Do you ever wake up and wonder, "How did I get here?" Our careers often happen to us, rather than for us. Outside influences of chance and opportunity are often fueled by the excitement of the challenge and the ego boost of being "just what the company needs right now". These opportunities often result in a rapid rise to the top, but the top of what? In a soft job market, we may feel pressured to take whatever comes along; years later finding ourselves in a career that doesn’t remotely resemble what we envisioned.

The wake-up call may be triggered by a career crisis, life change, boredom, or even pending retirement. It may come on gradually as a growing sense of dissatisfaction or be felt like a great epiphany. A sidetracked job is often a factor in a mid-life crisis for both men and women as they mourn the loss of career expectations. The realization is often accompanied by a feeling of being stuck in the current state. “It’s too late to change careers midstream.” “I can’t afford to have the career I really want.” “There is too much risk in making a change now.” Then comes the heart-rending decision: “I’ll just hang on until I retire. Then I’ll be happy.” Whether retirement is five or fifteen years away, this decision can seriously dampen the fire of passion for work and can noticeably dull professional edge.

So what is the secret of driving your career and leveraging the power of divine chance? How can you get back in the driver’s seat and take your career where you want it to go? What will refuel your passion for work and hone your professional edge? Begin by reconnecting with what you really want. Designing the perfect career scenario for yourself will help re-ignite your fire. Use this energy to create momentum and develop a plan that will propel you forward towards what you really want. Each step gets you closer to your custom-designed career and further from the til-death-do-us-part job.

Tips for powerful ladder leaping:
• Let go of “what might have been” thinking. Instead, focus on what powerful skills you have acquired while taking advantage of different opportunities. Begin a Unique Skills inventory on yourself. This is no time to be humble so showcase your special traits on paper. What unique skills do you have to offer that are not being utilized today?
• Know what success means to you. What career components fit with your own personal definition of success? Answer the following question: “I know how successful I am by how…” (A full exercise worksheet is available in the resource section below). This deceptively simple exercise shines the light on how your career can bring you the most personal satisfaction.
• Define what you really want. What pieces of your current career do not fit who you are today? What have your past roles taught you about your working style? What are you doing when you are most effective? Least effective? Using a combination of your Unique Skills, your Success Definition, working style and what you know you don’t want, create a Perfect Job Description for yourself. Include role, environment, $$, staff, hours, accomplishments, and how you will spend your time. Be specific!
• Make a change today! Find one small (or large) way to change your current job to better fit with your perfect job description. Challenge yourself to break the pattern of your current role in a way that has more meaning and substance for you. Crack that career cement!
• Hold all future job opportunities up against the model of your Perfect Job Description. For roles that don’t fit where you want to be, ask yourself what is motivating you to consider it. It is about meeting a challenge? Making more money? Is there something you are trying to prove? Someone you are trying to please (other than yourself)? Compare how you want to make your career decisions with how you are making them.
• Create a strategy to get yourself from where you are today to your Perfect Job. What new skills will you need to acquire? Who do you need to bring into your professional community? Are adjustments needed to your living style or location? What barriers will you need to overcome? Write it down, with specific action steps to keep you moving.
• Do what it takes to make the first step happen!

Coaching Challenge:
Take the time to contemplate and capture your own personal definition of success on paper. This simple self-discovery can be very enlightening.

Ask yourself, “How does my current career support my definition of success? What are the gaps between the success I want and the success I have?”

Take one action that doubles the passion you feel for your work.

"Are you bored with life? Then throw yourself into some work you believe in with all your heart, live for it, die for it, and you will find happiness that you had thought could never be yours.” ~ Dale Carnegie

Author's Bio: 

Teresa Pool is the President and founder of Transitions for Life. She is a professional coach with a passion for assisting individuals in achieving their full potential. Her specialty is re-energizing careers; guiding executives, professionals and business owners through transformational change. Transitions for Life focuses on motivating change, supporting leaders through significant challenges, diverting career burnout, preparing for promotion and improving performance at all levels. She has been coaching professionally since January 2000 and is credentialed by the International Coach Federation as a Professional Certified Coach (PCC). A Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA) and Neuro Linguistic Practitioner, Teresa specializes in improving business communication and relationships. She is a staff coach for the University of Texas Executive MBA program.