Piloting Your Career
/ Author: Roberta Vriesema
/ Categories: Guide magazine /
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Piloting Your Career

Are you on the right career flight path? Or is it time to change course? Here’s how to find out

By Roberta Vriesema, Representative

Think of your career as a trip you’ve been planning and looking forward to for a long time. You’ve packed everything you need for your journey. You board a plane knowing where you plan to go, how long the flight should take, and if you have a layover.

You’ve likely considered what you’ll eat or snack on and the entertainment you’ll watch during your flight. You may have even picked some travelling companions for your journey. Your flight is most likely a means to an end, but you might also really enjoy the process of flying.

Still, as in your career journey, there are some aspects of your travels that are outside of your control. You don’t know if you’ll end up with a bad seatmate, if the toilets will remain functional, if your luggage will get put on the right plane, or if a mix-up on the tarmac will mean your flight gets delayed. But you did everything you possibly could to ensure your travel success.

Your job can be just like your travel plans. You chose this career path and this specific position and spent several years in training. Yet sometimes you find yourself facing the unexpected, going on a ride when you wish you could bail out.

When it feels like you can’t continue in your day-to-day position, how do you keep going? Or how do you determine if you should continue at all?

Stop and Observe

On a journey, the flight crew spends a significant amount of time monitoring the progress of the flight. Minute course adjustments are made to ensure the flight stays on path and that the plane lands on the right continent, in the right country, and at the right airport.

At this point in your work journey, if you want to “get off the plane,” you’re facing a problem that, though monumental in your head, may not be as significant. Being dissatisfied with your job is comparable to the plane’s bathrooms not working or the entertainment system malfunctioning—it’s an issue that is causing you discomfort or unrest, but not one that affects your coworkers or your personal health and safety.

The good news is that, when it comes to your job, you can course correct, just as a pilot does. When you feel the need to escape, ask yourself a few questions and take a few steps to help you analyze the situation:

- What is the issue that is currently making your work so difficult?
- Is this a new development?
- Think back over your career. Is your current work environment the worst that you’ve experienced?
- Outline and carefully consider the various elements affecting your experience at work.
- Look at your frustrations from as many perspectives as you can.

These are important things to consider before deciding your next move. A common way to cope when things start to go sideways is to knuckle down and try harder, push harder, and lock into strategies that worked for you in the past. Remember this quote often attributed to Albert Einstein: insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

When you’ve reached the point of work exhaustion, start your recovery by determining where you are emotionally, what your current problem is, and what tools you have going forward (for example, your skills, experience, and network). Also, take a moment to compare your current situation to your past experiences; you might be able to identify moments of success. Look to them for possible strategies and coping methods that worked. Once you determine these, you may have to adjust your approach and next steps.

Acknowledge and Analyze

Once you’ve determined that you need to implement change in your career, it is very important that you do not rush into solutions-based actions. In identifying the reasons for your dissatisfaction, when you are ready to move forward, you’ll be able to do so with confidence and intention.

Contemplate your experiences, both in celebration and while acknowledging your disappointments, regrets, and frustrations. Taking note of this will help you push past your panic response and into your best logic and problem-solving abilities.

This isn’t about gaslighting yourself into believing your experience was less than what it was, and it’s also not about inflating your experience into something more than what it was. This is the act of sitting with and accepting where you’ve been and the changes that you’ve had to endure so that you can move forward purposefully.

Explore and Act

In this stage, you will examine which approach will fit your lifestyle and personality. Consider this responding to your “midflight problem.” If a flight issue involves the landing gear, the solution could be to address the mechanical problem, or prepare for a belly landing. The outcome depends on the abilities of the crew on board, the type of plane, and the airport where you are landing.

Circling back to the definition of insanity, if you’ve identified that what you were doing isn’t working, it  may be time to try something different. Here are a few suggestions to get you going.

Explore why you’re on this journey. Perhaps it’s time to pull motivation from a different place than you were previously. There was a reason why you chose this career and this job—perhaps there is a different reason now for staying.

Identify the point of no return. Define what would compel you to say that you’re done. In knowing what would cause you to call it quits, you can recognize when you are drawing close to that line. As you approach the point of no return, you may find it is closer or farther away than you thought. Adjust accordingly—but do it from a position of awareness and intentionality.

Pack your parachute. You may not have the ability to make the jump today. In examining your motivations and in drawing your line in the sand, you have identified some obvious reasons to keep on going (e.g., bills, mortgage, family, lifestyle choices) and some less obvious reasons why you stay at your work; perhaps it fulfills a personal value or creed that you feel you can’t accomplish somewhere else. But there are steps and actions you can take today that will allow you to address those needs in other ways.

Look to contingency plans. While a flight is planned to calculate fuel needs and ensure that a plane’s mechanics are stringently monitored, midflight problems can arise. The good news is that crews are trained and prepared to respond. While you management team may not have had similar training, consider whether you can approach them, now that you’ve identified your problem, so that you can work together to find a creative solution.

In preparing for your career journey, it is not possible to accurately predict every situation that you will face. When accepting an offer of employment, you cannot possibly know the daily experience of that job until you’ve lived it, and what external factors may impact your career choice and current job.

For years, health experts worried about the potential for a pandemic. But no one could have predicted what occurred over the last two years and the impacts it would have on our lives and employment.

Events like these are out of our individual control, and nearly all of us have little option but to continue just taking one step after another. At some point, we can stop, step back, observe where we are, acknowledge our situation, and then choose how we want to take the next steps forward.

On your career flight, is it time to step forward and be more engaged in the direction you are taking? Are you packing a parachute and getting ready to bail out? Or are there adjustments you can make at work to let you complete this flight, so that you can get ready to try an entirely different career flight?

No matter your decision, bon voyage!

5 Reasons You Should Continue With Training

Don’t consider yourself a career keener? Here are five reasons why you should consider keeping your skills up to date—outside of the necessary health and safety standards, of course.

  1. It’ll increase your confidence. Not only will improved self-esteem make you happier, you’ll also be a more efficient worker.
  2. You’ll remain relevant. In doing so, you could be up for promotions or more exciting roles in the future.
  3. It can inspire you. Job-specific training can highlight new ideas that you may have never considered.
  4. You’ll grow your network. Whether or not you are currently looking for a new gig, learning with like-minded people can expand your future career horizons.
  5. Technology makes it easier than ever. Many, though not all, courses are now offered online for you to complete whenever it is convenient for you. Don’t know where to start? Check out CLAC’s training offerings in your province by clicking here.

Turning Career Negatives Into Positives

So, you’re in a job that you can’t stand (sorry to hear that), but current life circumstances are preventing you from making the leap. Here’s how to turn your work-related frowns upside down—or at least help you survive until you can comfortably mosey along.

• Are you finding that you don’t have time outside of work for things you enjoy? Examine your personal schedule and see where you can carve out some me time.

• Do you feel as though you have any close work connections? Try organizing workplace events with a few coworkers, even if it’s just a daily coffee run for your crew.

• Are drained by the thought of seeing your workplace? Add some personality to your workspace with pictures of people, places, and things that remind you of why you work.

• Are just plain burned out? Ensure you are taking all the breaks and vacation days that you are entitled to.

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