I am not going to mince my words on this – when it comes to your career flight, YOU are the pilot! Not your manager, your company or mentor – they can all help, support and guide you but the ultimate work has to be done by you. For your career, take it that you are the Marketing Director and CEO of ‘You Ltd.’ As the CEO and the Marketing Director of your career; it is important that you need to understand your customers’ needs as seen from their perspective. For instance, if you are looking for a job, any potential employer is your customer. However, if you are employed, you still have to take the bull by the horns to market your skills, abilities and manage yourself so that you can climb the career ladder to your desired height.
If you haven’t noticed, the world of work has completely changed. No one is indispensable and there are also no more jobs for life. That is why it is an imperative that you are in a job that you are truly passionate about. If you find yourself constantly questioning yourself whether you have chosen the right path career wise or if you are increasingly unhappy in your daily role or feeling like a square peg in a round hole, then, it is time for you to navigate your career plane to land you in a better destination.
Now, these are the things to know and think about in order to be the pilot on your career flight;
Stop playing the blame game, take charge and control your own destiny
You and only you are responsible for your career, not your manager or the company you work for. The onus is on you to let your manager know where you want to be. Your manager is not a mind reader; he cannot tell what your aspirations are just by seeing you at work every day. He may have an inkling but if you haven’t told him, you run the risk of him not paying any attention to make it meaningful for you. What your manager can do to help your aspirations will be to support, mentor and guide you to get there. However, you still have to take control of your career planning. Evaluate and re-assess where you want your career to go and what you need to do to get there.
Know who you are, what you can offer and what you want.
This is the most important part of flying your career plane. Knowing yourself involves self reflection, self knowledge, your skills, abilities and aspirations. What kind of person are you? Are you the outgoing and social type? Are you creative or analytical? Do you crave autonomy and flexibility? Do you prefer office or field work? Understanding your personality trait is the key to knowing if you will thrive in certain work environment or job position, or if you will feel constrained.
In addition, find the time to take an inventory of your marketable skills, document your achievements, make a list of all your successful projects and document your experience. What is your unique genius? Is the job you are currently doing going to allow you to make a valuable contribution to your company? Is it allowing you to build upon your current skills? What expertise do you have? What software programs can you use?
Then, ask yourself, where do you want to be inthe future? Where do you see yourself next year or the year after? Is what you are currently doing now going to get you there or not? What do you need to do to get there? Are your professional choices taking you closer to those goals? If not, why not? Is it time to make a change to your career? Is work life balance more important to you than money? Do you need to make a change now? Will a new job be a step up in pay and position? Or will a lateral move with high progression be ideal for you? What makes you happy? What kind of projects do you enjoy working on? Do you feel aligned with your organization’s objectives or not?
All these are questions that you need to ask yourself about your career. If you haven’t asked yourself yet, it’s high time you get a paper and a pen, write them down and answer them. Get a trusted mentor to check the outcome with you to determine what your next line of actions should be.
It’s who you know and what you know.
Network like there is no tomorrow and do it like a pro – don’t rely on the good intentions of your manager alone. You have to find the opportunities to network with others in and out of your organization. Volunteer for projects that involve other areas of your organization and look for people who can serve as your mentors. Look to do extra ‘value added’ work, take on side projects and participate in office events. Learning while you work is the best way to pick up new skills and knowledge especially when the pressure to deliver is great.
Be sure to meet and know new people in your organization. If you have it in mind to change industries, then you will need to familiarize yourself with the people and players in that industry. Attend conferences and consider joining a professional body or community that might offer some opportunities for networking with people who can help you. Don’t forget to have a presence on the Internet, especially on LinkedIn and other social networking sites for business professionals. Remember, self development is a lifelong process.
As the CEO of YOU Ltd., you have to market your product — YOU. While you do this, you have to focus on the four Ps: product, price, place, and promotion. The first and most obvious aspect of the product is how you present yourself, your attributes and any other special ability that you possess. The way you present yourself, manners, and how well groomed you are will be part of the packaged product that you have to sell. These elements all provide you with the ability to perform as part of a successful organization.
The second of the four Ps, – price, means a lot more than just your pay, or even your pay plus benefits. It means the ROI that you will provide for the company or the evidence that you will be a low-maintenance employee.
The third P, place, is your location of the job where the buyer can make a purchase of that special product. Are you within an area that the career that you are after is thriving? If you are not, then, it is time to start planning for a change. This may mean relocating to another city.
The fourth P is how you promote your skills. For this, again, having an Internet presence is important even if you are not anywhere on the Internet be sure to have a presence on LinkedIn. There, you can showcase your skills, experience and education. The Internet is simply a treasure trove of tools, outlets, and opportunities. If you are employed or unemployed, the Internet will probably result in your next application, interview or job.
Time in seat means nothing if you are not performing or getting results .
If you have been in the same job for the past twenty years,you are not necessarily the most qualified to do a great job. Yes, some time in seat is generally necessary to have the experience to do most jobs, but the reality is, sitting there longer doesn’t mean you’re more valuable. Just as respect is earned, your value is judged by what you do, can do and are willing to try. It is easy to be complacent but if you are not careful, a newer staff can render your reign and abilities as too ‘old school’ as they derive better and smatter ways of getting things done and achieving good results. If you have been in the same role for many years, it is important to stay current. You have to continuously improve your skills and follow any business trends related to your role. This might mean investing in money for conference passes so you can listen to industry pundits talk about the latest trends in your sector and network with thought leaders. It could be finding the time to attend job fairs in order to be aware of what is out there.
Stop getting frustrated; take over your professional development.
If you are bitter and frustrated about being left behind or not being promoted, remember that most work environments are very competitive. So, it is highly likely that once in a while, all of us will be disappointed in regard to that special career opportunity that eludes us. However, a focus on career process and not on specific outcomes helps to reduce frustration and also builds confidence in our ability to reach our goals eventually. It is your responsibility as an employee to go after your company’s career development opportunities and to demonstrate how the development would serve you to better serve the organization. You always have to take care of skills and knowledge and make sure they’re up to date.
If you’re feeling bored, un-energized and unfocused in your current positionthen, you are not piloting your career plane. Every day, if you have to drag yourself through your days at work wishing that 5 p.m. would roll in so that you can go home and catch the latest soap or reality TV show then, it’s time to kick your career into another gear. Don’t stick with a job that makes you unhappy or an organization that lacks the opportunities to empower your career progress. If you can’t get what you want from your organization, then, be open to change and move on. The only thing that may be standing between your present reality and your dream job is YOU and limited thinking. The old ways of thinking about how and why you work are no longer useful. In order to survive in today’s world of work, each of us must know what we have to offer, realize our potential, and take charge of our own careers. If not now, then when? The bottom line on professional development is that we own it.