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Home » Uncategorized » Book Excerpt Exclusive: Your Mid-Career GPS: Four Steps to Figuring Out What’s Next by John Neral @john_neral #bookexcerpt

Book Excerpt Exclusive: Your Mid-Career GPS: Four Steps to Figuring Out What’s Next by John Neral @john_neral #bookexcerpt



Our exclusive book excerpt for today is from John Neral’s new book, Your Mid-Career GPS – Four Steps to Figuring Out What’s Next.

Are you considering a career change but doubt yourself or get easily overwhelmed by the entire process?

Are you a mid-career professional ready to level-up, but unsure of what steps to take?

What if there was an easy and supportive way to plan your next career destination?

Your Mid-Career GPS will guide you to create your own professional roadmap so you can find the job you love or love the job have. John Neral, Certified Professional Coach, will help you strategically position yourself in the marketplace while teaching you how to leverage your unique skills from a place of value and service for any organization.

Learn how to prepare, position, and promote yourself as you create a tactical and strategic plan by building Your Mid-Career GPS. Let this book be your guide to answer many of the current questions you have about creating your next advancement opportunity.

Book Excerpt:


My career path has been messy. It’s had its share of ups, downs, spirals, and turns. There were incredible moments of joy, along with sheer frustration, pain, and stress. I’ve worked with some of the most memorable and incredibly talented people you could imagine. I’ve also worked with a few people who weren’t my favorites, but I have learned a ton from them and will always be grateful. And I’ve learned this is very common.

In Herminia Ibarra’s Harvard Business Review article, “Reinventing Your Career in the Time of Coronavirus,” Ibarra states, “Even in happier times, career change is never a perfectly linear process. It’s a necessarily messy journey of exploration – and to do it right, you have to experiment with, test, and learn about a range of possible selves.”

Reinventing your career isn’t new. We’ve been doing this as long as there has been “work.” But the pandemic made us pause, reflect, and consider what’s next for us professionally, perhaps a little more than during pre-pandemic times. That’s why you need a plan to help you get wherever you are going professionally, and it’s why I believe having a GPS is vital to your success.

Your career path is defined by particular moments where you’ve fought for whatever you wanted – be it a promotion, more responsibility, increase compensation, or more time with family. It’s during these moments when you are entirely committed and engaged in achieving the goals you’ve promised yourself and you are not going to settle. And while the outcome is important, you can’t overlook the steps you took to get there. Yet, sometimes, when people hit mid-career, they forget what those steps were.

You’re reading this book because you are feeling stuck in your career or feeling undervalued. You know you are capable of more. It has been years since you graduated high school or college, and you are easily overwhelmed by all of the things you think you need to do. And while you know you should get your résumé updated, the problem is you can’t find it, or it’s been years since you’ve written one. You believe you should be more engaged on LinkedIn but don’t know how to do that. You say you aren’t good at networking and interviewing, yet you know these things are integral to your success. Your thinking is continually putting you in a deficit, rather than focusing on what you are good at and taking a realistic inventory of where you can improve. You lie awake at night worrying about how you will navigate this career transition, and at times, it’s too much. It’s one of the many things  keeping you up at night.

If you attended college, I’m willing to bet there was a time when everything flowed. You moved through the process. You enrolled, got accepted, took your courses, and four years later, exited with a degree, and hopefully, a job. You thought you had it all figured out. You knew what to do and were getting acclimated to that thing we call “adulting.”

Now, you may feel far removed from that time. Your strategic career plans may have derailed a bit, leaving you feeling alone, perhaps a bit shameful, and beating yourself up because you believe you should have figured this all out by now. You fear being perceived as irresponsible for not liking your job or wanting a change, but you don’t want to settle. You haven’t come this far to settle. You refuse to let go of your dreams.

What if you made a decision that you were going to welcome all of the new opportunities coming your way? Reading this book is one of the first things you will do to helping you build Your Mid-Career GPS, and it’s a great place to start.

It can be challenging to make a change mid-career. I know because I did it on several occasions. Many people doubted or questioned my career moves and gave me a reason to think I was foolish. It’s time to quiet the noise and get clear about what you want. Making a career change is just a circumstance. Your thoughts around an upcoming career change are an opportunity for you to hear what’s going on inside your head and decide how to help you take action.

This change for you is personal and may look very different from other mid-career professionals’ changes. For example, you may be seeking an internal promotion because you have spent several years at a company, have done great work, and value loyalty, so you want to stay and see if there is still room for you to grow.

