When we were young, many of us were asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” At age six, the answer was often simple: A firefighter! A doctor! An astronaut! A teacher!
After graduating from high school or college to working life, we often find our career paths are more complicated. While there are people who train to be firefighters, doctors and astronauts and remain in those careers for decades, many more of us freelance, work multiple part-time jobs, start our own businesses or hold full-time positions.
We take on responsibilities, meet deadlines, acquire skills, gain contacts and learn little tips like the importance of carrying a pen and pad of paper wherever we go just in case we are asked to work on something.
Regardless of where we work and what we do, it makes sense to confirm that your career is intentional and headed in the right direction. Here are three questions to ask yourself right now:
Am I learning?
Learning doesn't end when you receive a diploma. Smart people continue learning regardless the stage of their career. No matter how long you've been in a position—a month or a few years—always make sure you are continuing to learn. It can be acquiring a new skill, learning a new aspect of the job, the business or the industry, earning a certificate or degree, or obtaining a license. It’s also smart to learn from those who have more experience than you, as they often have useful insight to help you build your career and maximize your talents.
Am I pursuing interests that are important to me?
These interests could be directly related to your position or it could be a passion that you pursue outside of your job. What’s important is that you follow the interests you have. Listen to podcasts on your way to work. Volunteer at an organization. Pick up a book on a subject that interests you—regardless if it’s related to what you do from 9 to 5. Write a blog. The point is that you continue engaging your brain outside of your daily job.
Am I contributing?
Most of us want to know we are contributing to our workplace—that there is purpose and meaning to our work. Even if you can't tie what you do on a daily basis to a bottom-line figure, are you doing what you can to improve your work process? Are you reducing inefficiencies? Are you putting forth your best effort to do the best job you can while also making sure you recharge occasionally?
Asking these questions throughout your career can keep you grounded and focused. Even if your long-term career path is not clear today, continuing to focus on these three questions can help you build a career you'll be proud of.