It took several years in my career before I realized that I had the power to design the career I wanted, and that I should not expect others to define my career path for me.
This shift in thinking allowed me to escape what I call “becoming a victim to your career path.”
Here’s how I suggest you go about doing the same: Before your next performance review, think about three questions.
This can be a hard one to quantify, but in your heart you know the answer. If you love what you do, you will feel more engaged, and as they say, never work a day in your life. As you explore this answer, ask yourself:
- Does the mission motivate me to come to work every day?
- Am I aligned with the company’s values?
- Am I making an impact?
“Learning” or “growing” can include opportunities for promotion, but also working on challenging projects that stimulate you and help you build new skills. As you explore this answer, ask yourself:
- Do I get to work on projects that challenge me?
- Am I building up the skills needed in the future? Is my company investing in me?
- Is there a growth path for a promotion?
This question often uncovers the more logical reasons for not loving a job. Some employees don’t mind working late, as long as they have a flexible schedule, whereas others require work-life balance to raise a family. There is no right or wrong answer to this question, but you should make an honest evaluation of what is important to you. As you explore this answer, ask yourself:
- Am I compensated the way I want to be compensated?
- Do I have the work-life balance that I need?
- Do I work with people I like? Do the people I work with push me to push myself?
While it can be difficult to find a role that checks the box for all three questions, you’ll often have to prioritize one or two of these questions throughout various stages of your life, as your life priorities change. You can’t always optimize for all three, and so it is up to you to determine what is most important to you.
For example, when I was working at a creative agency, I was optimizing more for learning and saw my experience as an extension of my education. That investment has paid off, and now I am able to optimize for all three pillars in a more balanced way, and am incredibly happy with the career I designed.
Now that you have done a self-evaluation of the three big questions and prioritized the areas you want to focus on for your career at this stage in your life, it’s time to take action. If you feel unsatisfied in one area of this framework, have an honest conversation with your manager about potential solutions that could make you feel more fulfilled.
For example, if you are not feeling challenged, propose a stretch assignment or ask to attend a conference to further your skills. Or if you are feeling like you need more work-life balance, ask if you can work from home one day a week to cut down on your commute time. The answer may not always be yes, but having the conversation is the first start toward owning and taking control of the career you desire.
Every year, I evaluate myself based on this framework, and I find I am pleasantly surprised. In some instances, having this type of honest conversation with my manager led to creating jobs that didn’t exist before, but allowed me to feel challenged and fulfilled, while still making an impact on the business.
As a manager, I also apply this framework to how I conduct performance reviews. I don’t start with business outcomes, I start with these questions. And in this way, I also feel like I am taking control of my team’s engagement.
Whatever you do, do not make yourself the victim of your career, expecting your manager to figure out your career for you. Your manager cannot help you when you are not owning your career yourself.
Lionel Mohri is VP of Innovation Practices at Intuit.