Rachel Pelta for FlexJobs
Your professional journey often starts the day you land your first job and ends the day you retire for good. And along the way, you’re bound to encounter generational differences in the workplace and obstacles that block your path. Going over, under, or even through them is part of taking the next step in your career.
But the hurdles you leap over at the beginning of your career can be quite different than the ones you find later on. And the strategies you use to overcome them will vary depending on what steps you want to take next.
Searching for your first job is tough. Sometimes, it feels like there aren’t enough entry-level jobs available for people with limited experience—like you.
And once you do land that job, it seems like obstacle after obstacle is thrown at you. For starters, you have to switch from being a full-time student to being a full-time employee. From learning the company culture to finding out how your team and coworkers operate and communicate, there are a ton of new skills to learn.
Even once you’ve mastered that, you may discover that the job isn’t what you thought it would be. There may be times when you feel like all you do is menial tasks that don’t have anything to do with the job. Not to mention, you may discover that maintaining work-life balance isn’t so easy!
While this seems like a lot of job hurdles to overcome (and it is), there are some things you can do to leap over them.
Start by building professional relationships. Connect with people on your team, outside your team, and even outside your company. Grow your network and meet with people in the field who can mentor and guide you through your early career days.
Also, ask your supervisor or more senior team members for feedback. Asking for input outside of a yearly evaluation can help you identify blind spots and weaknesses you need to improve.
And learn everything you can about the job, the company, and the industry. Take classes or certification courses and say yes to relevant training opportunities your company offers. This will grow your skill set and help you get to the next stage of your career.
After a few years, you’ll be in the early part of your career. You have some on-the-job experience but aren’t quite ready for the next phase of your professional journey.
Though you’ve made it past your early job hurdles, new ones await. Because you’ve had some time in the role and learned a lot about it, you may doubt you made the right career choice. Or, you’re positive you’re in the right field and on the right path. You can’t wait to move ahead but are unable to for various reasons—some in your control and some outside of it.
All of these feelings are normal, and often the way to overcome them is with some introspection. If you’re not sure you’re in the right career, ask yourself why or what makes you feel that way? Are you really in the wrong job, or are you in the right job at the wrong company? Maybe the job is perfect, but the company culture is the wrong fit.
If you feel like you’re stuck, what do you have to do to get unstuck? Is it that, despite your ambition, you need a few more years of experience or education to even be considered for a promotion or advancement? You might need to go back to school or continue in this role for a few more years. It could also be that your company is small and does not have the career ladder that best fits into your career plan, which could mean a job search is the next step for you.
The middle of your career often means you’re in a comfortable career groove. But that doesn’t mean you won’t come across career obstacles.
People at this stage of their professional journey sometimes wonder about the path not taken. Could they have been successful doing something else? And the wondering sometimes turns to thoughts of changing careers. But then you might think you’re too old to start over at the bottom of the career ladder. Or, you worry about the many obligations you’ve taken on and are concerned that starting over would be too much of an emotional or financial strain.
Other people are perfectly happy with their job. They’re in the exact position doing the exact job they always planned on. The problem is they can’t picture themselves doing “this” for another 20 or more years. You might discover that while you’re content, you’re bored and itching for a new challenge. Or, you feel like you’ve accomplished everything you can but aren’t sure what comes next.
To overcome these hurdles, it may be time to make that career change. There could be financial and emotional burdens, but you can take steps to ease the strain. Likewise, a lateral move within your company might allow you to put different skills to work, shaking up your routine and challenging you in new and exciting ways.
Toward the latter part of your career, you may experience similar hurdles people face mid-career. You might feel restless and want new challenges. But there are also new hurdles to overcome. Some fields have a mandatory retirement age you’re approaching, but you aren’t ready to retire. Or, you may love your work so much that you never want to retire, but you’re worried about becoming obsolete. Maybe you’re ready for that career change but don’t want to face ageism during your job search.
While there may be nothing you can do about a mandatory retirement age, you don’t have to give up work. You can start a side hustle, so you have a part-time gig as you go into retirement to give you supplemental income or something fun to do. If you don’t plan on retiring, keep up to date on changes in your field and technology with continuing education or attending conferences. This can expand your skills, help you feel more in touch with younger generations in the workplace, and overcome concerns about being “too old” for the role.
Your professional journey may be a straight line, a twisty path, or something in between. And no matter which direction you choose, you’re bound to encounter hurdles you’ll need to leap over. While you might be able to make the jump on your own, sometimes you need a little extra help.
This article originally appeared in FlexJobs. FlexJobs is the leading career service specializing in flexible work, providing the largest database of vetted remote and flexible job listings. To support job seekers in all phases of their journey, FlexJobs offers a range of services including expert advice, job search events, and career coaching. FlexJobs also works with leading companies to recruit quality remote talent and optimize their remote and flexible workplace.
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