gets you moving is the right step.
I’ve been through this, too. About three years ago, I left my full-time job (the middle management role) to decide what to do with my career. I spent three months in self-induced unemployment exploring possible career directions. Now this was valuable time, but at the end of the three months, I only had a partial answer to my question. I didn’t yet have a plan, but I knew I needed to go back and dig deep into business analysis.
I decided to get moving. I looked for contract work in business analysis and started the blog Bridging the Gap to share my ideas about being a business analyst. These two actions created all sorts of opportunities for me to grow in my career and this time, since I knew
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