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  • 4m.

    Are You Building Career Momentum?

    New grads typically work in entry-level positions for 2 to 5 years. If you become frustrated before that, discuss your options with your manager and identify your career goals to decide whether to move on.
    Updated: January 13, 2016

    What You'll Learn

    • The importance of setting expectations and goals for your career.
    • How to figure out when it's time to move on.
    • Why you should talk to your boss about your career goals.
    A woman sitting at a desk writing on paper.

    During the early stages of your career, it isn't always easy to wait for your hard work to be rewarded. After a few years in an entry-level position, it may seem like the next step in your professional development simply isn't going to happen.

    If that's the case for you, you may want to have a conversation about it with your boss, or it might be time to move on to a new employer. By understanding your career momentum, you can avoid frustration and take control of your career from the very start.

    Set Your Expectations

    Generally, new grads stay in entry level positions for 2 to 5 years, depending on the profession and specific circumstances. While there's no way to gain 5 years of experience in just 1 year, there are ways to add momentum to you career growth.

    Your career is a process of constantly building and proving your value. You'll be in that first job for as long as it takes you to demonstrate that you're ready for the next challenge. For some people, the next step may come quickly. For others, it may never arrive.

    To keep your career moving forward, stay focused on the value you provide. If you have an idea of the trajectory you want to follow, talk to your boss about how you can get there. He or she should be able to tell you what your next step would be at your current company and how you can prove that you're ready for that role when the time comes.

    Assess Your Situation

    If you're feeling restless in your entry-level position, evaluate the fit by assessing your situation thoroughly and objectively. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

    • Are you feeling appropriately challenged, or are you frequently bored or stressed?
    • Have you shown that you're ready to take on more responsibility?
    • Can you identify some concrete accomplishments you've achieved?
    • Are your expectations for this position or company based on reality?

    If you've demonstrated accomplishments and growth during your time in your current role, but you aren't getting what you want out of the position, then it's time to take action. You need to decide if your future lies with your current company or if you'd be better off looking elsewhere for your next step.

    Talk To Your Boss About Your Goals

    Having a mature and professional conversation with your supervisor is a good first step to help him or her understand your needs. If you're ready to move up in your company, let your boss know why you deserve a chance. He or she may not be aware of some of your accomplishments, so share specific examples of how you handle extra responsibilities or how you consistently exceed the expectations of your current position.

    It's possible that your boss isn't aware of your career goals. He or she may have simply assumed that you'd be content remaining in your current role for a while longer. Or, it could be that there aren't any available positions that he or she can help you move into right now. Maybe the company already plans to promote you, but it can't right now due to other budget constraints or other reasons. Or, you could learn that there's an entirely different reason why your career isn't moving forward as fast as you'd like it to.

    Once you speak with your boss, you'll both have more information to work with. Consider what he or she tells you, and weigh all of your options carefully. You might find that there are new, more fulfilling ways that you can add more value to the company. If not, now may be your time to move on to new opportunities.

    Plan Your Next Move

    If you decide that finding a new company is your best option, take some time to figure out what you hope to get out of your next job. Start by making a list of the things that you like about your current job, and the things that are most important to you in your career.

    Here are some examples of things you may want to include:

    • Pays well
    • Offers good working conditions
    • Challenges you
    • Allows independence
    • Requires responsibility
    • Includes a variety of activities
    • Allows creativity
    • Requires important decisions
    • Meets your skills
    • Provides contact with people
    • Offers influence/authority
    • Has supervisory opportunities
    • Has growth potential
    • Provides rewards and recognition
    • Offers job security
    • Aligns with your career goals

    Once you have your list, prioritize the items in order of your "most wanted" characteristics. Then, think about how your current position measures up to your priorities. This should help you better understand what you hope to gain and avoid in your career.

    Leaving your job for a new one is a serious decision, but it can be a necessary step in achieving the career you've always wanted. There's no way to be absolutely sure that you'll like your next role, or that it will be an upgrade over your current situation. However, you can improve your chances of finding your dream job by evaluating all of your options and identifying your career goals before making your next move.

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