“Switching from one career to another can be scary, but it can also be a thrilling experience. Look at it as an opportunity to really go after what you want to accomplish in life and make a difference in the world. The key is to take small, conscious steps and prepare yourself for a successful transition.” (Jack Canfield)
Are you the master of your career domain? What’s your ultimate career goal? Do you have a long-range plan with specific objectives and a time line to keep you on track? What interim steps must you take to position yourself for success?
Or, maybe you’re just muddling along hoping for the best…
The reality is that most of us settle for less in terms of career advancement. We find a job and/or company that isn’t too terrible (ouch!) and just park ourselves in the chair. Ain’t nobody going to pry us out of our position if we have have anything to say about it. We waste time on social media when we should be making real connections with people who matter. We don’t rock the boat or advocate for our team because we don’t want to jeopardize our next salary increase.
If this is your career strategy, how’s it working for you?
YOU. ARE. BETTER. THAN. THAT.
Reality check: the smartest people are not always the ones who move ahead. The “doers” and task masters often get pigeon-holed, taken for granted (she’ll never leave), or ignored. You can work your butt off for a decade and then leadership brings in a much less experienced outlier to assume the big job. In short, life isn’t fair and that’s definitely true in business. Rather than continue running in place and waiting (and hoping) for good things to happen for you professionally, here are a few suggestions to help you become the master of your career domain in a big way:
- You need a plan. What do you want to achieve in your career? Is it a certain job title, salary level, more opportunity to travel? Or maybe something completely different (such as starting your own business). Be as specific as possible. Once you have a clear vision, you then need to execute on that plan.
- Give yourself a mid-career reality check and identify your professional weak links. Here are some that might apply to you:
- You’ve made a lot of career moves but your skill set hasn’t grown. Maybe you’ve lost some ground in terms of responsibility or job title (from chief to a director or administrative role)
- You’ve become too comfortable in your current role and need a new challenge
- You’re not learning anything new; your most impressive career achievements are some years in the past
- Your responsibilities are not growing/expanding
- Opportunities for advancement are limited (past history has shown that your company does not promote from within for c-suite positions)
- Your leadership team is more focused on developing junior employees
- You’ve lost your edge and most days you’re just going through the motions and spend a lot of energy maintaining a low profile
- Plug any holes you’ve identified above. Don’t make a bad situation worse. Before you embark on a career pivot, find a mentor or work with a coach for a few sessions to evaluate the best ways to correct or minimize any weak areas in your professional development.
- Boldly go. When it comes to career advancement, wishing doesn’t make it so. Your best strategy is to OWN your professional development. Staying under the radar is not going to help you move forward. In a noisy, competitive, often unfair business world, you will ALWAYS be best served when you commit to taking BOLD action. For example:
- STOP changing jobs strictly for a pay increase. For long term success, it pays to be more selective in making decisions that support your ideal career objective. If you’re not clear on what you want, figuring that out is a BOLD move.
- Investing in your skill set and building a strong network are BOLD moves.
- Position yourself as a thought leader in your area of expertise.
- You might be a “rockstar” in your current work team or organization, but that doesn’t help you when you’re ready for a significant career pivot. BOLD action is joining a professional association or chamber of commerce and getting involved/assuming a leadership role.
- Identify a short list of companies that most interest you and implement a plan to build your network with the hiring managers and key stakeholders in those companies.
- Make connections for other people.
- Ask for advice from people in key positions.
- Offer advice and counsel–no matter how busy you are.
- Challenge yourself to increase your professional presence.
All of these actions will set you apart from your peers. That’s how you boldly go.
- Take charge of your professional development. There is a lot of talk these days about eliminating performance evaluations, and whatever you think about that is up to you. But in terms of advancing in your career, you MUST closely monitor your performance. Your focus must always be on developing, expanding, and deepening your skill set. Do an audit frequently enough to determine what actions will offer the greatest impact on your career advancement. Whatever position you aspire to, research the necessary competencies. Create a plan to build your bench strength. What achievements and initiatives will stand out on your resume? Commit to doing what it takes. This step is especially important if you’ve identified a handful of weak spots discussed above.
This week’s call to action:
Don’t leave your career progress to chance. Begin today to become the master of your career domain. You owe it to yourself to aim high. Find one hour this week and begin to map out your future progress and create a system that you can implement easily. Take one BOLD action.
“If you wish to achieve worthwhile things in your personal and career life, you must become a worthwhile person in your own self-development.” (Brian Tracy)