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Career Transitions, Part 2: Define Your Aspirations

Career Transitions, Part 2: Define Your Aspirations

This is the second post in a series by Melissa Thompson on career transitions. Read the first post here: Career Transitions, Part 1: Engage the Power of Letting Go.

Over the past several months, I have been on a journey to find the next role in my career. In the first post of this series, I talked about the first step in my career transition which I entitled: Letting Go. In the second post of the series, I want to talk about doing the work to identify and clarify your aspirations. As you go through this transition, there is a clear opportunity to determine what matters to you and what things are most important as you explore the next step in your career.

[Related: My Keys to Successful Career Transitions]



To initiate defining your aspirations, my suggestion is that you begin with a few specific actions to help you identify them.

Determine what you want to do.

Do you want to continue on your current career path, or is there something else you are passionate about doing? This article from The Muse can help you brainstorm the next phase of your career. One piece of advice that I give to people I mentor is, “Do what you love.” Truthfully, you are working 40+ hours every week, so it is important that you have some passion for what you do and enjoy your work.

Be open to possibilities.

Is your next move lateral, up or to a completely different career path? Depending on where you are in your career, you could be investigating roles that take you laterally so that you might gain depth in your field, that take you up so that you might gain increased responsibility, or you might step into a whole new role. If you have not read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, she proposes the idea that careers are not ladders but rather jungle gyms allowing you to sometimes move sideways and sometimes up. The key message is that each move lets you learn and grow.

Complete a vision board.

What does your ideal career look like? One of my favorite exercises is to grab bunch of magazines along with scissors and glue stick to create a vision board. There are no rules, you can cut out pictures, captions, words, or phrases, and then decide how you want them to look on a page. The key is that the vision board should tell the story of what you want the next step in your career to look like.

Now that you have gathered information on how to define your aspirations, it’s time to take the final step. Make a list of what those aspirations are. I created a list, and as I review new job opportunities, I ask targeted questions to ensure this opportunity aligns with my list of aspirations. Some of the things included on my aspirations list are:

  • Fun - a workplace that is enjoyable where I like what I do and the people that are around me
  • Creativity - a workplace that is open to new ideas and willing to innovate, try new things
  • Flexibility - an organization that recognizes the need for some balance and allows the flexibility to work remote

Truthfully, you may not always have a stretch between jobs to explore the next step in your career. There is nothing to say that you can’t evaluate your career aspirations at any point in time. Regardless of how much time you have, I hope that you make an investment in yourself so that you can explore your passion, determine what you want to do, and maybe even create a vision board that will be inspiration as you continue on your career journey. 

Please come back for the final installment of this transitions series, where I talk about how to work through the challenging part of the search – actually searching, interviewing and getting an offer for the job you want.


Melissa Thompson is a strategic and collaborative senior executive with experience in Global Human Resources and Talent Acquisition. During her career, she has held recruiting leadership roles at Dell, Citrix, and Lenovo. Her background includes experience with RPO leader, Aon Hewitt, and global financial services giant, Bank of America. Melissa is now CEO of Thompson Talent Innovations, a talent focused consulting company.

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