A Facebook friend messaged recently asking this question about career strategies:

How do you know when to set down what looked like a good idea, or even a good goal/decision, and really tell yourself honestly, “It's time to walk away from this one. It just didn't work out.”?

He is in a work situation different than his previous job, and finds himself in a situation stretching his implementation skills beyond his comfort level. His concern was whether it makes sense to try working through the implementation skills issues even though he there is a very real possibility of crashing and burning in the job. The alternative was going back to his previous company in a new strategic role.

I told him this was a fantastic career strategy question and to expect my response that day to wind up in a future Brainzooming blog post.

Today’s the day.

Career Strategy Questions to Ask

If you find yourself in a comparable career strategy conundrum, here are seven yes/no questions to consider:

  • Is pursuing this idea / goal distracting from other things that are more important to me or to others important to me?
  • Are things still moving forward, even if it's slower than I'd like, or is it stalled or even going backward?
  • Has the time simply passed for this idea / goal? Am I hanging on to something that even if it's accomplished is going to be too little, too late?
  • Is sticking with it going to take disproportionate effort / resources / time that really have very little chance of paying back - whether financial or in other ways?
  • Are there pieces of what I've accomplished with this idea / goal that I can break off and advance with greater success?
  • If I put this on my "things I'm never going to do list," would I actually feel better than having it on my to-do list but not getting it done?


Direction to Seek

As I told my Facebook friend, beyond the questions, the most important thing I’d do is pray about what I should do and then wait.

With prayer, answers don’t come on our schedule. It could be the situation vexing him may have been dropped into his lap to open him to something else entirely.

For example, what you are pursuing that you THOUGHT you wanted may really serve to make you realize SOMETHING ELSE is the right thing. You may be presented not with obvious opportunities but with those that move you in the right ultimate direction.

Changing Career Strategies

My friend is relatively early in his career. One advantage is there is much less of a stigma associated with frequent career changes now, particularly if you can demonstrate how you grew and the moves were part of your career strategy.

There are definitely advantages to making changes on your own terms (if you can) rather than waiting to crash on a particular job. It is easier earlier in your career to experiment, try things, and recover, if necessary.

For those more advanced in their careers, there are still opportunities to change direction. These often involve, however, creating your own company or be willing to become a free agent in the job market.

No matter where you are in your career, however, it’s increasingly difficult to expect you can get by without strong implementation skills. Business should be about “DOING smart things.”

That three-word phrase implies both strategy AND implementation.

It is sad seeing people well into their careers who don’t have the skills to make things happen. While not everyone is a natural implementer, I know people who have had decades of missed opportunities to improve their implementation skills. Even now, they won’t address getting better at implementation so they just drift, and NOT in a good way.

Any of You Made Big Changes in Career Strategies?

While this article still reflects the specificity I offered my friend, I’m guessing a number of you are in similar situations with your career strategies:

  • I made a big change.
  • The big change isn’t working.
  • When should I retreat and get back to my original path?

If that’s where you find yourself, I wouldn’t necessarily expect you to comment. But if you want to reach out and discuss the situation, let me know. Mike Brown

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