Looking Backward to Move Your Career Forward

Welcome to 2013! As you return to the office after holiday parties and extended vacations, it’s a great time to take stock in your career, and understand exactly what you are coming back to.  Are you happy to get back to work because you love what you do, or are you dreading that first day back?  Did you actually miss your co-workers, or do you wish you could get by without talking to them a little longer?

If you realize that you are less than thrilled with what you do all day, it might be time to take a long, retrospective look at your career path so far, and make changes to improve your current situation – or start looking for a new one.

What Have You Accomplished?

Think back over your last few months to the last couple of years in your professional life.  What are your most significant accomplishments during the last 6 months?  How are those different from your accomplishments of last year, or even a few years ago?  What does that predict for your professional future?


What Do You Do?

Have your daily tasks changed over time?  Are you still interested in the tasks that make up your job?  Which tasks feel like they take the most of your time?  Is that because they really do, or because you don’t enjoy them? Spend a week or two tracking your time at work – the results may surprise you.

What Are You Not Doing?

Are there tasks or activities that used to be part of your job, but not anymore?  Was that your choice?  Is it because you have moved on to bigger and better things, or because your skills are becoming outdated?

What Have You Learned?

What new knowledge, skills and abilities have you acquired recently? Are these things you enjoy doing, which will help you develop professionally?  If you haven’t learned anything lately, could that be a goal for the near future?

What Has Changed Around You?

Even if you love your job, every once in a while you need to look at the bigger picture.  What has changed in your company, and in your industry?  Big, dramatic changes are easy to notice, but subtle shifts over time are harder to discern.  Is it only your current employer who is moving in a new direction, or is it the industry overall?

A driving instructor once said that if you want to stay in your lane, don’t stare at the road immediately in front of the car.  Instead, keep your eyes further down the road, focusing on where you want to be in the long term allows you to gradually adjust your course and get there safely.

This is also good advice for your career – look further down the road and see where you are headed, and decide if that’s where you want to be.  If it’s not, now is a great time to figure out why, and make a plan to get yourself on the right track for the long term.

Get Involved In The Discussion

The ACS Career Tips column is published the first week of every month in C&EN. Post your comments, follow the discussion, and suggest topics for future columns in the Career Development section of the ACS Network (https://communities.acs.org/community/profession/career_development)._—brought to you by ACS Careers.

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