This seemingly innocuous question seems to drive career professionals into spirals of over-thinking.
As one climbs up the corporate ladder, the answer to this question is hard to come by as there is no one linear path to grow in one's career.
While some fondly miss a bouquet of options available to them in lower experience levels, some become anxious even to think that they themselves have to define what to do next.
Deliberative & conservative risk takers are the ones who struggle with this question a lot. Somewhere, to them, there seems to be a huge risk in defining & asking for a particular role. 'What if my choice is wrong?' is a haunting question.
To bring in clarity to this question, one needs to have an understanding of the below:
The answer is emergent:
To find your next play is to understand the different factors that contribute into it and their inter-relatedness.
Your next play may be a function of your strengths, potential, opportunities, trends in industry, strategic priorities of your organisation, etc. These factors also are inter-related.
Trends in industry determine strategic priorities of the organisations which in-turn determines opportunities, which when matched with your strengths determine fitment.
All these factors as a whole determine your next play and each individually may not contribute directly to the outcome.To just work on each of these factors independently is a recipe for disappointment.
2. Either of 'Going with the flow' or 'Over-preparation' may not serve you alone:
Polarity thinking is a cognitive distortion which makes us think in extremes. It's either 0 or 100. So some of us think only preparation is going to lead us to next play, while some others think going with the flow is going to get us there.
However designing your next play will need you to do both.
To be able to orchestrate multitude of factors that are interdependent, you need to be present to what is happening in your industry, organisation, teams etc.
Presence is having your attention placed in the present moment where life is.
It's to be available to what is happening now instead of one's head.
4. Alignment to life's themes & vision
Know that in a larger scheme of things your career has to align with who you are and where you want your life to be.
Who you are and your life's vision are your true North.
Align your career with the true north instead of making your life align with your career.
What helps you decide your 'what next'?