You may have all the information you need to know that there isn’t a path upward for you at your current organization. Thus, you are looking to leverage your talents and expertise, take them to a new organization, seek a new and perhaps, more exciting title, and increase your salary. You want to work somewhere you feel more valued. 

You may be looking to do something completely different. Navigating a career pivot can undoubtedly be exciting, but may cause tons of questions about whether or not such an opportunity is possible.

People struggle with SHOWing UP when they are fearful of the outcome. We are accustomed to ruminating on potential outcomes, only to waste energy about how things will play out, ultimately holding ourselves back from going after what we want. People often ask me how they can get out of their way. The answer is all about how you want to SHOW UP.

Throughout this book, you will notice that I always write SHOW UP in capital letters. My first book, “SHOW UP – Six Strategies to Lead a More Energetic and Impactful Career,” uses SHOW UP as an acronym for these strategies: Set Ground Rules, Have Intentional Conversations, Own Where You Are, Welcome New Opportunities, Use Your Genius, and Protect and Promote Your Brand. As you read this book and see this reference, I hope you will think of SHOWing UP in the context of these six specific strategies, what they mean for you and your career, and reflect your mindset and actions toward SHOWing UP. There is a section devoted to SHOWing UP later in the book.

For this book, I will use the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) definition that a mid-career professional is someone with more than 10 years of professional experience. You will reach certain guideposts or mile markers that distinguish the early, middle, and later stages of your career. You have experience. You have achieved some level of success in your work, you’ve been recognized, and perhaps earned a promotion or two. You are more focused and confident about the work you do and don’t want to do. Identifying as a mid-career professional is also a reflection of your mindset.

In my mind, you are a mid-career professional when you identify as being in the “middle” part of your career. I agree with OPM’s definition but I also see where some people like to divide their careers into thirds. After graduation, be it high school or college, you could easily have 39-45 years of gainful employment. That means you would define each third based on every 13-15 years. Typically, the majority of my clients fall in that 32-50 age range.

Whether or not you identify as a mid-career professional, the strategies outlined in this book will help you create your career GPS so you can take steps to help you reach whatever professional destination is next for you.

Mid-career professionals may find themselves in a constant battle between maintaining the status quo and doing something they’ve always dreamed of doing. While they are proud of their accomplishments, there is also a part of them that regrets not obtaining the level of success or recognition they thought they would’ve achieved by now. Maybe  they’ve lost sight of how amazing they truly are. If this sounds like you, keep reading.

Additionally, by the time mid-career has happened, you’ve experienced a lot of life events. You may be married or divorced. You may have been in several long-term relationships or trying to figure out what a relationship looks like for you. You have certain hobbies but often struggle with finding time to do them because of your job and family pressures. You may have aging parents and struggle with the difficult shift of being their primary caregiver. I know only too well how difficult and emotionally wrenching that can be. Yet, you get up every morning, put on a happy face, and do the best work you can because that is the kind of person you are.

The clients I work with are heart-centered professionals and leaders. Their default is always to put everyone first, sacrificing their needs for the sake of a project or a dear colleague who needs their help. They struggle to find what work-life balance looks like for them. They know they want it, but they are not sure how to obtain it. Additionally, you find yourself in an energetic battle to keep your tank full. Because you are always giving to others and your employer, you run the risk of burning out at a moment’s notice, as your tank seems to always be on or close to empty.

In this book, I will ask you to define certain moments of your career. One of the most defining moments in my career happened in my 11th year as a middle school mathematics teacher. I loved where I was working, the people I was working with, and I certainly had a fantastic time with the students I got to teach every year. One day, as I was beginning to teach a lesson on multiplying fractions, I looked at 25 students’ faces staring back at me, and the voice in my head said, “You can’t do this anymore.” It was as if that voice came out of nowhere, but it was loud, and I needed to listen to it. I felt happy. I enjoyed what I was doing. But I wasn’t satisfied knowing that this could be it for the rest of my career. I wasn’t ready to settle. As I continued to deliver the lesson, I gave myself permission to question what I was doing with my career and why I wanted more from it. Have you ever had one of those moments?

What transpired over the next few months was an opportunity to honestly evaluate where my career was going and what I wanted. I had a fantastic consulting relationship with a Fortune 500 company along with a successful tutoring business outside of my teaching duties. I was learning that I wanted to shift my focus from teaching students to working with teachers. This would look like some kind of administrative position or an opportunity to level up, but I was unsure of what that was.

I talked to my closest friends and colleagues and told them I was considering making a significant career change. I had my résumé professionally written. I updated my LinkedIn profile. I started networking, looking for jobs, and sharpening my interviewing skills. And then the rejections came.

