How to Figure Out Your Next Career Move: Your North Star

Whether you have been laid off or it’s just time for a change, it’s helpful to deeply reflect on what you want and need in this next phase of your career. For the last year, many of my clients have wrestled with the question, “What’s next?” so I have developed a process that I customize for each client. I have summarized an adaptable template for you to use or share with others.

The answers to these questions are what I call Your North Star. Think of a ship sailing across the ocean at night; the North Star guides the ship in the direction you need to go. The answers to the questions below work similarly; they guide your ship by clarifying your desires, needs, and best next steps.

My clients are fortunate – they aren’t in a position where they have to take whatever job comes first without discernment. They can choose, at least to some extent, what they want to do, where they want to work, and who they want to work with. Some of them have the opposite problem – they have an array of options and aren’t sure how to choose.

Your North Star does several things for you:

  1. It allows you to name desires or needs that you hadn’t put words to before (and some might even surprise you).
  2. It focuses your job search.
  3. It helps you ask better questions during job interviews.
  4. It empowers you to clearly communicate what you want.
  5. It helps you filter your options to make the best choice for you.

When I do this process with my clients, I customize the questions for them, their role, or business. Then, I let them reflect and talk while I take notes for them on a shared document. I ask follow-up questions, connect dots for them, and reflect on their career journeys and how this next phase needs to be different. I point out things we’ve discussed that they might have left out.

So, to make the most out of this process, here are some tips for success:

  1. Customize these questions or add additional questions that are uniquely tailored to you.
  2. Go through your answers with someone who can mentor you through this, i.e., a coach, mentor, trusted colleague, etc. If you’d like to work with me, there are details at the end of this article.

Your North Star Inquiry Questions

1. What do you love doing that feels like flow?

There are tasks you are good at, tasks you don’t like, and tasks that feel practically effortless and give you energy. The energizing tasks you love tell me a lot about the kind of contribution and impact you are uniquely designed to have. When we understand more about what you love, we can target your job search to emphasize your strengths and capacities.

2. What superpowers, skills, and experience do you most want to contribute?

What do you have in your Toolbox of Skills, Knowledge, and Capacity that you most want to use, give, and contribute? Or, put another way, what would you feel sad not to use? Would you feel underutilized if you didn’t use particular skills/knowledge?

3. What impact do you want to have?

At this phase in your career, what’s the impact and legacy you want to have? What would feel fulfilling to offer, complete, or achieve?

4. What do you want to learn? How do you want to grow in your career?

This is the other side of the coin from the skills/knowledge you want to share. Being intentional about the skills and knowledge you want to gain next is empowering and informative; it might change the company, industry, or role you take on next.

5. What do you need logistically – location, compensation, hours, etc?

Most of the time, this is the easiest question to answer. I recommend being honest with yourself about what you can reasonably put up with and what you would ideally love.

6. What’s the human relationship experience you want to have?

We dismiss the importance of this question, but the relationships we have at work matter as much as the work itself. A toxic or misaligned company culture can be the death of a role for you or negatively impact your health (I have clients who have taken health sabbaticals to recover from toxic work cultures).

What do you want to experience in terms of:

  • Collaboration?
  • Company culture (even if it’s your own company and you set the culture)?
  • Partner, stakeholder, customer, or client relationships?
  • Relationships with direct reports?
  • Relationships with bosses or board members (if relevant)?

7. What does your heart/gut/wisdom tell you?

I ask this question to access information that’s in your periphery or under the surface of the water. One of the principles of my coaching is that we biologically have three brains and we need to use them – mind, heart, and gut. When I ask, “What does your heart tell you?” and/or “What does your gut tell you?” it usually illuminates one or more of the following: 1) unprocessed or subconscious emotion, 2) instinct/intuition, or 3) wisdom. In my experience, everyone has a unique voice of wisdom inside, and I have learned to trust my clients’ inner knowing, especially when it comes to their next steps and career direction.

I hope this supports you to take the next steps of career growth. Please share this with anyone who could benefit. If you would like to work with me and are new to my work, you can start with a free 30-minute intro session to see if my work is a fit for you. Schedule your free 30-minute intro session here.

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