The four stages of your career and decision points at each stage

By Dr Joe Abah @DrJoeAbah

Today, I want to talk about career decisions. To my mind, there are essentially four phases to your career. Each phase requires you to make a set of decisions that may or may not determine your future. This is not an expert’s view and is not universally true.

In Phase 1, you have to make a decision whether to look for anything at all to do that brings you money & keeps you occupied, or you just want to stay home, feel sorry for yourself and blame everything on others – your parents, the older generation, politicians, village people.

If you decide to just blame everybody else, you will feel a sense of righteousness but it won’t pay the bills. Somebody will ask you: “Na only you?” When Tobi Amusan broke the world record and some said it was wind-assisted, someone rightfully asked: Na only she the wind blow?

If you decide to just take any job, it may not be a job you enjoy doing. You need to be clear that you are just doing it to keep body and soul together. Look at your overall boss and ask yourself: Is this person living my dream life? Is this all I want in life?

If the answer is Yes, stay and learn the job. Focus on how you can get better at it than everyone else. You may still hate it, or hate the phase of it that you are in, but you have a goal. Take the pain, work hard and improve yourself by learning new skills related to the job.

If you want more from life than the life of your overall boss, invest in learning new skills that may target a completely different career. Learn different ones. You don’t know the one that will gel. At a point, you will come to another decision point. Do I still stay or leave?

If you are young, single and have limited responsibilities, you may decide to just leave, so that you have time to focus on getting yourself into that new career. Going to work everyday and working long hours for money will not leave you time to even think about your future.

However, if you have a family to look after, you would need to think very carefully about where the children’s next school, the next house rent, food money, etc., will come from. Many that just quit with no ready alternative often underestimate how long it takes to stabilise.

If another job that pays more comes up, take it. Remember that you may still hate it but the extra money will reduce the pain. At this stage in your career, you need to be ruthless. You just need to earn more. Loyalty is mainly to yourself & the needs of those that depend on you.

In Phase 2, you have acquired some skills and experience. You have more of a choice. Of every 20 job applications, you can expect to get at least 2 invitations to an interview. You may even have some savings. Another decision point: do I continue in this line I hate or leave?

If you choose to leave, it would be easier if you’ve saved up enough to pay your bills for 2 years. You’ll have time to focus on a new career. However, many won’t have that much savings. School fees and rent are due soon. You need to continue to train your siblings. You stay.

In Phase 3, you are finally comfortable. You are getting to the top of that job you hate. The bigger pay makes it less painful to wake up and set out in the morning. You are in demand in your industry. Other organisations may even headhunt you. Another decision point: stay or go?

This is another point to look at the life of your overall boss and wonder whether or not that’s your dream life. At this point, you are leading a function and making decisions that affect the career of others. You are trusted with sensitive information. Loyalty becomes important.

The decision is: do I work my way to become the overall boss in this organisation or do I have a better chance of reaching the top if I go somewhere else? You may also not care about reaching the top because you don’t want all the stress that comes with ultimate responsibility.

The answer really depends on what you really want deep down. If you want leadership, you may need to go and become a big fish in a smaller pond. If you want money or a quiet life, it may be better to stay and, as a manager, earn more than the Chief Exec of a smaller organisation.

In Phase 4, it may still not be your dream job but you don’t now hate it quite as much. You’re now looking at the rest of your life, thinking: “If I must leave, it has to be now or never.” You have enough savings to last you 2 years but less energy than before. Do you stay or go?

What would make me happiest is to be so financially comfortable that I won’t have to worry about money and then do research and publish. However, a wise woman once said to me: “You must do what you NEED to do, in order to earn the right do what you WANT to do.”

May God help you to make the right decisions at every one of the 4 phases. If you have artistic or athletic talent and you can sing like Wizzy, play football like Okocha, run like Amusan or write like Chimamanda, this thread does not apply to you. God bless.

Dr Joe Abah twitter @DrJoeAbah

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