The dog days of summer are here. Maybe you’re alone in the office and trying to fill the time that your boss and colleagues are at the cottage with some productive thinking or perhaps you’re basking in the freedom that comes from the ability to duck out at 4:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon without raising eyebrows. However you’re spending the calm before the September storm, these next few weeks are an excellent stretch of time to devote some mental space to grappling with career questions that will inform your autumn. If you can spare a few minutes, here’s what you should ask yourself:
How would you feel if you were in exactly the same position next August?
If you think about staying steady over the next 12 months, does that make you anxious? Happy? Troubled in a way you can’t put your finger on? Asking a question like this allows you to start digging into your assumptions about the future, including ones you may not even have acknowledged yet. You may feel content in the here and now, but when you project your current status out for the next year and feel your stomach tense, you realize that your comfort is predicated on the idea that better things are on the horizon.
How much progress have you made on achieving the goals you set for 2016?
What were your plans for this year and how much have you done to realize them? A lot has probably changed in your life since January. The pre Labor Day lull is a great time to check in on the goals you set back in the early days of 2016 and take an inventory of your best intentions that remain unrealized and other opportunities that you didn’t anticipate back in the winter. If there are items you haven’t checked off your to-do list, figure out why. Maybe you underestimated the effort involved, maybe your financial or personal circumstances changed or maybe a particular goal wasn’t all that compelling in the first place. For those milestones you’d still like to achieve in 2016, you’ve got a highly productive chunk of time left to reach them, so take a few minutes to figure out how you can set yourself up for success.
How prepared are you to start job hunting?
Whether you’re actually interested in changing jobs is not particularly relevant to this question. If you did decide to start looking for new work or if you needed to, how ready would you be to enter the fray? Life happens. Your partner gets transferred to the London office. Your department gets downsized. You find out NASA is hiring. You don’t have to be on job hunt high alert at all times, but even if you don’t have immediate plans to switch roles, you should be keeping your resume and LinkedIn current, continuing to network and to pad your emergency savings. If a quick August audit tells you that you’re unprepared to send out applications, you can work to get yourself back in peak job search shape by September. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
What is one change you could personally make to improve your career conditions?
It’s comparatively easy to identify areas of dissatisfaction in your working life (being underpaid, no chance to advance, bad coworkers, an awful commute), but dwelling on those factors doesn’t spur positive change. If you’re toughing out the dog days of summer with an obvious sense of dissatisfaction about your working life, use this time to take ownership of your circumstances. There are concrete steps you can take to improve your career. Challenge yourself to grab the reigns of your unhappiness. It may be as dramatic as looking for a new job, or as small as meditating for 10 minutes right after you wake up to calm your energy for the day ahead.
Is what you’re doing today linked to what you want to do tomorrow?
This is a tough question. Like the first, it pushes you to take a broader look at your career context and to think less about how you feel in this moment and more about how this moment contributes to the days to come. There’s a wealth of perspective to be gained. You may have to acknowledge and make peace with the fact that while you don’t particularly enjoy what you’re doing today (entry-level admin work, your final year of residency), it’s a necessary stepping stone to where you want to be in the future (a project manager, a pediatrician). You may have to accept that while you enjoy what you’re doing today, this job isn’t taking you closer to your big dream, at which point you can decide whether the contentment you feel today is as valuable as what you want down the road. You may even discover that you don’t really know what you want tomorrow to look like and need to do more soul searching before you feel comfortable using that as a metric to evaluate the present.
This article was written by J. Maureen Henderson from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.