I got to several last-round interviews for a handful of positions that I not only wanted but also believed I would’ve been great at, only to learn I wasn’t the selected candidate. If someone were kind enough to give me some honest feedback, I would hear things like, “You made it a difficult decision for us, but we went with someone who had more experience.” These are comforting words amid disappointment and perhaps something you also have experienced recently.

My opportunity to make such a change came three years later, when I was 40. I accepted a position as a Professional Development Specialist for the District of Columbia Public Schools. In this role, I would work with and supervise 21 instructional coaches across 13 middle schools. I was going to help teachers be better teachers. I got the job I wanted and a fantastic opportunity to stretch and grow. While the job came with an advanced title, it also came with a pay cut. I relocated from New Jersey to Washington, D.C., for a professional and personal opportunity. My husband and I had been dating long distance for two years, and because he was happy with his job, I decided I would be the one to make a move since I was looking for a new job. Yes, you could say I made a move for love, but it was not only for the love of my husband but also for the love of my career. Relocating wasn’t part of my plan, but it was a welcomed detour and new destination for my Mid-Career GPS.

That move over 10 years ago accelerated my career. It gave me opportunities I would have never had if I decided to stay in my previous position. I had an opportunity to work as an administrator in a larger and high-profile district. From there, I went to go work at the State Superintendent’s Office. From that position, I leveled up to take a job at an educational nonprofit as a Training and Staffing Director. And then, I took an even bigger leap into entrepreneurship. I have never regretted any of these moves, and I continue to have an exciting career. I get to go to work every day. I get to coach amazing clients and help them figure out what’s next for them professionally by helping them create their mid-career roadmap to find a job they love or love the job they have. I’ve launched two podcasts. The first is called #SHOWUP2020 and highlighted everyday people who do extraordinary things because of how they choose to SHOW UP. My second podcast is “The Mid-Career GPS Podcast,” and it’s an extension of this book. You can listen to it wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

I would be remiss if I didn’t take some time to talk about a defining and universal moment in all of our careers. That is the effects that the COVID-19 pandemic had on us both personally and professionally. Together, we saw a record number of people unemployed due to the pandemic. According to the Pew Research Center in an article titled, “Unemployment rose higher in three months of COVID-19 than it did in two years of the Great Recession,” Rakesh Kochhar writes, “The COVID-19 outbreak and the economic downturn it engendered swelled the ranks of unemployed Americans by more than 14 million, from 6.2 million in February to 20.5 million in May 2020. As a result, the U.S. unemployment rate shot up from 3.8% in February – among the lowest on record in the post-World War II era – to 13.0% in May. That rate was the era’s second-highest, trailing only the level reached in April (14.4%).”

We saw industries brought to their knees because life as we knew it had changed. People stopped traveling and staying in hotels. People stopped going to restaurants and instead learned how to cook. While food delivery services saw an uptick, we must acknowledge that many small businesses and restaurants closed because of the pandemic.

Millions of people were either furloughed or laid off. When 2020 began, many companies were positioned to have their best year. Their strategic plans, dreams, and goals quickly changed by late spring when COVID-19 didn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.

And with increased vaccinations and a potential return to “normal” on the horizon, it will take years, if not decades, for us to recover from the personal, professional, financial, and mental health impact this pandemic has had.

As an executive and career transition coach, I share this with you because I spent the majority of 2020 working with my clients about what their career roadmap would look like. Just like you, things changed for them. And while 2020 certainly gave us time to reflect and consider, it also hit our savings accounts and checkbooks; affected our mental health, families, and relationships; and caused moments of intense isolation. We missed milestone events and celebrations. Where possible, the majority of the workforce transitioned to a virtual platform, and running out to get your coffee in the morning or midday wasn’t something you were typically doing anymore. Gone were the casual, in-person conversations you had with dear friends and colleagues. Gone were the moments when you would stop by someone’s office and see if they could take a walk or grab a cup of coffee with you. Now, your dining room table or favorite chair has been turned into your home office or classroom.

2020, in my opinion, will go down as one of the most challenging years for us professionally. Whether you had a job for the entire year or didn’t, it took a toll on you. While you were grateful to have a job and a steady paycheck, I know many people who experienced a form of survival guilt and were hesitant to complain about something at work because they had a job and people they knew did not. You may still be unemployed as a result of the pandemic, and I hope the information in this book not only provides you with relevant and tactical strategies to help you navigate and create your mid-career roadmap, but also gives you some inspiration and motivation. Let me ask you this: How would you SHOW UP if you knew your value was non-negotiable? As you go through this book, I hope you will find an answer to that question.

