Careers

Ask yourself this question every six months to make sure your career's on track

Asking the big questions
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In the hectic haze of daily life, it can be hard to see if your work is keeping pace with your long-term career goals.

That's partly what your reviews with your line manager are for. But relying entirely on your employer might result in skewed guidance.

Instead, there's one question you can ask yourself every six months to make sure you're on track: Am I doing the same thing I was six months ago?

If the answer's yes, it may be time to make a change, according to PayPal's Rohan Mahadevan. In his role as senior vice president of international markets, he makes a point of asking that question of himself and his team twice a year to make sure they're heading in the right direction.

"Every six months I look at what we're doing and I ask, 'Are we doing the same thing we did six to nine months ago?' If we are, we haven't changed enough," Mahadevan told CNBC Make It.

"Especially since the market and the world around us is changing pretty significantly, for me, we need to at least make sure 30 percent of what we're doing is different."

That doesn't mean you have to see a huge change every six months. Depending on the size of your organization, it may take closer to a year or two to notice fundamental change. Meanwhile, if you're in a more junior position, you may struggle to see how your work impacts the overall company strategy at all.

But it's about making incremental changes that allow you to keep learning and stay up-to-date with your industry as it evolves, said Mahadevan. Those changes could be anything from looking at a problem in a different way, to developing a new skill or interacting with different kinds of people.

"It's really about: Are you learning fast enough?" he said. "If you are in a job and the job is growing at 25 percent year-on-year, say, the question is: Are you learning faster than 25 percent year-on-year or not?"

Time to make a change?

If you do feel like you've hit a wall, sometimes your current employer may provide you with the stretch you need. In his 14 years at PayPal, Mahadevan has progressed through eight roles, from policy and risk positions to regional leads for Latin America and Asia Pacific.

"If the ecosystem you're in allows you to learn really fast, then it's fine to stay in that ecosystem, as long as you're improving yourself and you're kind of doubling your capabilities every two to three years," he said.

But other times, you may need to seek that out. That could mean asking for new challenges in your current role or taking a leap into a new job, said Mahadevan, an astrophysics PhD who began his corporate career in start-ups.

However, you have to make sure you're doing that for the right reasons, he added. If you're stagnating because of a problem with your colleagues or the environment, then you should address that first before moving on somewhere new.

"Don't run away from problems, because you're going to have them when you go somewhere else," said Mahadevan. "Solve them first and then go towards what you want to learn next."