Are You Driving Career Momentum? Ask Yourself Three Questions

With the start of the new year comes new resolutions and plans for the coming year. Often those plans involve your career, as the beginning of a new year is a good time to take a step back and examine where you are and what you have achieved. Are you on the right career path, and if you continue down the same path, will you meet your longer-term professional and financial goals on your timeline?

Are you doing everything you can to drive your career momentum? We work with clients who ask themselves these very questions and sometimes their answers require a call to action.

In a previous survey conducted by Waterman Hurst, 52 CEO and C-level executives were asked, “What has been your biggest career mistake?” 29 answered, “I stayed too long.” Each executive could specify the position, company, or industry that stalled their career growth, either temporarily or permanently.

A successful career doesn’t just happen. Some top leaders will tell you (and might even believe) that their brilliant careers happened entirely due to luck or by circumstances beyond their control, but when you sit down with these same leaders and talk through their career trajectory, their moves are typically well calculated based upon their environment, their situation and their goals.

Achieving your dream job or long-term professional goals requires well planned and selective job moves. Your career momentum builds when you make the right moves at the right time. You can also get back on track when you identify mistakes early and course correct quickly.

Answering the following three questions will help you to determine if you are driving the career momentum necessary to get where you want to be when you want to be there.

  1. Are you changing jobs frequently enough?

Some studies have shown that CEOs are at their peak performance after 5 years on the job and many C-level executives are at their peak after 3 years. Some top performing companies create deep bench strength by organizing and reorganizing, based upon these assumptions.

A key component to build career momentum is to not allow yourself to become too settled or complacent in one position, one company or even one market, and make sure you are making job changes, internally or externally, at just the right time to hone your skills, continue learning, and keep a fresh perspective. Which leads us to the next question.

  1. Are you choosing the right jobs?

Did your last job change (whether internal or external) include at least four of the following elements?

  • Compatible and Highly Capable Team (Boss, Peers, Board, Investors)
  • More Responsibility
  • Your Target Industry
  • Your Target Company
  • Significantly Higher Compensation Package
  • More Advancement/Growth Opportunity

If the answer is “yes,” you are on the right track.

If the answer is “no,” you are wasting valuable time and you are most likely eroding your value.

  1. Are you timing your moves well?

If you know your growth or interest will be limited over the long term in your present company, start executing a job or board search when you are at your peak. Have you just had a year of outstanding growth? Have you turned around a stalled business in the last six months? Just when it feels great to stay put, you should start to look around to see what else is out there. Launch your search when you are most marketable. Your options could be much better – either internally and externally.

Even if you are no longer at your peak, don’t wait until you lose your drive or job satisfaction. Developing great opportunities and making a wise choice takes time and a level head. If you have waited even longer and you are no longer stimulated by your job, you can bet it shows. Take action!

And if you have gotten to the point that you need career repair, get expert help to get back on track as soon as possible. Don’t wait too long to act and evaluate all your options; seek help if your agenda is too full or you lack the skills or network to execute a strategic search. Multiple options are critical to taking the right next step.

Just like complacency is the enemy of a successful company, complacency is the enemy of your career.

Waiting for a severance package is never the best option, even if you plan to “retire.” Those planning to retire most successfully look for stimulating next stage opportunities before they officially retire.

Getting fired is not the career drop-off it used to be, but an ambiguous exit can create doubt in the eyes of future employers and impact the quality of your future opportunities.

Even at the C-level, many executives are still yearning for an even more successful career, new challenges, new learning, and a higher net worth. It is not too late to start building towards the next step.

Making the commitment to invest in your career, just as you do in your business and your job, provides both hope as well as a sense of renewed power and even exhilaration. Career momentum feels good and keeps us current and youthful, and driving career momentum requires a commitment to yourself. If you have energy, passion, confidence and a willingness to embrace change, the return on investment will be immeasurable.

About the Author

With close to twenty years of experience in the corporate arena, over twelve years in C-level corporate officer level roles, and a Master of Science in Career Development, Janice Waterman founded Waterman Hurst based upon a need she identified in the marketplace.  Janice understands the challenges that senior executives face managing their careers and balancing their private interests with the expectations and commitment required of each emerging and top leadership position. Waterman Hurst provides support and services to solve that challenge one client at a time.  The boutique company is comprised of a team of experts delivering needed expertise, services and sharing their professional networks. The company collaborates with clients who want to build career momentum and successfully achieve both their short-term and long-term career and financially related goals.