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Understanding Your Career Trajectory (& How to Change It)

There is nothing more frustrating than being stuck in a rut in regard to your career. Getting up every morning and going to work when you feel like you’re not advancing is enough to drive anyone mad.

You may feel like you are stuck in this circle of normalcy, but at the end of the day, you still have the ultimate control over the future of your career. Here are some simple steps if you are looking to define your career trajectory or take steps to change it.

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What is Career Trajectory?

To assess your career trajectory, you need to look back at the first job you ever had. Whether you were serving up milk shakes at a local dairy bar or bagging groceries at a grocery store, your first job started your career trajectory.

Once you’ve considered that first job, you’ll need to think about every job you’ve had since then. With the last item on your list being the job you’re currently working you have your career trajectory.

You may be happy with the advances you’ve made throughout your career or you may feel like you’ve taken one step forward and two steps back. Whatever the answer is, you have the power to change it.

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How to Change Your Career Trajectory

A lot of people aren’t happy with the answers when they really ask themselves about their career trajectory. This moment of self-examination can motivate people to do all kinds of things.

If you’re tired of working the same hours for the same company while receiving the same pay, taking a look at your trajectory may motivate you to go back to school, start your own business, or completely switch career fields. Your future is in your hands.

1. Update Your Resume

Once you start thinking about a line of work that would excite you, you need to update your resume. While you need to be truthful about everything that you put on your resume, don’t be afraid to update things in a way that would be appealing to a potential new employer.

If you want to go into management, highlight any special projects that you supervised in the past. Even if you’ve never been a permanent manager, don’t be afraid to highlight any time you’ve spent as a supervisor.

2. Put Your Mission in Writing

Having a written mission statement can help you stay on track when you’re trying to change your own future. Depending on the type of businesses you’ve worked for in the past, you may have heard about mission statements or vision statements that the leaders of that company used to direct the company.

Take the time to evaluate where you’re at and where you want to go and put a mission statement in writing. Make sure that every decision you make furthers the mission you have put in writing.

3. Identify What’s Holding You Back

This part of the process can be painful. Take a hard look at your life and career and figure out what is holding you back. The things that hold you back can range from ideas that you have about yourself and your future to people who you feel a sense of loyalty to.

By no means am I saying that you should sever ties with people who have helped you along the way, but you may need to evaluate if your loyalty to them is keeping you from pursuing your own dreams. Once you know what’s holding you back you can better decide how to move forward.

4. Make a List of Companies You’d Like to Work For

If you want to go into the tech field, you may love the idea of working for Apple or Microsoft. Don’t be afraid to dream big with this step. Write down the companies that you would love to work for and begin researching their hiring practices.

If there is certain degrees or certifications that they require, start researching how to get those. This is your dream and you’re in the driver’s seat.

5. Use Your Existing Network

Don’t fall into the trap that changing your career trajectory creates some sort of “you against the world” situation. If you have made contacts throughout your professional career, many of those people would probably be happy to help you on your path towards fulfillment.

Ideally, even if you aren’t satisfied with your current career, you’re still doing a good enough job that your boss realizes you produce value. Don’t be afraid to speak to current supervisors and past contacts that you’ve made to see if they have any contacts in the field you want to go into.

There is nothing wrong with being dissatisfied with your current career trajectory. Many people realize that what they’re doing is not what they want to be doing five years down the road.

Fortunately, there are always opportunities to make a change in your professional life and they are all under your control.