After what has seemed like a prolonged and rather painful recovery, the economy appears to be finally gaining some traction. While it’s impossible to predict the future, there’s a good chance that the rest of 2011 will see continued growth and improvement. As a result, this might be a great opportunity for you to conduct an audit of where you are right now in your career.

Why is that? Over the course of the past two to three years, many employees—including star employees—have been in “hunker down mode.” In other words, they’ve kept their heads down, as well as their expectations, and have been reluctant to make a move to another company. After all, there’s a prevailing belief that “the last one in the door is the first one out,” even if that belief isn’t accurate.

And while employees have switched to “hunker down mode,” some companies (not all, but some) have been saddling those same employees with additional responsibilities due to layoffs and other staff reductions. That has translated into longer hours—often without more pay—and quite possibly more stress, as well. This hasn’t been going on for a span of just months, either. In some instances, it’s been a matter of years.

Has that been your situation? Have you felt the need to search for a new opportunity? Are you yearning for a chance to grow in your chosen field and advance your career at the same time . . . but have been reluctant to do so because of the economy? If that’s been the case, then you might want to consider acting upon your desire for change. Conditions are becoming conducive for that change—and after all, haven’t you been “hunkered down” long enough?