What’s the Problem?
Dear Coach – I am a Senior Director in a large company, and until now my career has progressed quite naturally, always being tapped for my next role up the ladder. However, I’ve now been in the same position for a few years, and that natural progression has stalled.
I know I should devote time to thinking about and working on my career progression, but I spend every minute of every day putting out fires, managing HR issues, preparing decks for my manager, and just generally lost in day-to-day tasks. When I do have a free moment, I feel the needs of my family have to be satisfied.
It seems impossible for me to even think strategically about where I’m going, let alone take the action steps to get there. Help! Where do I find the time for personal and professional development when the daily grind takes up all of my time?
Stuck in the Weeds
First, let’s unpack this. Your question tells us that:
- You believe this is a problem of time when in fact it’s an issue of prioritization.
- You value getting work done and being with your family over planning your future.
- You’re used to letting your career “evolve naturally” and now you’re becoming aware it may require more intentionality and proactiveness on your part.
So, exactly how is your problem a power problem? A few thoughts:
- You’ve invested so much to get where you are, yet you’re not honoring yourself and that investment by treating your career development as a valuable and legitimate activity.
- You need to drive this bus rather than sit back and wait for others to offer you the next step.
What’s the Solution?
Ultimately, it’s time to place your attention on how you want this next phase of your career to look, prioritizing the skills you’ll need to develop, the relationships you have to build, and the conversations you’ll need to have to get there.
You will need to do several things in this process, including:
- See your success as good for others. Think differently about yourself and your career; make it more central to your own and other people’s success. Career development should not just be an individual, private side activity–rather, elevating your contribution is also good for those around you.
- Get help from an expert. Work with a coach to get really clear about your vision of where you want to go. Your future path has so many possibilities—find someone who can help you explore each of them. Sometimes career progression is something people think they want but when they reflect on it, they realize they have other priorities. You need to discover what your deeper truth is.
- Stick to a schedule. It may sound silly if you’ve never done it before, but block out time on your calendar each week to ideate, learn, and build relationships. If you find you’re still struggling to stay focused on the bigger picture during this time because of the million other things that need to get done, make a list of everything that’s distracting you that you don’t want to forget. It will all still be there when you’re done.
If you start to feel overwhelmed by the task at hand, take a moment to breathe deeply and focus on the bigger picture. You are worth the investment into your professional development, and remember, baby steps done daily can result in a big leap in your career.
Best of luck!