The start of a new year can often make you question your career. But while the questions are obvious, the answers are often harder to find. So whether you're planning a complete overhaul or are simply looking for a step up, Manjit Nahal, learning and development manager for Lloydspharmacy parent company Celesio, explains how to tackle your dilemma.
Scenario one: You think you're in the wrong job
The post-Christmas return to work is inevitably a painful experience. The prospect of more early mornings and late nights, while battling inclement weather, can cause many to rethink their career. But how can you tell whether it's a case of the blues, or whether you really need a change of scene?
Start by thinking about what attracted you to the role in the first place, advises Ms Nahal. And if those positive aspects are no longer there, it may be time to move on. "Be clear about what you want from your career – is this something that your current role is giving you?" she asks.
Research is also vital before making a change and work experience can help you make an informed decision. "If possible, first-hand experience will give you a taster of a new role or sector, and will help you decide if it is something worth pursuing," Ms Nahal advises.
If you do decide to move on to new pastures, Ms Nahal suggests employees make sure they have all the necessary skills first. And she stresses that it's "never too late" to make a change – even if it may require some sacrifices in the short term. "If a change of career is important to you, be prepared to make compromises or sacrifices, especially if the change results in you taking a more junior position than you are used to," she says.
Scenario two: You're in the right job, but want to move up a rung on the career ladder
Once you feel stable in your job, it's only natural to look for a promotion. But securing that elusive step up can be a minefield – from knowing whether you're ready, to establishing whether your boss has equal confidence in you.
If you feel you're excelling in your role, Ms Nahal recommends talking to your line manager about career progression. Not only can they alert you to potential opportunities, she says, but it can also help you show that you're ready for promotion. "Be willing to gain experience and take on additional responsibilities – these may be outside of your current job role and above and beyond your day job," she advises. Ms Nahal also names willingness to accept and act on constructive feedback as a must.
And if that ideal opportunity is yet to come up, she advises potential candidates to think about other ways of boosting their career. "There may be opportunities that you have never thought about, such as mentoring a pre-registration trainee or trainee technician, or getting involved with other local organisations such as your LPC," Ms Nahal says. "These things will help keep you interested in your role as well as boosting your CV."
Scenario three: You can't decide on your career path
Regardless of what your careers teacher told you, people rarely have their working lives mapped out by the time they leave school. And even when you've been in the world of work for a while, you may still feel unsure of what direction to take.
If this is you, Ms Nahal recommends talking to as many people as possible. If you see a role that you think might be worth pursuing, she advocates work experience, as the "grass isn't always greener on the other side".
A career break is also another option if you need time to make your decision. But Ms Nahal recommends approaching this with caution. "You need to be able to justify your reasoning for the career break," she warns. "No explanation of the break may raise question by a prospective employer around commitment and credibility."
Ultimately, though, Ms Nahal's advice for those doubting their career is simple: "Think of the experience that you have already have, don't underestimate what you have already achieved," she says. "Be clear and honest with yourself about what you want to achieve and the small steps needed to get there – will your chosen pathway allow you to achieve this?"