Are You Looking for a Career or Just Settling for a Job?

Nancy Anderson
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When you think about the future, do you see a clear path toward your career goals? All too often, career goals become blurred, lost in the day-to-day requirements of a job and hassles of paying bills. If you once thought your current position would lead to something great, but you're now suspecting it's just a job, it's time to take steps to get out of your rut.

How Do You Know If You're Settling for a Job?

One of the key ways you can tell if you've set your career goals aside and are settling is by thinking about why you go to work each day. Do you find yourself thinking about what you're going to accomplish, or is your paycheck all that really matters?

Here are some other questions to ask yourself as you determine whether you've veered away former career goals and are just settling. Do you come home from work feeling as if you've really accomplished something, or do you feel as if now your day can start? Do you find yourself mentally strategizing as to what you'd do if you were promoted, or do you assume (or know) that's never going to happen? Do you find yourself surfing through job listings? Do you hang out with people from work during your off hours, or do you do anything you can to surround yourself with a completely different set of people?

Pay attention as well to the language you use when talking to others about your job. Do you use terms that express excitement and possibility, or do you complain that your job is just a grind?

Setting New Career-oriented Goals

If you realize that you indeed have just a job, this is fine if you're happy and like what you do and the people you work with. However, if you feel like you're settling, it's time to take a look at your long-term career goals. Focus on your passions. What would you do if money weren't an issue? Start networking and exploring your interests to see where this might lead you.

Think about where you'd like to be in five years, and start jotting down ideas about how to get there from where you are now. After you have some long-term goals sketched out, start breaking them down into more immediate goals.

Getting out of Your Rut

If making any kind of change feels overwhelming, take preliminary stops to get out of the rut you're in. Focus on yourself by taking a vacation. Make an effort to share your career goals with your boss to see how she responds to the idea that you want to shake things up (that conversation may help you know whether you need to leave your company).

In addition, widen your network. Attend industry events, and reach out to the people you know to start making the connections you need to take new steps.

You don't need to settle for any old job. If you have career goals that you haven't been pursuing, there's no time like the present to take the first steps toward reaching them. Start by assessing your current situation (and your feelings about it) honestly, then begin the process of setting new goals and making a real change.

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