The Work Gap: Between Where You Are and Where You'll End Up

Standing in between where you are now in your career and where you envision yourself being in the future is something called the work gap. The work gap is basically the distance between the person you are at the beginning of your career and the person you are at the end of it. It’s the space between your first job out of high school and the job you retire from some day. The work gap is made up of experience, wisdom, opportunities, risks, failures, successes, questions, and answers. You don’t have the luxury of being on the other side of it right now. You just have the path in front of you.

 Maybe you envision yourself as a leader, but you don’t have opportunities to demonstrate it in your current job. Maybe you’re entrepreneurial, full of passion and vision for a business idea, but you lack the resources, the team, or maybe even the confidence, to make the dream a reality. Maybe you feel stuck, bound by obligations or uncertainty, feeling like the gap between where you are and where you want to be is more like the Grand Canyon.

Wherever you are in the course of your career, that distance between where you are and where you’ll be is always going to be there until you navigate it; until you start moving forward. But there are ways to navigate it so that at each step, in each new opportunity and with each professional interaction, you can move yourself closer to the person you want to be.

You need to start.

This sounds simple, but it’s not. Sometimes we find ourselves frozen in place because we just haven’t found the right job with the right opportunity, and so we wait. Sometimes the industry isn’t something we are all that interested in, and so we wait. Sometimes the pay isn’t quite what we wanted, and so we wait. We wait for the perfect job or the right opportunity to come our way and in the process turn down opportunities that could get us moving in the right direction.

No one starts a climb at the top of the mountain. It’s a steady, carefully navigated climb, starting from the base and moving ahead one step at a time. Along the way they take breaks, they receive guidance, and they maneuver to avoid pitfalls and stay on course. But they always start with a step forward.

You need to move forward.

Sometimes the job we have is safe, and so we stay where we are though we know we’re not living up to our full potential. It pays enough. It’s challenging enough. It’s good enough. But only you can say if the job you’re in is moving you forward in your career or if it’s simply “good enough.” If you don’t know, consider asking someone who knows you well. Ask them if they observe you on a path forward, moving toward advancement and new opportunities, or if they view you as stuck.

If you have the boldness to ask a friend or mentor that question, be prepared for the answer. Be prepared to receive the answer and think through how you’re going to move forward.

You need to look back.

We’ve all received help along the way. Some call this “helping the next one in line.” It’s the looking back and helping others who are on their climb. No matter where you’re at in your career, you can look back at those who are farther back and do what you can to support their journey.

People have many different perspectives when it comes to work. Some are just trying to make it through another week. Some have their sights set on climbing a mountain; some aren’t really worried about it at all. Regardless of your perspective on work and the direction you’re headed, where you’re at today doesn’t have to be where you stay. Take a step. Move forward even if the job doesn’t seem to fit all of your criteria. Take some risks and try to navigate the work gap well.

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