Where to get career advice?
January 12, 2018 3:58 PM   Subscribe

I feel like I have deep questions about my career and would benefit from advice or guidance from someone, but I have no idea where to turn. Can anyone point me somewhere?

I'm looking for someone who can help me navigate my career.

In the main, I like my job, but I have questions about where it is heading over the long-term. I don't understand how someone in my career moves forward, or what the possible paths forward are. I've brought it up with my manager, but he doesn't have any ideas either. I like to have a sense of forward momentum, and I think I'm a bit frustrated that I don't have that. In the past, this has led me to switch jobs probably a bit more often than I maybe should have. It's a pattern with me.

While this was going on, I was approached by a company I've done some freelance work for about coming on full-time. Nothing's final, but the offer's intriguing enough that I am considering it. I like the work I have done for them, and they work with some cool organizations. But I don't know if it is a better move for me, or if the grass is just greener on the other side.

I don't know where to get advice on this type of thing. I don't have any kind of mentor, per se. I've heard of career coaches, but I don't know if they are much help here. (I feel like some industry or job-specific experience would be beneficial to any would-be advisor in this case.) I've read lots of books about finding a good career fit, but I never seem to be able to articulate answers to some of their fundamental questions.

I'm not as concerned about money at this point (though it is obviously a factor) as much as I am about career fit and a general sense of engagement and intrinsic motivation.

Can anyone point me to resources, tools, people, or help me figure out how to figure this out on my own?
posted by synecdoche to Work & Money (3 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
If you are willing to say what field you are in, people might be able to give you resources specific to that field. Otherwise, it's going to be hard for us to give you anything besides generic advice.

That said, I had similar hesitations about going to a career coach but did anyway this summer and it was invaluable. In fact, she set me on the path that I'm on now, and I'm so excited about it. She has been doing this for 30 years, so she really has in-depth knowledge of so many different fields, as well as the professional scenes for those fields in my city. So I would say look around and see if you can find someone with that depth of experience in your area. Also, a lot of career coaches do specialize in specific fields, so look into that as well.

Beyond that, this is why mentors* and trusted colleagues are so important. I spent a lot of time this year talking to people I've worked with over the years and getting their advice about my future. Every one of these conversations was useful. I don't think even the best mentor will be able to say, "this is what you should do" but the conversations help a lot. Some folks gave me encouragement for the path I was considering, some raised potential pitfalls I hadn't thought of, some gave me really good advice.

So I'd say, reach out to former colleagues, friends who work in the same field, and maybe a career coach. None of those folks will be able to give you a magic answer but the conversations really help you figure out what you want.

* You might not think you have any mentors, but I think the way we think and talk about mentors is pretty limiting, because it's framed as such a one-way, hierarchical relationship. I do think it's a good practice to develop a community of peers with whom you share advice and support with each other. If you don't feel like you have that already, this is a good chance to start building it. Don't be afraid to reach out to former coworkers/colleagues and invite them out for coffee or whatever. People love being asked for advice, and then they can ask you for advice when they need it. Win/win.
posted by lunasol at 6:15 PM on January 12, 2018 [2 favorites]

Thanks lunasol. I’m in tech, doing web/ux strategy (or a narrow part of it). My freelance work has been more research and writing. My background is academic—I did a PhD in English and adjuncted for a couple of years before getting out a few years ago.
posted by synecdoche at 6:54 PM on January 12, 2018

I never seem to be able to articulate answers to some of their fundamental questions

First of all, I agree with what lunasol said about mentors. My best mentors have been peer mentors I have met through trainings or industry events. They often help me see options I can't see for myself.

But regarding the part of the question I selected above, I would say that without being able to articulate what you're looking for, it will be *very* difficult for anyone to help you with career advice. There isn't a golden road path-- particularly not with the kind of background you describe. The direction you will go will be strongly informed by what you like about what you're doing-- what do I want to do more of? What do I want to do less of? rather than by what generic person X does with your kind of position.

Given that, I really would consider a coach-- and maybe not even a career coach. But someone who can help you answer those critical questions before you start to look.

(I started in a very similar position as you in the long ago-- academic background, ending up in usability design for online interaction and have since then gone into strategy consulting and finally retail management. You have a very flexible background, which will lend itself to a wide variety of possibilities. The critical question is what you want.)
posted by frumiousb at 7:05 PM on January 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

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