Redefining Success: On planning my next career move

I am at a pivotal moment in my career. Up until this point, I’ve followed a relatively standard path that is predetermined for those pursuing advanced degrees: high school -> college -> graduate school. Between college and grad school, I traveled to Africa and got a couple fellowships under my belt. Since grad school, I’ve been working as a research scholar, fulfilling year-to-year contracts.


The goal was to get accepted: accepted to a good school and accepted over other applicants for fellowships. But now I’m in real life. The goals are less tangible, the next step is uncharted and I have to make decisions based on what I want, not what would look good on a resume. It’s awful, thinking for myself. So here are a couple things I’m trying to keep in mind as I consider what I want to do next:


1)      When in my professional life do I feel satisfied?


I’ve only held a professional job for two and a half years now, but already I can tell that I feel fulfilled when I have worked as part of a team to make something significant happen. I want to leave a legacy, something tangible and positive in my wake. This happened at my current job within the Green Team. Although completely unrelated to my transportation work, I help lead the Green Team, which last year succeeded in getting $72 thousand for a solar panel installation on the Fire building. A group of people put in extracurricular energy to make this happen and it’s something that will improve the park over the long term.


2)      Where do I want to focus my energies?


Perhaps other people will relate to my personality type that has numerous, diverging interests. Childhood education and parenting hold a significant portion of my attention, while transportation and city planning capture my imagination and problem-solving skills. I’ve also been writing and working on the launch for my new book. So how can I hone in on one area alone? I can’t answer this question at the moment, but I grapple with it on a weekly basis.


3)      What is my optimum ratio of working/family hours?


While spending time with my young daughter is priceless, I also need an academic or professional portion of each day. I entertained the possibility of being a stay-at-home mom but I would not be happy without committing a part of myself to my professional advancement. My job has been amazingly flexible with me, allowing me to work three days in the office and two days at home for the past year. I find that having three days in the office not only makes me more efficient at my job, it also makes me more appreciative of the time I have with my daughter. I would like to find a job where I work in the office 20-30 hours per week instead of a full-time 40 hours behind a desk.


4)      What is my five year goal?


This is another question I have trouble answering. For so long, the five year goal was handed to me through subconscious messaging. Having completed that track (without going into a PhD), I don’t know exactly what’s next. About a week ago, I had a revelation. For so long, my goals have focused on me alone, but I’ve started to think that I can also have goals for my family. My husband of six years has supported me through all these endeavors, and I think it’s time I start shifting our combined energies in his direction. Having gotten through my five year goals and settled in a fulfilling position, I am going to put aside my own goal-making and see how I can advance my husband’s.


5)      What makes me jealous?


I learned a couple years ago that jealousy can be an invaluable tool. Instead of eating me up, I turn to it instead to ask, “Why does that make me jealous?” Most often, the answer is, “Because I think I can do that too, I’m just not doing it at the moment.” I have some amazing friends who are doing incredible things. Most of the time I am in admiring awe of them, but sometimes I get a tinge of jealousy. This just indicates that I should take their queue and follow their lead.


I have a career decision coming up in 2016 that I’m trying to prepare for. The track is no longer about winning or being accepted, so instead I’m trying to touch base with myself and figure out what would be best for me. What will make me happy and bring balance to my family? The answer is not clear yet, but I wanted to share my process and maybe even ask how other people have handled these life choices. Thanks for reading.