A client recently emailed her top 3 career challenges in preparation for an upcoming coaching session. One of her challenges is determining whether or not to take a job that has the potential to be a good stepping stone in her career versus holding out for the “perfect” job when little to no job offers are coming in. She, like so many other women feel “stuck” in their career or at least have felt stuck at one point in time. What I know from personal experience is that it’s not only wise to identify your career options courtesy of career planning, but that it’s equally wise to assess which career stage you’re in as well as its obstacles.

Don’t get me wrong – planning your career in and of itself can be complex. I mean the mere definition of career planning is a process of understanding oneself, exploring career options, making wise decisions and moving forward. What complicates it is amidst the ongoing change personally, professionally and organizationally, we sometimes lack clarity (understanding of oneself); therefore, we fail to move forward.  50% of the aforementioned components of the career planning process is typically omitted, resulting in exactly what my client is feeling, which is “stuck” while desiring career mobility.

When situations such as these occur, I recommend identifying where you are (career stage), overcoming the obstacle, and performing in your current role. By identifying the career stage you’re in, you can focus on key tasks while avoiding roadblocks so that you’re most effective. In addition, once you’ve identified your next move, you can anticipate and prepare resulting in a proactive approach to managing your career vs a reactive one.

While researching career stages, I found the following:

Stage 1 – Apprenticeship

In this stage, you’re starting or potentially starting over in a new career. You’re hungry for knowledge, will need to seek guidance from others and may be closely supervised until your leader has confidence in your abilities.

Potential career roadblock: Settling

As you develop your capabilities, you may become too comfortable. Continue to move forward; ask for additional assignments that will expand your expertise and experience.

Stage 2 – Individual Contributor

In this stage, you’re taking on more responsibility and developing technical depth in assignments. You’re also given more autonomy; making decisions that your leader made earlier in your career.

Potential career roadblock: Indecision regarding your next career move

Most of us in this stage could steer our careers in several directions. If you’re unsure, you may never move toward the goal. Assess whether or not to expand your expertise with more challenging assignments or start leading in order to develop your managerial abilities.

Stage 3 – Leadership: Developing and managing others

You are now responsible for developing and managing others; you get things done and get results through others. Delegating, managing the work efforts of others and coaching them to improve or enhance their performance is your norm.

Potential career roadblock: Not focusing on your interpersonal skills

Leadership is dealing with people, other departments or business units, even other companies and the list goes on. It’s important to have well developed skills whether it be communication, negotiation or even project management. If not, your career growth could be in jeopardy.

Stage 4 – Executive: Exercising power

In this stage, you have significant organization responsibility. Your focus is not on day to day operations but on strategy – the future of the organization. Your role is to be proactive; to anticipate change, plan for it, initiate it and lead the organization as it goes through it.

Potential career roadblock: Not using the real influence you possess

By being indecisive and not pushing strategy forward, you may appear to be unqualified and to lack confidence. People look to their senior leaders for vision, guidance and encouragement especially in these very changing times. Be that person and more!

Managing your career in the 21st century and beyond must consist of understanding oneself, exploring career options, making wise decisions and understanding where you are (current career stage). With this level of clarity, you can move forward with confidence knowing you’ve positioned yourself for professional success.

Ericka Spradley is the Chief PowHer Officer/Founder of Confident Career Woman which is the premier consulting firm for corporations and the mid-career professional woman who wants to advance, better manage her career, and go further faster. Ericka is an advocate who partners with clients to help women ditch perfection, play bigger and make PowHer Moves by: identifying their next role, creating a career strategy, offering ongoing career guidance, and coaching clients to master interviews. For additional information, visit: ErickaSpradley.com