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What Work Zone Are You In And Is It Time for a Professional Change?

While things like salary, benefits and work environment are obvious reasons for staying in or leaving a job, I would argue that whether or not your current job is contributing to your professional development might be an even bigger factor. When we live in a world where your greatest source of competitive advantage is your skills and knowledge, working in a job that doesn't help you grow is a definite recipe for career disaster, if not now, certainly in the future. That's why I'm really intrigued by this learning graph and the three work zones from Mark Shead at Productivity 501. Says Mark:

Workzonegraph1_2 At the beginning of any job, you will have many opportunities to learn.  This section is marked by the green zone. Every day will involve new experiences and learning new things.  As time goes on this tends to level out as shown by the yellow zone.  Sometimes the yellow zone is only temporary and you will be given new responsibilities that will have new learning opportunities and you’ll basically start the cycle over again.

However, if this doesn’t happen and you remain at a reduced learning rate for a period of time, you’ll move into the red zone.  The red zone is particularly dangerous because it means you are becoming accustomed to a lack of personal growth and a lack of challenges. If you stay in this zone for too long, you will actually reduce your capabilities to take on challenging assignments.

Mark goes on to point out that when you're in the yellow zone, you need to take a good look at your situation.  Is there something you can do to move back into the green zone or will you end up in the red? If it looks like you and your employer can't come up with a plan to move you into the green, then it's probably time for you to start looking at other options.

One of the reasons I think it's so important to continually evaluate your learning and development is so you can make sure that you quickly identify that you're in the yellow or the red zone so you can start coming up with a plan to move you back into green. 

This is also something that managers should be exploring with their staff.  Usually your best staff will be looking to continue to learn and if they're stuck too long in yellow, they're the ones most likely to leave.  And of course your "deadwood" staff are usually the ones who have become comfortable in the red and they probably aren't going to be your star performers. Either way, you're not in great shape.

Looking at this graph, where do you think you land and what do you want to do about it? And what about your staff? What do you think they'd say?

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