Not every job takes us forward in a career path. All careers involve short cuts, detours, loops, and roundabouts. Just as some job candidates misrepresent their experience on their resume, some employers misrepresent what the job they are offering actually involves. By the time you realize that the job isn’t all it is cracked up to be, you’ve left your old position and you’re fully committed to your new one.

Realize that things aren’t working out

The first point you need to reach is the one where you figure out that things in the new position aren’t working out like you hoped and that they are unlikely to improve. It might be that your duties are substantially different to the duties you believed you would be undertaking. It could be that the management environment isn’t as positive or conducive to the ongoing growth of your career as you hoped. What you do understand is that if you stay in the position you will be spinning your wheels rather than progressing in your career.

It’s not always a new position

It’s not always that you’re in a new position when a position turns from an opportunity into a dead end. It could be that the company you work for undergoes changes. In my own experience, I was once recruited by a company that had big plans back to expand its online offerings and my recruitment was part of that strategy. A few weeks after I came on board, the company was taken over by a competitor and all those plans were put on-hold for the immediate future. While I was offered the chance to tread water to see what would come of it, I chose to move on because I knew that the job was a stepping stone and not a final destination. I realized that if I stayed, I probably wouldn’t have left because I’d have become too comfortable in a job that wasn’t really taking me where I thought it might.

Sometimes you just misplace your job

Sometimes you just turn up to work and your boss calls you into the office and tells you that you’re being let go. It’s not about you or your performance, it’s just that organizational forces beyond your control mean that headcount needs to be reduced and your head is one of the numbers that need to be sacrificed to balance the ledger.

I have a friend who had been at a new place 6 months and was the best performing member of the team. Unfortunately the company he worked for lost some major contracts and had to restructure. Their policy was “last in, first out”, so my friend, even though he was the top performer, was made redundant. A job that seemed like a good opportunity evaporated over the course of a meeting.

The same friend, a few years later, was working as an IT manager at another company that decided to scale back its Australian operations due to the rising Australian dollar. A valuable worker, they offered my friend a position in Europe or a redundancy. He had a young family that wasn’t ready to move, so he took the payout.

It was how my friend responded to those quickly changing circumstances that kept him moving forward in his career. He learned always to have an idea of what he would do next if he turned up at work one day and he was told that his services were no longer required. When that day came, he knew what he needed to do next.

Have a plan to move forward

Once you’ve realized that things aren’t going to work out, or find that they aren’t working out due to circumstances beyond your control, you need to plan your next move. In the best of all worlds you will avoid taking the next immediate opportunity (unless it is really good) because that’s unlikely to keep you moving forward in your career path. You don’t want to take the next immediate opportunity, you want to take the next opportunity that is right for you.

For my friend it meant he worked out where he was going and how he was going to get there. Because he had a plan, setbacks were more like detours rather than career derailing events. He knew which friends to call, which recruiters to check in with and what steps to take go get moving again. He found a job that suited him and kept his career on track.

Always have a plan

As I’ve mentioned in other articles, you should always have a few things in mind if you want to keep your career growing. The first is “what skill should I be learning next?” as being employed in information technology requires us to always be learning new technologies as existing ones become obsolete. Resources such as the Gooroo engine can help you determine what to learn next because it will give you an idea of the relative value and demand of specific skills. If you’re always learning, you’re maintaining some form of forward career momentum.

The next thing to keep in mind is where you want to go next. The question about “where do you see yourself in a few years’ time” isn’t just something you should think about before a job interview, it’s something you should keep in mind when you are thinking about the direction of your career. Avoid being in a position of not knowing where you want to go next because you haven’t given it any consideration.

Few careers are stories of direct progression. All careers involve short cuts, detours, loops, and roundabouts. A key understanding is to keep your goals in mind and not lose sight of not only where you are, but where you want to be and how you can get there.