How would you SHOW UP if you knew your value was non-negotiable?

My book will help you create Your Mid-Career GPS to create a plan to get you from where you are to wherever “Point B” is for you. In this book, I’m leveraging my coach training and experience to help you explore and consider all of the options you have in front of you by asking questions to help you reflect and decide on a course of action you see as best for you. By the end of this book, you are going to have a plan, a roadmap, a GPS to help you chart a path to whatever is next for you professionally. You have an opportunity to go after what you want – this isn’t an opportunity for you to settle. Lastly, I have no judgment on any client’s decision regarding their career path because I know they are making the best decision for them. This means that I have no personal stake or agenda in how a client reaches their best conclusion. My role is to facilitate the process of helping them get there. Let this book be a guide or a resource to help you create Your Mid-Career GPS.

Throughout this book, you will see a combination of information, both from my experience and experts in various fields, along with coaching questions designed to help you think, reflect, and explore the actions you want to take. They all combine to help you create a step-by-step roadmap, or a personal career GPS, to navigate whatever is next for your career. The ultimate goal is for you to increase your overall job satisfaction, know your value and worth, and be happier than you have ever been professionally.

Periodically, I will share my background and experiences that have helped shape these tips and strategies while supporting that information with research and additional expert information. Some topics in this book are virtually impossible to capture all of the information you may need or question. That is where Google is best. Do not hesitate to put the book down and search for things on Google that have piqued your interest or are not answered in this book.

This book will walk you through four specific stages to help you build Your Mid-Career GPS. In the Prepare section, you will explore your current career situation, along with your attitudes, strengths, and value to help you identify any move you want to make. In the Position section, you will look at best practices for writing your résumé, optimizing your LinkedIn profile, and creating your “Unique Professional Value Statement.” Once you have prepared and positioned, the next step is to promote who you are and what you do. In the Promote section, we will talk about building your networking and interviewing skills. More importantly, you will learn how to tell your story from a place of value and service, so you can get people interested in who you are and what you do, rather than just finding you interesting. The last section is an updated version of my #SHOWUP6Strategies. It was important for me to revisit these strategies because of what we experienced in 2020. I’ve updated these strategies through a lens of helping mid-career professionals SHOW UP to find the best ways they can make an impact and increase their job satisfaction.

Roadmaps are not created overnight. As you navigate the information in this book, you may find yourself taking detours and visiting various topics of interest to you right now. For example, if you pick up this book and have an interview tomorrow, I strongly suggest you immediately jump to the interview section and read it. However, I hope you will move sequentially through these sections. It will help you gain greater insight into the kind of work I do with my clients in helping them create their Mid-Career GPS over several months of working together.

As I say on my podcast, it’s time to start building Your Mid-Career GPS. Let’s get started!

John Neral, MA, CPC reawakens, energizes, galvanizes, and innovates the mind think of employees, corporations, associations, and systems. A celebrated executive/career and professional development coach and in-demand, mindset-shifting public speaker, John’s professional walk included a 25-year career in education and a longstanding corporate consultant for Fortune 500 giant, Casio America, Inc. He now leads John Neral Coaching, LLC, one of the most progressive, mindset-shifting professional and organizational coaching and public speaking firms in the U.S. He is the author of Your Mid-Career GPS – Four Steps to Figuring Out What’s Next and SHOW UP – Six Strategies to Lead a More Energetic and Impactful Career and the host of “The Mid-Career GPS Podcast.”


As a Master Practitioner in the Energy Leadership Index, John’s experience has made him an impactful and valuable coach to his one-on-one and group coaching clients and organizations. With Energy Leadership™, John identifies where people perform at their optimal levels and when they are under stress. Combining the Energy Leadership™ principles, a client’s workplace strengths, and their “unique professional value,” John helps his clients create their career GPS so they can take action toward achieving their professional and personal goals.

A former church organ prodigy, John is an avid traveler–having sojourned to 5 of the 7 continents, a professional bowler and the winner of a Professional Bowlers’ Association Regional Title (2010), and a game-show fan, having appeared on previous episodes of GSN’s Chain Reaction and Make My Day. John is happily married and lives with his spouse and their rescue cat, Amy Farrah Meowler (named after the Big Bang Theory character), in the heart of Washington DC’s Dulles Technology Corridor, Tysons Corner, VA.

You can visit his website at or follow him at TwitterFacebook and Goodreads.

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