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We tend to look for openings that lead to the next stage of our careers based on a linear mindset where either salary, responsibility or power must increase with each step.
But neither of the three aspects of your job says anything about whether you are moving in the right direction in either life or career. To find out, use a completely different tool:
You stand a greater risk of experiencing insecurity or feeling burnt out or stuck in your working life if you do not remember to review your life on an ongoing basis.
You are the only one who knows the truth about what makes your life meaningful and what role your job should play.
"What adds meaning to peoples’ lives is incredibly subjective, and we can become a lot better at both exploring and acknowledging that fact," says Rie Thomsen, Professor MSO at DPU – the Danish School of Education at Aarhus University .
The prevailing perception of a normal career progression is often linear, where jobs await after graduation, managerial responsibilities follow later, and all steps must point in the direction of something 'bigger and better' career-wise.
But bigger and better can also be in life, and it is up to ourselves to define what is more important for us. In her research, Rie Thomsen finds that people who make radical career changes do not have unambiguous reasons for this. What makes sense, and how it makes sense to us, is different – and changes over time.
"I think that everyone can benefit from asking themselves" what kind of life do I want to live in the next 5 years and how should my working life fit into this? ", she says.
The decisions you make in your work life should support the life you want - and not the other way around.
Rie Thomsen explains that if you perceive your career as a linear series of specific milestones that you must achieve, you risk restricting your possibilities for maneuvering in your working life.
Decisions about your career should not necessarily be made based on notions like "this is the right next step for someone like me ". A good working life is about making individual choices more than about following a predetermined path because you think it is expected of you.
"I have both worked reduced hours and been on leave several times and I cannot say I haven’t considered what it would mean to my assignments and career options. The answer is that it has not meant anything,” exclaims Rie Thomsen.
Instead she encourages everyone to reflect on what kind of life they want their career to be able to support.
“We have a lot of opportunities today because we, as a society, have decided that activities such as leave, opportunity for reduced time, flexibility, continuing education and further education are important to us. It often requires consideration and planning to use these opportunities," advises Rie Thomsen, "and those considerations involve our working life and the planning involves the workplace. "