Ask This Question To Find Your True Career Path

Jacquelyn Smith

Some people believe that loyalty to one job or company — also known as "staying put" — is the key to professional success.

But Joel Peterson, chairman of JetBlue Airways, says in a recent LinkedIn post that it's nearly impossible to develop a great career without switching jobs along the way.

"Without change, there's little room for personal growth," he explains. "The best careers sometimes come from changing industries, changing geography, or changing job functions. Other times, they require switching companies — or even starting over."

To figure out whether you're on the right path — or if a career change might be necessary — Peterson suggests asking yourself: "What would I do with my life if I didn't need a paycheck?"

"It's as good a question as any to get you to brainstorm ideas for a career plan. But it's not enough," he says. "Once you've answered this question, you have to consider whether anyone would pay someone to do what you'd be willing to do for free. And if they would, are you good enough to get paid for doing those things?" If not, he says, consider a career that's a "close cousin" to what you'd do for nothing.

After that, you'll want to ask yourself what's keeping you from moving toward that career. "Is it your present job? Your employer? The industry you're in? Your pay? Your boss? Your future prospects? When you figure out the key obstacles, decide whether you need to go outside your current employer or industry to pursue the career you want," Peterson says. 

If you determine you can stay at your company, contemplate career paths available to you there. And ifnothing with your current employer interests you, consider an "elegant move" — "one that doesn’t hurt your employer, that doesn’t involve going to or becoming a competitor, and that secures a great recommendation and a permanent invitation to alumni get-togethers."

Click here to read the full LinkedIn post.

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