Make Your Career Move
YP—Our jobs are so much more than just a place we spend a majority of our waking hours – our job is something we invest a part of ourselves. So it should come as no surprise that planning your next career move is important! As you progress in your career, it's critical that to consider what you want to accomplish and what makes you feel successful.by Jen Moore, YPAC Chair
I've regularly struggled with long-term career planning. It's hard for me as a young professional to plan what I'm going to be doing next month, let alone five years down the road. Five years seems so far away if you've only been the workforce for a few years! Instead of planning your career five or more years out, start small – formulate your career path 18 month – 2 years at a time and reevaluate that strategy as things change in your life. You probably don't want to plan to relocate to a new state when you get serious with your significant other. You also probably don't want to take on a new position around the same time as you are expecting a baby. As a YP, it's a safe bet that you will experience at least one major life change before you turn 36.
What type of career moves can you make?
The Pawn - Succession Planning
Yea, yea, yea – no one wants to be a Pawn. But remember that a pawn which makes it to the end of the Chess board gets promoted to another piece of that player's choice! So think of the Pawn as the entry level employee that can transform itself into an expert.
As more senior employees retire they often leave without passing on their 30+ years of knowledge and experience. It can be a shrewd career move to become part of a succession plan. Succession planning includes shadowing an experienced employee and learning what they do, how they do it and why. The key is to collaborate with the expert and leverage their past experience to learn about this area quickly and avoid some of the mistakes they may have made in the past. Essentially, you can carve out a niche for yourself and become an expert in the field very early in your career. Most importantly – you will probably have to ask for this opportunity and plan to initiate the process at least a year before that expert retires.
The Rook - Job Change
Just as the Rook moves laterally on a Chess board, expect to make lateral movements during your career. Not every job change comes with increased responsibilities or salary. Some are simply a change in your role or specialty.
The environmental field has many specialties that you can explore, so don't feel compelled to stick to the same specialty your whole career. An environmental professional specializing in air quality can transition into roles for other media (like waste management, wastewater, or stormwater management). You can also change into a role that has a different work product such as regulatory analysis, auditing, permitting or field work. While some of these role changes may require you to change companies, you don't always have to leave your company to try something new. If you want to stay with your employer but serve in another role, don't be afraid to talk to your manager about your interests. Your manager cares about your career interests and may be able to facilitate the process. If you think you need to look outside of your employer, be sure to leverage your professional network to learn about new opportunities and what the new discipline requires.
The Knight - Career Change
The Knight has one of the most unique movements on the Chess board – moving in the shape of an “L.” Career changes are also quite unique (and sometimes awkward) and move someone over a barrier that they were experiencing.
Do any of these statements sound familiar?
- “I've been in the same role for a while and it just doesn't make me happy.”
- “I don't feel that my talents are valued.”
- “I'm not growing professionally anymore.”
- “This position doesn't allow me to be myself.”
If they do, these are all signs that you may need a career change. A career change generally means that you take a completely new direction in your career. Depending on the job, you may need to go back to school to achieve this transition. You will need to learn new skills and abilities. Moving into a new field of work will take a lot of hard work but lucky for you, the soft skills you've developed (technical writing and communications, negotiating, problem-solving, etc.) translate to any position you take.
The Bishop - Promotion
Just as the Bishop can move diagonally across the Chess board, an employee can also advance in their career along a specific technical track.
If you are looking to move up the technical ladder in your organization, a promotion is your rung. Ultimately time and challenging work will allow you to go from an “environmental engineer” to an “environmental specialist” and so on. Expect to work hard and do more technically challenging work as you advance. If you feel you are ready for a promotion, talk to your manager to make sure you agree on what both of you need to do to help you achieve the next job grade. This may require you to serve in a leadership position outside of your organization (like your local A&WMA Section or Chapter) or attain a license or certification (i.e. Professional Engineer license). Please be aware that you may have to stay at a specific job level for a specific duration before you are considered for a promotion – it's an old school mentality that some companies or managers still adhere to.
The Queen - Management
The Queen is the most power piece in the game so it's fitting that she symbolize a manager or supervisor.
Becoming a supervisor or manager is not about having power or a larger paycheck, it's about enabling your team to succeed! If you like developing a strategy, forming teams, and executing that plan, this could be the move for you. You will need to be a leader and a coach for your team. You will represent not just yourself, but your organization. You will have to balance schedules, cost, quality and staff. Don't forget that there are less glamorous parts like performance reviews, managing budgets, extra hours and handling discipline.
The King - No Move
The King - No Move
The King is the most important piece in Chess but it is also the least mobile.
While it may not seem like a good idea to stay in the same position for a long time, sometimes it's the best option for you. Maybe you like your current job and don't want anything to change – and that's OK! If you are assigned interesting and challenging work then why leave? Or maybe your personal situations requires you to stay put for a while (e.g. expecting a baby, waiting to get vested). Sometimes no move is the right move and only you can make that decision.
Remember that no move is the wrong move. Even if the decision you made doesn't work out exactly how you pictured it, you will learn something from the experience. You will learn about yourself, your profession, and what really matters to you! I'm going to leave you with this excerpt from The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis:
“Make your choice, adventurous Stranger,Strike the bell and bide the danger,Or wonder, till it drives you mad,What would have followed if you had.”