By Brian Mitchell, CEO & Managing Partner I speak with dozens of senior executives every week and I really enjoy the strategic dialog shared. Accomplished CXO’s sometimes unconsciously begin to describe a “career inflection point” they find themselves in: frustrated with some aspect of their current company, seeking a more entrepreneurial venture, want a bigger scope of responsibility, want a deeper intellectual challenge, or a more balanced work/personal life. I can empathize because I experienced the same inflection point in my career about nine years ago before I founded GM Ryan.

In my previous professional world, I led a large sales organization for a publicly-traded company. I had been laser-focused and determined to scale the so-called corporate ladder to get to the position I was in. I had the title, money, control, respect, but I still wasn’t thrilled. The culture was incredibly political, I wasn’t enamored with the products and solutions, I travelled constantly which was far less interesting with three young kids at home. I had to get what I was after to realize I wanted something different.

My abbreviated professional story isn’t all that riveting; however the cathartic introspective process of transition is relevant. Realizing that I had invested the first 12 years of my career to get to a position I didn’t want begged the questions: What do I want to do? What are my important criteria in whatever I do next? What were my requirements? Every job description ever written eventually lists required criteria the company needs in a qualified candidate. As I began evaluating alternative opportunities, I began to document the pros and cons. As I scrutinized my professional options, I compared each against my personal requirements. In a simple Excel spreadsheet I listed all of my requirements in order of importance in the first column. Across the top row I populated the various opportunities I was considering. I created a “career opportunity comparison matrix”. I cannot fully convey how invaluable this organic process became for me. By creating a simple working document for my ongoing review, everything became salient. Anxiety was removed and it became easy to be objective. I could rule things out.

I’ve told this story of my process to many executives who’ve done it for themselves and always thank me for the suggestion. The mind can play tricks on all of us, especially when it comes to something as critical as career management where emotion and anxiety are inherent. This isn’t my typical blog topic, but I hope this resonates for any of you proven senior executives pondering, “What’s next?” If you care to see the basic spreadsheet matrix, email mitch@gmryan.com with “career matrix” in the subject header.