Are you stuck on autopilot?

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It’s easy to get stuck in a routine and amazing how quickly the months and years can fly past without you even realising it.

For that reason, I wanted to use this month’s column to give you a prompt that it might be time for a career check.

After all, we probably spend more time at work in the company of our colleagues than we do at home doing the things we enjoy with the people that we really love. For a lot of people the past couple of months may well have opened up a door toalternative ways of working and living, so really there is no better time than now to pause and just review where you are and what you really want your career and life to look like going forwards.

The first thing to ask yourself is who is making the big decisions about your career. Is it you? Are you waiting for your boss to do something about it? Or, maybe you’re stuck on autopilot repeating the same routine day after day, week after week.

Trust me, the person who is best placed to be taking ownership of your career is you. It still amazes me how many people opt out of this and hand over the reins to someone else, e.g. well-meaning parents, friends, coaches and mentors who lead with their own agenda and not for the empowerment of their client. So, let’s just stop and take an honest look at who you are, where you are and where you want to be.

There’s nothing that can dull your sparkle and impact on you career health and mental wellbeing more than being stuck in the wrong role in the wrong company. So, if you’ve started to feel a bit flat or jaded try following these simple steps.

Start by making a list of what’s important to you in your career. For example, it could be earning a certain level of salary, or being able to get home in time to pick the kids up from school.

Perhaps it’s important for you to work for a company with a strong ethical purpose or to work for a leader or manager who you know has a great reputation for looking after their people. This is your wish list of things that you want in your job and working life. When you’ve completed it, put it into priority order with the thing that is most important to you at the top.

After you’ve done that, think about what your career ‘non-negotiables’ might be. If they’re already on your wish list highlight them, and if they’re not on it you add them in the right priority order. Thinking about these elements in this way can often bring up other things that are really important to you that might have been missed out first time round.

These things often connect most closely with our personal values too, e.g. a ‘non-negotiable’ could be that you don’t want to commute for more than 45 minutes to get to work. Or, that you won’t work for a company where malpractice has been identified and the leadership team appear reluctant to address it.

By now you probably have a pretty long list of things that you want in your career and have also identified the things that you absolutely don’t want too. Now it’s time to edit your list. This is another great way of checking that you have everything in the right order and that you haven’t missed anything crucial.

No matter how many things you have on your career wish list narrow it down to three. Ditch the rest for now. What are the three things that are most important for you in creating the career you want. Maybe write these ones out again or use sticky notes so you can keep them somewhere visible and don’t lose track of them.

Now think about what the most important things in your life are outside of work. What are your non-negotiables here? The things you want more of and that bring you happiness and strength. Again, write out your top three and place them alongside the career ones where you can see them. If you’ve followed this far, by now you’re going to have a maximum of six things written out that are really important to you. Now edit it again and bring it down to four.

The next thing you need to do is look at this list in the context of your current job and career and ask yourself honestly: does my current lifestyle and job align with this wish list? If it does - happy days, you know you’re on the right track. If it doesn’t, make sure you keep that autopilot switched of and get super focused on how and when you’re going to get aligned with the things that really matter to you.

You don’t need to make massive sweeping changes overnight, just be aware of which direction you’re travelling in and do at least one thing every day that helps you align with the true priorities on your wish list.

Karen Beaven is an HR director, strategist and author

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