How do I decide on the next step?

A self-coaching exercise for career progress

Do you have a constant, nagging feeling that you’ve somehow stumbled onto the wrong career path? Or, maybe, you feel you’re on the right career path, but you’ve stalled somewhere along the line? Perhaps you feel you’re on the right road, but you’ve stalled somewhere along the line.

Have you simply come to the end with your current employer, and now feel you need a change? You may not actually be in employment right now, but that you’re not sure what your next step should be. Or do you feel you’re on the right career path, but you’ve stalled somewhere along the line?

Most of us have been, or will get to, one or more of these points in our lives. Obviously, I’d recommend hiring a Career Coach (me, for instance!). But, as I’m a good guy and I like to help people, I thought I’d give you an exercise to do a little work yourself towards finding the next step on your journey.

The Exercise

To do this, set yourself around an hour, with no distractions, with a pen and paper (or keyboard and screen, or a voice recording app, depending what works best for you). You’ll also need something to time yourself with.

For each question below, set your timer for five minutes. Fill those five minutes with writing – there are no right or wrong answers here, just write, write, write until the timer beeps. Don’t worry about what you are writing, don’t look back, just commit your thoughts to paper. Think of it as a brain dump. If you find yourself continuing to write after the timer, that’s fine, just make sure you keep digging deep for at least five minutes. 

After you’ve answered each question, move straight onto the next question without reviewing or thinking about what you’ve already written.

When you’ve answered all of the questions, put your paper away in a draw/click save and close the file.

The Questions

  1. Where am I in my career today? How did I get here – from cradle to now?
  2. In my current/most recent role, what did I get the most enjoyment from?
  3. What do I enjoy the least about my current/most recent role?
  4. What am I most proud of?
  5. Core values – what is important to me? What are my rules for living?
  6. What are my strengths and skills?
  7. Where would I like to be in other aspects of my life (ie. Social, financial, health, relationships) in one year from now?
  8. Where would I like to be in other aspects of my life three years from now?

Give yourself at least 24 hours before you go back to the exercise. You will no doubt find yourself thinking about these questions throughout the day (and maybe even in your dreams – but don’t let that giant blue giraffe talk you into anything).

Photo by Christian Domingues on

The morning after the night before

After your 24+ hours, read what you wrote in ‘part one’, adding anything that you feel you missed, then move on to the next questions – these are yes/no, so there is no need to set a timer, just be honest with yourself:

  1. Do the things I enjoy in my current role significantly outweigh those that I don’t enjoy?
  2. Is my current role aligned with my values?
  3. Are my strengths and skills utilised in my current role?
  4. Will my current role allow me to achieve my 1 and 3 year vision for the other aspects of my life?

If the answer to any of the above four questions is ‘no’, is there the ability to move or progress within your current organisation to a role that you feel would change all of them to ‘yes’? What is the first step you would need to take to achieve this?

Perhaps your answers point to an obvious career choice, in which case, well done, now decide the first step.

Otherwise, now it’s time to brainstorm roles and companies that would potentially align. Use jobsites, Google searches, speak to friends and family, people in your network, etc.

A Career Coach

Whatever the outcome of this exercise, you now have at least one action to take the next step into your future, and that’s all that ever really matters.

Of course, for all of these scenarios, hiring a career coach is a good idea (hint hint).

Good luck!!


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