By Brian Mitchell, Managing Partner & CEO

I get a lot of inbound inquiries, typically a dozen a day, from professionals at varying stages of their careers seeking to understand how GM Ryan might be able to support them while in transition. Through 1000’s of conversations, I’ve learned that “in transition” can mean different things to different people. It can also mean different things for the same person through evolving periods of their intertwined professional and personal lives. Navigating your own career management can be difficult, stressful, and emotionally draining at times. It can (and should) also be exciting, liberating, and rewarding. Four key questions:

1) Am I thrilled, content, or dissatisfied with my current situation?
2) If dissatisfied, what EXACTLY do I find dissatisfying?
3) Is what I find dissatisfying motivation enough to consider alternatives?
4) If not now, when?

  • If you’re thrilled, congrats! You’re in the minority and it’s likely best to stay where you are, but don’t be so over-confident that you become closedminded with blinders on.
  • If you’re content, that’s also positive, but it’s important to stay introspective to discern if the vehicle you’re driving will take you where you want to ultimately
    • What is my upward mobility? Define the specific path(s).
    • Is my company scaling? If you’re doing well and your company is up and to the right, you’re likely in a good spot to climb with the company. If not, watch out.

If you’re dissatisfied, you’ll need to dig deeper to identify the source of that dissatisfaction:

  • Have you been at your position a long time without being challenged?
  • Is it your role or your company that you’ve outgrown?
  • Have you been passed over for promotions?
  • Can you truly command bigger scope/money elsewhere? How do you know?
  • Has your company hit a rough patch and stopped growing (or contracting)?
  • Is it your company or your entire industry?
  • How does that answer impact your evaluative options?
  • Is your boss a tyrannical jerk? This one is tough to fix!
  • Should you start your own business? Solo or with partners?

If you are “dissatisfied”, don’t get hasty in your decision-making. A few things to keep in sight:

  • Don’t change your career simply because you hate your job. You want to run TO something, not FROM something. Don’t jump, plan first.
  • Don’t change your career solely based on money. Money is important and a barometer of accomplishment in some people’s eyes, but it’s not “success”. You define what that is for yourself; don’t give into outside perceptions or pressures.
  • Don’t make a career change based on the success of others. Timing, skill, circumstance, some luck all play a factor. Perhaps you’d be great and love it too, but perhaps not.
  • Don’t take a significant risk without consult. Find a mentor, not a friend. You need to be challenged, you want holes punched in your ideas. Think it through.
  • Don’t change companies without evaluating the entire sector. If your company has problems, perhaps it’s consistent across the competitive landscape. Frying pan, meet fire. Dig deeper, know what you don’t know before you make a dramatic move.

That said, a final thought on “if not now, when?”. Within reason, your career is entirely in your own hands. Yes, you have bosses and companies that you work “for”. And you have circumstances in your life that might prevent you from taking that promotion requiring you to move to Austin or financial commitments where a startup is just too risky “now”. There will never be a perfect time! Don’t let circumstances and/or others dictate what you can achieve. Don’t say “I can’t do it” but rather ask “how can I do it?” and map out a plan from that question. Evaluate your professional situation, weigh your options, and execute. If that doesn’t work, reevaluate, but don’t let that setback hold you down. Be in control, take actions to get to where you want to go. Nobody is going to do it for you.