My career is growing in ways I'm not sure I asked for, but maybe that's a good thing?
March 6, 2012 4:47 PM   Subscribe

I have been with Company for 4 years. As my career has grown, everything about my workday has changed dramatically. I feel that most of the changes are positive. However, some of the things that made my original job a great fit for me are gone. Can you share any insights, suggestions, tools, exercises, or books to make this career growth work for me?

If it matters, I'm 30. After college, I started a career in one industry, and went from Receptionist through Grunt Work to Position-I-Coveted in about 5 years. I mention this to share that I've experienced career growth before, but it was more calculated on my part than the situation I am currently in. I quit because I moved across the country. I work in an entirely different industry now, but I didn't exactly start at the bottom when I got here because my past experience lined up with some of their needs.

The Old Job:
Anyway, my original position with Company was quiet and isolated, and it basically fell into my lap. I didn't seek out the job or the industry, I just answered an ad on Craigslist because I needed to work. I spent most of my time writing and researching stuff online, and some of my time doing administrative office stuff for a group of about 10 people. I had a lot of downtime. I mostly worked from home. I had face-to-face meetings a few times a month, which included things like leading group trainings. My workspace was very quiet, even when I shared an office. I had 1 teleconference every morning, and that was usually it. My bosses were very cool. I liked almost everything about this job, but the money/benefits were so-so and there was no real growth potential. The position literally no longer exists.

The New Job:
The team doubled. Then my bosses left. Then we moved to a much nicer office and became a part of an even bigger team. Then I accepted a promotion to a position with more leadership opportunities and responsibilities, more demands, more meetings, more travel, new bosses and a whole new chain of command. The extent of these changes was not entirely clear to me when I took on the job, and some of them (like the meetings) have crept up on me and keep coming. There is, of course, also more money and better opportunities for future education (both certifications and Masters degrees). I can currently still work from home 1-2 days a week and most of my meetings are teleconferences, though I think those days are coming to an end, too. I still like most of my coworkers a great deal though I see and interact with a lot more of them, a lot more often.

My old job was pretty boring, but I used to actively enjoy how easy and quiet it was. I can't say I actively enjoy how busy I am now, but it does feel good to grow, make more money, and see a future. I'm leading meetings I used to snooze through and... I think this is a good thing. But more often than not, I find this pretty hard. While I'm perfectly capable of being a leader, making decisions, and running meetings, I would rather be by myself.

I never really meant to climb this particular corporate ladder. And I'm not great at this new job (yet?), which I've been formally doing for a little over a year. I still lose track of things, I am not naturally organized in a way that works best for this role, and I am learning as I go. Everyone is being patient with me, and I am getting professional training. I don't think I'm in any danger of them giving up on me anytime soon. I'm improving and I know I can do this. But I want to make sure this is what I really want to do before I sign up for this for the long-term.

How did you figure it out? How do I?
posted by calcetinporfavor to Work & Money (3 answers total)
Early in the film "Gladiator" Cicero says, "Some of the time I do what I want to do. The rest of the time I do what I have to do."

That's how it is for most people. We work to pay the bills so we can do what we want with the time/money left over.

You've done a great job moving up and it is a good sign that you feel out of your depth but not drowning.

The thing is, you don't have to figure it out yet. You can ride the wave as long as you want. Use the ladder to develop skills that you never thought you'd have, and then put those to work doing something new sometime down the road.

Stop fretting, get better at what you're doing, and enjoy the journey.
posted by trinity8-director at 9:13 PM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

The art of managing is acting without knowing. It sounds like you are beginning to get into more of a true management role. So, become familiar with some of the feelings of not having ready answers. That is okay. As your team grows it is more important that the team produce a valid answer, not that you know it ahead of time. Find ways for others to support you where you aren't as strong.

With the job performance bit out of the way, it sounds like mostly you need to define for yourself some time for replenishment. Make sure you are getting exercise, trips into nature, reading, meditation or whatever it is that helps you be comfortable with yourself. Make the room in your daily schedule for this at home, and absolutely insist on it when you travel.

After that practice is in place, reflect on where you are, where you are headed and what you care about. It sounds like you have the benefit of no need to rush this. You are experiencing success, congratulations! So, take your time exploring what you really care about, and whether your current position helps answer that. It may be that a stable and lucrative career opens up other opportunities in life to do things you want, or perhaps you want to get on another career path. Reflection over time will give you the answer if you can do it from a place of calm and confidence about your daily work.
posted by meinvt at 10:55 PM on March 6, 2012

I just wanted to thank you both for your advice. It helped in the moment, when I was feeling particularly out of sorts, and it's continued to help me since then when I start to feel the stress get the best of me. Thank you both very much for your insight.
posted by calcetinporfavor at 8:15 AM on June 5, 2012

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