Asking some key questions can help point your career in a new direction

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If your current job has you singing the blues, you’re not alone. In fact, according to a 2014 report from The Conference Board, the majority of Americans are unsatisfied with their current job — a significant shift from the 61.1 percent of employees satisfied with their work just three decades ago. If you fall among the 52.3 percent of workers loathing your daily routine, it might be time to take a good look at your career — and consider how to advance it.

Evaluate your career goals

If you’re not satisfied in your job (or career), the most important question you can ask yourself is, “Why not?” Would a promotion make you feel more fulfilled? Or do you just not like your industry or enjoy your career choice? Forbes recommends asking yourself some basic questions in order to define your career goals:

What were my original childhood career hopes and dreams? What are the things that are important to me in life? What am I good at accomplishing at work? What are the things I don’t enjoy? Three to five years from now, what would I like to be doing? What could I envision myself doing? What would I like to achieve? How would I describe my perfect job?

Answering these questions can help you determine your next step — whether that includes talking to your boss about your career path or going back to school to gain a new skill set.

Ask for what you want

Feel like you’re stuck in your job? Sometimes the simplest remedy is to ask for what you want. Often, people are afraid to ask for what they want at work, from more vacation time to a higher salary or a promotion. But being direct about what you want might be the key to actually getting it.

As Todd Arky, founder of SeamlessWeb, told Forbes, people are often pleasantly surprised by their boss’s or manager’s response to their (realistic) requests; in fact, he had the habit of asking employees what they wanted in terms of salary and position in six months, a year and three years. It gave staffers a goal to work toward.

Head back to school

If you aren’t getting what you want out of your current job or career, it might be time to sharpen your pencils and hit the books.

According to Jeff Millard, Director of Master’s Program Operations at Seattle University’s Albers School of Business and Economics, people often consider furthering their education when they have hit a plateau professionally. “Often what they need is an increased skill set to take their career to the next level,” Millard said. “Still other times people come to talk with me when they want to totally switch careers.”

Millard, who helps guide students through the three Masters of Business Administration programs plus three specialized business master’s programs at Seattle University, can vouch first-hand for the monetary benefits associated with gaining higher education, but that’s not the only reason he recommends heading back to school.

“I think most of our students go back to school to learn new skills that make their jobs more interesting,” he said. “For example, you might be a worker doing an accounting function at work. This might be very narrow in scope. A graduate degree in business can give you the skill set to manage all the accountants or even help shape the strategic direction of the accounting department.”

Identifying your desired skills, and choosing an appropriate program that fits your career goals, is just as vital as the initial decision to go back to school.

“Deciding what program you want to study is one of the most important decisions a prospective student can make,” Millard said.

Take small steps

Unfortunately, pursuing a higher degree or honing a new skill set can be a challenge in itself for workers unable to pay for the tuition and other expenses associated with full-time study. In this situation, Millard recommends finding a solution that works for your specific circumstances.

“Find a program that lets you go back to school part time,” he suggests. “For example, usually a full-time MBA takes two years to complete. A part-time MBA usually takes three years to finish, but we have some students who stretch it out to four or five years. Look for a program that gives you this type of flexibility.”

The Seattle University Albers School of Business develops exceptional business leaders who are values-driven and committed to advancing the common good.