Happy at Work? You Might Be Blocking Your Career Growth.

You’re poised to achieve the career or your dreams — as long as you keep opening more doors than you close.

You’re content in your current role: your skills shine, you like your coworkers, and you’re living the lifestyle you want. In the most competitive job market ever, that’s a fantastic spot to be in. But is this your happily ever after? If you want to keep fueling your career, it shouldn’t be.

In an industry that’s evolving so rapidly, your own evolution is essential. By this point, it’s common knowledge (or at least it should be) that tenure is dead — that not even the most talented individuals can succeed by coasting on their existing skill sets and connections.

So, once they’ve worked so hard to build successful careers, why do so many of today’s top-level professionals end up sitting still?

As one of the best in your field, you’re poised to achieve the career of your dreams — as long as you continue to open more doors than you close. The biggest piece of advice I have for sought-after professionals like you? Remain open to the new opportunities that will inevitably come your way.

4 Ways to Stay Open and Stay Ahead

Employed professionals who are willing to explore new paths reap huge benefits: at the very least, a deeper understanding of what they do and don’t want — and often, a role that’s even more fulfilling than their last.

These four tactics will set you on that course. Integrate them into your decision-making process, and you’ll start discovering possibilities that could change your career (and your life) in ways you never expected.

1. Skip Glassdoor; Get Coffee Instead.

Too often, employed professionals’ “research” on a new job opportunity stops at a very superficial level — and that limited view convinces them to walk away prematurely. The truth is that relying on online information to get a holistic sense of a potential employer is like reading your horoscope to figure out what to have for lunch.

Today, it’s easy to find basic information about an organization online — the key word here being basic. Go ahead and check out their website, their social media presence, and their employee reviews on Glassoor.com; just approach these sources as small pieces of a larger puzzle.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “I don’t want to interview there; they have awful Glassdoor reviews.” Glassdoor can provide some degree of insight, but don’t put too much stock in written tirades from ex-employees with an ax to grind. Keep in mind that those employees were likely let go due to not being good fits for the company.

So how do you find the real inside scoop? Engage in real-life conversations. Contact people who currently work or used to work at the company. Buy them coffee. Ask them questions. Listen to the positives and negatives alike. Basically, quit Googling and get connecting.

2. Think About Your Reputation.

It can be very helpful to mentally subject your decision to public scrutiny. I read about this approach in Forbes, and I realize I have used it for years. If your decision were printed on the front page of the newspaper, how would you feel? What would your peers think of it? How about your partner, or your family?

Trusting your gut only goes so far when it comes to weighing a career move, so don’t dismiss a job opportunity without first stepping outside your own perspective. Seek counsel and feedback — and again, online reviews don’t count!

Discuss your situation with people who are familiar with the company, or who have worked in a similar role — and just as importantly, people who know your strengths, your interests, and what makes you happy. The greater variety of viewpoints you have, the more informed and confident you’ll be in your decision.

3. This is Not My Beautiful House — Or Is It?

Go ahead: daydream. You wake up and start getting ready for work. What shirt do you have on? What shoes? Picture yourself making breakfast, then on the commute. How bad is the traffic? What music are you listening to? How do you feel about heading into the office?

Then visualize walking into your new work area; picture your coworkers and your surroundings. Turn on your computer and think about work you’re about to start. Are you engaged? Excited? Challenged? Keep up this exercise until you leave for the (imaginary) evening. How is this day different than your current reality? Is it one you’d like to live for real?

At the end of the day, you just can’t beat an old-fashioned “pros and cons” list. Create a cost-benefit analysis, listing the gains and losses that would come from taking this opportunity, as well as those that would come from staying in the status quo. Beyond basics like tasks and pay, weigh the many factors that shape your overall success and wellbeing – such as company culture, team dynamics, perks, advancement opportunities, and work-life balance.

4. Get Out of Your Head, and into the Interview.

Seriously — you should accept virtually every interview offer that comes your way, regardless of whether it seems like your ideal role or company. Talking with the hiring manager, learning more about the specific project or team, and getting a feel for the actual work environment is a hundred times more enlightening than any other type of research. The big decision comes when you get the job offer; until then, why narrow your knowledge and options?

Read more about what you stand to gain from exploring new career opportunities in It Pays to Say Yes: Why You Should Always Say Yes to the Interview.