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Getting unstuck: How to press the “restart” button in your career

Published Date:
Apr 4, 2014

Spring, with its spirit of renewal, is the perfect time to breathe new life into your career (and dust off all those work-related resolutions you made on New Year’s Day). These six action items will help you to keep your professional pursuits moving in the right direction, especially if you’ve been on cruise control all winter.

1. Have more face-to-face conversations. When done purposefully, they put you in a position to score useful information and build relationships at the same time. Ask your peers, your manager, and your clients about their roles, projects and passions. The more you know, the better you can determine what you need to do to stand out and be of more value to the team. It will also help you to build a rapport with these individuals—and when people feel they can relate to you, they are more willing to help you advance your career. So start talking.

2. Do a gut-check. Are your short-term goals in alignment with your long-term vision? By asking yourself this question—and answering it honestly—you’ll have a better sense of where you are career-wise and a good reminder to let your goals guide your actions. You may even find that you don’t have a strong sense of your long-term vision, in which case I would suggest you get to work on your individual development plan (IDP). An IDP is a strategic plan that encourages you to identify, in writing, your goals, the steps you must take to reach them, your strengths and your weaknesses. It requires you to think about how you would like to see yourself grow, as well as the skills you must hone to reach your target. For a blank template of an IDP, visit

3. Revisit your last performance review. Your review likely contains important feedback from a higher-up and goals that he or she would like you to work towards. Revisiting the annual review will also help you to remind yourself of the skills you may need to develop—and any projects you might have promised to take on. This could be especially crucial if you’re angling for a raise or promotion.

4. Ask for feedback. Feedback is the greatest gift you can receive to help you advance your career. Information is power—after all, you must know what you need to improve in order to act on it and receive affirmation on things you do well so you can continue to do so. Encourage others—colleagues you trust, your mentors in the workplace and your manager or firm partner—to share their observations about you with you. These are invaluable insights that you may or may not see for yourself. As a reminder, once you’ve received feedback, whether it’s something you like or not, be thankful and express your gratitude. It is just as tough giving feedback as it is receiving feedback.

5. Make your interests known. Your managers and firm partners aren’t mind readers—it’s your responsibility to keep projects that are important to you on their radar. You don’t want to be overlooked when your firm is ready to pursue new opportunities because you kept quiet. Even if your managers know of your interests, reiterate them to emphasize their importance to you.

6. Check the want ads. Once, while taking the subway in New York City, I saw a job search ad that read: “A smart person is always looking.” Its wise words still resonate with me. Now, this doesn’t mean that I’m telling you to change jobs. What keeping your eyes and ears open really does is encourage you to stay competitive—if you make a habit of assessing which skills are in demand on accounting and financial job boards, you’ll get a better sense of where you stand in the marketplace, which could either elevate your confidence or be the push you need to develop new skills. You must have your pulse on the market to avoid becoming stagnant. To take it a step further, browse job postings at the next level to assess how much more you need to learn to get there.

Pei-Cen Lin, CPA, SPHR, is a strategic talent management and organizational development professional in the human resources field. She can be reached at

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