Our career (like life) is full of ups and downs. We have promotions, redundancies, missed and hit KPIs and so on that impact on our confidence and self-worth. Chatting with my friend Guy recently, I thought about the four distinct stages we usually experience during our career (and to a large extent our lives).

These are:

Retreating

Sometimes when we have a few negative situations in a row, we can get "stuck' and start to undo some of the good work from earlier in our career. In this situation, we end up going backwards in terms of challenge, earning potential and personal well-being. Sometimes we may even "burn bridges" with those who have trusted us previously and cause real damage to our employability.

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Stagnant ("Comfortable")

In this stage, we just "go through the motions" of our job and are usually just "comfortable" in a big fat lazy career chair. People in this stage work to the minimal level and are never in line for promotions or commendations. Opportunities to "up-skill" are seen as a burden or a "trick" by management to get them to do more for less.

Growing

At this stage we are operating in a position and career that we are skilled at and are positive about. We are keen to learn new things to get better at what we do, and are respected by others for our work. Promotions and commendations are integral to our career and we get a sense of positive mental well-being by doing what we do, and by feeling productive.

Remember to not get confused with "strength" and "passion". A perceived strength is actually NOT a strength if you don't enjoy doing it. A passion is something you genuinely enjoy (even if you have a long way to go to become skilled in it).

Flourishing

If you are a gardener, you will understand the difference between a garden that is "growing" and a garden that is "flourishing". For those who have a career that is "flourishing", you are working in an occupation at which you are not only talented, but your natural giftings, passions and strengths are all in line with the type of person it takes to be successful in this type of position.

If you are operating at this level, chances are you will resonate strongly with the saying "if you love what you do, you will never work another day for the rest of your life".

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Caution - it's important however, to remember some key points for balance. Human nature is such that there are "down days" no matter how great your job is. Moody clients, glitchy software and disgruntled colleagues will challenge you, however if you are flourishing in your career, you can see past these issues and focus on the long term.

Also our career (and again life) is not a linear pathway, and the ups and downs of a healthy career are to be expected (and to some degree embraced). If you can think of the learning opportunities when things go wrong, you will be in a far better place to flourish over the long term!

Contact Tom O'Neil and the team at CV.CO.NZ for a free CV assessment or to be your personal career coach. Visit www.CV.CO.NZ (0800) 282 669 or www.CareerCoach.nz to find out more.