I got that question a lot when I told my friends and family that I was taking a new job for less pay in a new industry in a town 60 miles away.
They were even more confused when I told them I was stepping away from running a 40-person organization supporting plants across the USA and Canada, to be an entry-level engineer. I was leaving a job that reported into one of the brothers that ran a number of companies and taking a 20% pay-cut in the process.

They cared about me. They were looking out for me. But they were wrong and I knew it.

I knew it because I had kept a Career Development Plan for years, and that plan enabled me to realize not only that I was entirely unhappy in my job, but also realize that the company I worked for didn’t have a job that I would be happy with.

The template was given to me by my first Plant Manager, Dan. He described it as follows:

  • Get your professional history on paper including education back to High School, and the first job you ever had.
  • For each past job, make notes of why you took it, what you liked about it, what you didn’t like, and why you left.
  • For your current job, ask yourself if it’s the ideal situation, if it’s time to make a change, or if you need more info.
  • If there is a change in your future, write down what you can do now to be ready at that time.

I had been keeping this plan for 4 years when I decided that -a- I no longer enjoyed my job, -b- I had stopped learning, and -c- the job I wanted didn’t exist at that company.

I share this template with every intern, co-op, and young engineer I get to work with. Some use it. Some don’t. But in life, you always end up somewhere. If you set a plan and act on it, you’re more likely to enjoy where you end up.

I have kept that Career Development Plan for 18 years and with one brief exception (due to company culture, not the job itself), have enjoyed each new job more than the last.

Thanks Dan! I’m a heart patient who gets to make tools for cardiac surgeons to help other heart patients. I never would have ended up here without following the process you laid out.