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Take Charge of Your Career
Did your mother ever tell you there was no such thing as a smooth running stream? Well she was right. Achieving success in your career requires planning, hard work, sacrifice, and a dogged determination. It is inevitably peppered with disappointment, frustration, and increasingly complex roadblocks. When people don’t effectively manage their careers or they let others control their destiny, it is easy to wind up trapped in a stressful and unpleasant job which can negatively impact personal life and family relationships. The following guidelines should allow you to have more control over future events.
- Take a self-inventory. Know yourself and what motivates you. Recognize your special strengths and capabilities. Be aware of your disposition and those factors that might impact your performance. Be familiar with your liabilities, limitations, and those areas needed for improvement. The future is in your hands and there are choices. Make career decisions where your strengths and natural gifts are properly utilized – not just because a job is offered. Be willing to take risk but learn from your failures. If you have a dream, follow it. It is perfectly ok to build castles in the air, but it is just as important to put foundations under them. Set both short and long range objectives but be willing to adjust them based upon new realities, and don’t be afraid of failure – it is a wonderful growth tool.
- Don’t be a job hopper. A track-record of jumping from company to company or job to job can be disastrous. Maturity is often demonstrated by effectively dealing with difficult situations and different types of personalities, rather than using them as an excuse for failure. It is a fact no one likes everyone within an organization and we don’t always enjoy everything we are asked to do. If you develop a pattern of staying with employers only for a year or two, you can easily be viewed as unstable or unable to adapt. When you do change employers, make sure there is progress in income, responsibility, or working environment. It is vital to be viewed as stable, growth oriented, and able to handle challenge. If you should choose to make a career change, it may be necessary to gain new skills through additional education. You may also need to start out on the bottom rung of the growth ladder.
- Develop both your technical and inter-personal skills. The ability to work well within a group; to get along with others; to inspire respect; to gain the confidence of your management, subordinates, and peers; and to be considered a “people person” will do far more to advance your career than merely focusing on acquiring or improving technical skills. However, you should always continue to gain new knowledge and expand your capabilities. As Newton D. Baker said “The man who graduates today and stops learning tomorrow is uneducated the day after.”
- Never compromise ethical principals. Let your conduct be an example for others and don’t play politics. Be careful and diplomatic with your criticism, don’t gossip, and don’t disparage the ideas of coworkers. Listen, learn, and then advance your own ideas and suggestions. Understand that everyone in an organization from the Janitor to the CEO has an important function. Don’t think less of someone because of their role and never consider people on your team as subordinates or underlings. Everyone is a member of the same team with an important and interrelated role. Each person’s job impacts others within the organization. Treat everyone with respect and kindness. Concentrate on being the best you can be. As a manager of staff, focus on getting your team to perform to the best of their ability, but don’t neglect your own commitment to excellence.
- No one is an island. Seek mentors and advisors. Consider them to be your personal Board of Directors that can be a vital component in achieving career objectives. A landmark 1978 article in the Harvard Business Review entitled “Everyone Who Makes it Has a Mentor,” focused on the importance of having mentors throughout our career and spoke to the importance of relying on the experience and wisdom others can bring to helping us build our own success story. Equally important, be a mentor to others. Giving of yourself will endear you to coworkers and managers alike.
- Keep track of your accomplishments. Your reputation, achievements, contributions, and those friendships you develop are the construction tools to build future successes. Cultivate your future by keeping track of your accomplishments. Each year keep a record of the two or three major achievements you have had over the past 12 months. Set a goal of meeting two or three new influential contacts to increase your network for future use. We all have the ability to impact our own future. When we let others dictate how we should live our lives, we lose control. You are your own best advocate.
Author Lawrence Alter is president of L.D.A. Enterprises, Ltd.; a Minneapolis based outplacement and career management firm. He is a recognized expert in career growth techniques and former columnist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Send ideas or questions via email to: LDA@EmploymentClinic.com. Website address: www.EmploymentClinic.com ©Copyright 2007 Lawrence Alter. All rights reserved.