Q: I'm at a turning point in my career and am trying to decide if I should move to a large corporate setting, stay with a smaller firm, or take the entrepreneurial path. I have a good business idea, but also have opportunities with existing companies. How to decide?
A: Listen to your head … and your heart … when making the call.
Whichever choice you make, you'll be most satisfied if it aligns with your values. If you've never really thought about what's important to you, and have just moved from option to option, try some intentionality. Consider when you've felt most satisfied, most energized, most indifferent, and most unhappy in your work. Then figure out what factors are underneath those feelings. For example, if you're security minded and were unhappy in an unstructured work setting, take it into account in assessing options. Specific questions that may help formulate your values include:
• What is important to me in a work setting?
• What type of role is best for me?
• Does the product/service offered matter to me?
• What level or form of work/life balance am I seeking?
• In what ways am I trying to make a difference?
Think about your goals. When you imagine your life in five or 10 years, where would you like to be? Consider how each option helps advance you toward that goal.
Then take a deep and realistic look at your qualifications. You may have the urge to go out on your own; if so, you'll be more successful if you can combine your business idea with experiences that equip you to develop a business plan, find investors, build a team, and successfully deliver your product or service. If your self-assessment gives you pause, identify your key weaknesses and either focus on them to learn the needed skills, or bring on a partner with complementary skills.
This isn't just time for navel gazing. Get feedback from others on the types of opportunities that you're finding so that you have a broader view on what each might be like. Ask bold questions about people's satisfaction and the culture of organizations.
There's a practical aspect, too. What can you afford to do? Do you need a steady paycheck to support a family or do you have the option to start from scratch? How long can you sustain that, and what's your safety net? This taps hard into emotions; you might experience some judgment from others if you don't choose the "safe" path.
Now, the fun part: picture yourself in each role. Write the story of what your life would be like, draw pictures of how it might feel, pretend you're watching a movie of someone in your situation. Get outside your head, and let the emotional aspect take over. What messages come through, and what do you intuitively know about where the best fit will be? If one option makes you really happy, but you see many barriers, think about the feasibility of overcoming the challenges. After all, the right path isn't necessarily the easiest one, but it'll bring the greatest long-term enrichment to your life.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, a credentialed coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.