Let’s face it—most of us didn’t launch our careers with a detailed 20-year road map. In reality, an informal poll in any ladies’ room will reveal how common it is for women to sometimes feel like they bumbled into their current roles, or even an entire field, kind of by chance. However, the next time you find yourself enviously eyeing the most confident looking woman in your office restroom, there is a bright side.

This uneasy feeling can be the perfect catalyst to spur you into doing something you should be doing all the time—weighing your options and fine-tuning your career strategies to ensure that you’re choosing your life rather than the other way around. Here are a few ways to stay on track:

Write it down. It’s easy to procrastinate on deciding whether and when to make a change if you haven’t pinned down exactly how you feel. Keep a written list of the pros and cons to your job, and update it regularly. Is your role a good match for your interests and strengths? Are you earning what you’re worth? Is there room to advance? Is the atmosphere supportive and fun? How many days of the week do you feel happy at work versus unhappy or just so-so?

Deal with what you don’t like. Periodically, review your pros-and-cons list and make a specific plan to overcome the cons. Maybe your company’s great, but you’d be happier in another department. Maybe your boss is holding you back, but talking to her directly about your concerns and ambitions could make a difference. If your list is mostly cons, it is time to consider a bigger change.

Make sure your résumé is updated. Keeping your résumé current is like wearing a parachute—maybe you won’t need it, but it doesn’t hurt to have it handy. And even when you’re not actively looking for a new job, at least be aware of any open positions in your field. Staying on top of what’s out there can help you be informed about your options.

Network. Joining professional organizations or simply getting to know co-workers you don’t normally interact with can be a great way to gain perspective. You might discover, for example, that your company puts less pressure on employees to work overtime than its competitors, and this freedom to have a life outside the office makes it worth dealing with some 9-to-5 hassles.

Continue your education or freelance. Don’t rule out your passion, even if it happens to be radically different from your day job. Say you love photography: Get your feet wet by researching magazines that might purchase your pictures. Alternatively, consider ways that your current job experience, combined with training, could be a stepping-stone to something new. For example, if you wound up in engineering but are now pining for a law degree, you might be perfectly positioned for a future in construction law.

A little ongoing maintenance to your career can often make all the difference between simply punching the clock and getting to where you really want to go. Besides, it’s always a bonus when it turns out to be you who’s the happy, confident-looking one in the ladies’ room.

Career expert and best selling author Nicole Williams is re-defining the world of work—making it glamorous, entertaining and relevant to modern women. Nicole founded WORKS by Nicole Williams in 2006 with the vision of building the first media and content company focused on career development specifically for the highly dynamic and powerful market of young professional women.

Nicole is the author of two bestselling books; Wildly Sophisticated: A Bold New Attitude for Career Success (2004) and Earn What You’re Worth (2005), published by Penguin Group Inc. Her latest book Girl on Top, was recently purchased by Hachette Book Group and will be published in Fall 2009. Currently, Nicole is filming a new fifteen episode makeover series with TLC & Real Simple Magazine which will begin airing in October 2008. WHAT WORKS, a Supernanny meets The Office make-over reality show, is currently in development.

Nicole is a frequent contributor to major media outlets including The New York Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and Elle, and has appeared as a regular contributor on ABC’s Primetime, Good Morning America, The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, Fox News, and CNN. She has also provided motivational speeches across the country for brand name companies including The Ford Motor Company, ClearChannel, Electronic Arts, Saks, BCBG MAX AZRIA, Banana Republic, and pharmaceutical giant Barr Pharmaceuticals, Inc.


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