What’s Next?; Considerations for Deciding Career Path Next Steps

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“So, what’s next?”

This is the question I dread, simply because I have no answer. I remember when it was an easy question because I had no choice. In school your path is clearly defined. Your curriculum is determined for you, and you journey from one consecutive grade to the next. Overtime, you’re allowed a few privileges. You can begin to select from a handful of courses and teachers and choose which semester to take different classes. Every now and then you may regret that art class you registered for, but the consequences for a poor class selection are simply boredom or a below-than-average grade. 90f9d88a94d643b1b7ca527302e64e62

Decision-Making Consequences Increase
As you get older the choices multiply, the doubt increases, and the stakes for poor choices are raised. The decision to attend college, pursue a vocation, or enter the armed forces is difficult for many high school graduates. Even after the decision is made you have lingering doubt. College majors are a roll of the dice. Most people don’t end of up in the career field they studied. Not that my political science major hasn’t served me well ….. But that college major still offers a guide of course study and provides some options to “what’s next”.

Freedom Increases and Doubt Sets In
You finally enter the workforce and that’s often where you discover the predefined path ends. There is a great sense of liberation that comes with this new adventure. The world is yours for the taking. Anything is possible. And this freedom of choice has amplified over the last few years. When I look at Boomers, many of them had some sort of career path set before them. There was a focus on climbing the corporate ladder. This has changed. Gen Y and Millennials view their career as a jungle gym of sorts, swinging from one new project and opportunity to the next.

But this makes answering the age old “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” question much more difficult. For many of us, the jobs we’ll have in 5 years don’t currently exist. Personally, the career opportunities I’ve had the last 10 years were self-made. I’ve loved it.

Course-Correcting What’s Next
So how do you answer “what’s next?” When I asked former colleagues, the response I often heard was “I have X-number of years until retirement”. From these conversations I decided one thing; I don’t want to plan my career with the ultimate goal of retirement. I want a career that continues to challenge me, excite me, and make me energized for the next day.

But that doesn’t provide much more clarity on next steps. That’s when my manager suggested I consider some coursework or training in an area that interests me and excites me. Perhaps that would spark some career inspiration. So I started researching classes and quickly began to piece together “what’s next”.

So, perhaps the solution is to build curriculum back into your career. This doesn’t have to be MBA intensive commitment. Take a look at extended course offerings for a semester. Many universities offer these both on campus and through webcast seminars. Consider a week long intensive seminar that covers a topic of interest. If university courses aren’t in the cards, build out your own course offering. Search for white papers, webcasts, and books that align with your interests. Plan out a 4 month schedule to consume this content. Assign yourself work to demonstrate critical thinking and application for your new learnings. You could write blog posts incorporating these new lessons, identify account opportunities to apply new problem solving, or even build out an internal training session to pass your new found insight onto your team.

When faced with the question “what next?” consider turning to those defined pathways that resulted in your elementary success.

How do you answer the “what next” question?


Marilyn Cox

Marilyn Cox is the Director of Marketing for Second City Works - the B2B division of the famed Second City.

You know the buzzwords; inbound, outbound, content, demand gen, lead gen, martech, social media, account-based, advocacy, customer success, sales enablement, and analytics.She studies it, plans it, executes it, experiments with it, and loves it.

Through discovery, creation, and innovation she's learned to say "Yes, And".Like business, her career is one big improvisational act.

She leads all aspects of the brand and culture, developing and executing a clearly defined, integrated marketing communications strategy.Marilyn is responsible for planning, organizing, staffing, training, and managing all marketing functions to achieve objectives of growth, awareness, customer success and making work better.

Marilyn exists to empower sales and support the customer. When not geeking out over marketing analytics, she can be found daydreaming about her unrealized dream as a professional wrestler with the WWE.

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