We all reach a point in our careers when we need to step back and take stock of where we are, where we've been and what's next.
One of my favorite bosses once gave me some questions to routinely ask myself, and over the years, I have added a few questions of my own to the list. Now every six months, I step back from the day-to-day of the rat race and ponder the following five things:
1. Am I learning?
Are you gaining new skills at your job and finding new ways to improve the work you are doing? Is there training at your company or are there outside classes that your job will cover to make you a better employee? Or do you feel like you have topped out at your job and now want to move on to the next challenge? Currently, I am learning something new every day, but that wasn't always the case. My goal has always been to truly master a few things before looking to move on, and I encourage everyone to dig into that mindset.
2. Am I growing?
Is there a clear path to get to the next level at your company? Can you manage more employees or take on a different leadership role? Is there another department within the company you could transfer to where you can progress? I have worked places where the next jump seemed years away or where I didn't want my boss's job at all. If that's the case, you may need to find the next level-up elsewhere.
3. Am I respected?
This is a big one that we don't often ask ourselves but should every day. How are you perceived within your organization? Do people listen to you and care about your opinion? Are you on a different page than those around you? Often if you start your career at a company, they may always see you as "the kid" even years after you started. Do they recognize what you bring to the table? Never settle for feeling degraded or under-appreciated.
4. Am I doing my best?
We can all occasionally lose our drive and passion for what we do. This does not have to be a long-term issue. Maybe you are burned out and need a vacation. Maybe you could use a new project, either at your job -- volunteer to help with a pitch -- or take on a new personal project outside the workplace. Some people need to challenge themselves physically to get their groove back mentally. Training for a 5K can give you a whole new lease on life.
5. Am I happy?
This question may seem like a cop-out but it is key. I have had what I thought was the "dream job" only to feel miserable and out of place every day. Somehow, I muddled through but once I stepped back, I realized how very unhappy I was and how much worse it was becoming. Life is too short to spend at a job that doesn't make you feel alive. We can't be in the best place all the time, but the more and more you feel you aren't the right fit, make sure you know there is a world beyond this one gig.
Whenever you ask yourself these questions, the answer will likely never be "yes" to all five. That's fine. But if you answer "no" to three or more, I think it's time to make a bigger evaluation and decide if you need to go in a different direction. The beauty of these questions, to me, is that they force you to be honest with yourself, and once you do that, you open yourself up to new opportunities and chances to find true happiness.