Managing Your Career

by Barbara Buffton

What are your options?

Opportunities to grow and progress your career are many and varied. For example, you could consider some or all of the following:

  • Moving sideways
  • Taking time out (for example, a secondment, a sabbatical, gap year or unpaid leave)
  • Training
  • Bidding for promotion
  • Taking on new challenges
  • Changing jobs
  • Changing companies
  • Changing careers.

Get creative

It pays to think laterally when considering your options, as you may come up with something completely different to the norm, but which suits you perfectly. If you’re not used to thinking in this way, see if anyone else can throw around some ideas with you. Let’s take the following scenario as an example:


Tim was feeling restless in his job – he definitely wanted to take some time out for himself, but didn’t really know what to do about it. His boss wanted to keep him on board and suggested he take unpaid leave for up to three months to get it out of his system.

That was one option.

Thinking more creatively, Tim asked himself ‘What would I do with the time off?’ He came up with the following list of options:

  • Learn a language
  • Become a non-executive director of another company
  • Do some voluntary work
  • Teach English to immigrants
  • Help build a hut in Africa.

Next, with the help of his family and friends, he looked at his list and assessed which of the options he could actually do, to one degree or other, in his normal holiday allocation or in his spare time. The question then was: would this be enough? In other words, would it be enough to stem the tide of dissatisfaction in his job? Enough to re-engage his work focus?

In Tim’s case, it did the trick. He decided to do something new and different in his holidays, based on his list of desires. That was his starting point. He knew that if he then still felt he needed a longer break from his job, that option was still on the table. He was happy with his solution, and so was his boss!

Take it easy

What man’s mind can create, man’s character can control.

Thomas Edison

Sometimes the easier tactic is to search for the value and change within the structure that is in place. For example, what do you like about your job that you could get more of, without too much effort? What do you want to do that you could do outside work and that would help meet some of your values? If you’re unsure of your values, go to Where are you now? and work through the questions.

Another way of looking at it is this: how small does a change have to be to make things better for you? Sometimes we tend to throw the baby out with the bathwater when all we need to do is add a little more hot water and some bubble bath. For instance, instead of changing companies to get more challenge in your job, you might simply need to take advantage of any learning opportunities offered to you for your continuous professional development.

Advice to line managers

Helping individual members of your team to consider their options means helping them look beyond your department to see what might have an impact on their careers – negative or positive.

You will need to be aware of your company’s growth areas and limitations as well as changes in the skills that your industry will require.

Why not help your employees to consider, not just one way forward, but multiple career paths? The more career goals you and your employee identify, the better.


The biggest career frustrations occur when an employee’s only goal is thwarted.

Next step

Now you’re hopefully clearer about your options, you might want to consider how to start implementing the ones you want to take up – see Getting there.