Thought Leadership: Shift to Drive — How to Get Your Career Going Again

By Denise P. Kalm, Chief Innovator at Kalm Creative, Inc.

When did you last get a raise or a promotion? Are you struggling to stay interested in your work because it has become routine and perhaps even boring? For most of us, the long hours and unceasing demands make it hard to find time for career planning. When you don’t plan, you might find that your career is stuck on idle. Your company’s happy; you get the tough stuff done, and they don’t have to find someone else to do it. How’s that working out for you? Couldn’t it be better?                   

Your manager is motivated to keep you exactly where you are because you are performing a valuable service. Though some managers will offer to help you plan your career, ultimately you’re the one who cares, so you are the one who has to take action. You have to make a plan.

While some may start by looking at what positions are available (internally or externally), that’s not the best approach. First, you have to figure out what it is you want to do next. While it might be some version of the job you have now, until you understand what you want, you aren’t going to get it. It’s like setting out on a drive; with no destination, you aren’t going to know when you’ve arrived.

The best way to understand what you really want is to list the kinds of things you’re good at. In a mainframe career, your list might include:

  • Problem solving
  • Monitoring systems
  • Creating complex solutions
  • The desire to learn new things every day

You want to make a long, detailed list. Are you great at analyzing database performance problems? Do you intrinsically understand security? Include everything you’re good at, even if you don’t think it relates or makes sense in the context of mainframe work. List it even if you haven’t done it in a while, as long as you still believe you’re good at it. Many people find they have been reorganized into new positions that aren’t a great fit with their given skillset. Give the list creating process a few days to figure it out.

When you have a good, long list, go back and circle the things you still enjoy doing. It’s funny, but in IT, we often find that we have migrated into areas we can do but don’t want to do anymore. Mainframe performance can be fun, but when you find yourself trying to tune a UNIX box, you may find the absence of useful metrics annoying. Create a new list that shows the items that you are great at and love to do. In my coaching practice, I call this the “Happiness Intersection.” Your new list can help you figure out what you should do next. By reading them over and comparing them to jobs you hear about, you can readily pick the right job and craft it into one you can shine at.

If your job is close to what you like but isn’t perfect, this list can help you transform it. Oftentimes, everyone in a group has similar work, but no one is good at every aspect nor do they like every task. Try offering to pick up a task a coworker doesn’t like in exchange for a task you don’t particularly enjoy. This transformational exercise takes a supportive manager, but there’s a lot in this for him or her to like. When you are doing what you are good at and love, you’re likely to excel at it. Rearranging tasks within your group can make the whole team more productive and ensure that your manager shines. It’s a win-win situation.

When I did product marketing and management for a software company, most people I met hated to write. They could do what was needed, but when writing really had to entice customers, getting enthusiastic writers was a real struggle. I’m a writer; it’s what I love to do and what I’m good at. By rearranging some of the work, I got rid of tasks I didn’t enjoy and took on more writing. From feeling less than enthused about my role, I turned it around and ended up loving my job. This one step will not only make your work hours better, but by focusing on the things you’re good at, you’ll rise to the top and be rewarded.

It may take a little time to do the work, but thinking about what you love and excel at is actually fun. Most of us don’t recognize our excellence often enough so this exercise can be rewarding in the short term, too. Mostly, it’s all about designing a mainframe career you can love. Give it a try and take the next step!

Denise P. Kalm is the chief innovator at Kalm Kreative, Inc. and a board-certified career coach with DPK Coaching. Her more than 30 years of experience in IT informs her work in both marketing and coaching. She has been a capacity planning/performance analyst, as well as working in pre-sales and marketing as a software vendor. She is a published author in both the IT and outside worlds and a frequently requested speaker. Her three books, “Lifestorm” (fiction), “Career Savvy – Keeping & Transforming Your Job,” and “Tech Grief – Survive & Thrive Through Career Loss,” co-authored with Linda Donovan, are available on all book and e-book sites. Her most recent book, “First Job Savvy – Get a Job, Start Your Career,” will help people who are entering the work world find jobs they love quicker and easier.

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