Guest blog by Career Coach Janice Taylor
How can you become more strategic and proactive in managing your career and develop the habits that put you in the best possible place to thrive in your career?
As a career coach who has worked with a wide range of individuals and groups, I’d certainly like to see more people manage their careers and life with greater confidence, energy, and focus.
So, here are the habits as I see them:
Habit One: – Take ownership
Take ownership of your career; the person who has the biggest stake in your career is you. Be realistic and honest with yourself about where the responsibility lies.
You may need to be the one who initiates feedback sessions from your boss, manager or colleague; the one who asks for involvement in an exciting project, some additional responsibility. But do so with a plan – some ideas, some solutions up your sleeve.
Decide what career success looks like to you what it means for you. Make sure your ladder is propped up against the right wall. Define what success means to you. It needs to be your vision, no one else’s. It also needs to align with your values and purpose. But do not confuse success with accomplishments; see Terina Allen’s article on Career Success to find out more.
Recognise the possibility that your definition, your vision of career success may change as you progress and gain more experience.
And then, you might also want to take ownership of your reputation and brand.
Learn to think of yourself as a brand. If you had to design a marketing campaign for yourself, what key messages would you want to get across? Become comfortable with knowing and, just as importantly, being able to talk fluently and with conviction about your strengths and achievements.
What story are you telling about yourself?
Habit Two: – Build a network
Build and maintain a sustainable and robust network. Form relationships based on genuine interests and liking and be prepared to offer help and receive it.
Building successful relationships is always a two-way process; you never know when someone might be in a position to provide that crucial bit of help, and just as importantly, there may be a time when that person is you.
Include a mentor, accountability buddy or group that you can regularly share ideas within your network —people who know and respect you enough to ask some tough and challenging questions.
Many of my closest friends are ex-colleagues who have helped me both professionally and personally over the years. When I became self-employed in 2000, my first bit of paid work was through a colleague I first met in the early 90s. And in the last two/three years, opportunities to become involved in exciting projects is due to someone I first worked with over ten years ago.
The maxim/axiom “it’s not what you know but who you know” is as valid today as it ever was. And I love Cheryl Amyx’s advice, ‘imagine your heart is smiling,’ when feeling at a loss for words at a networking event. Also see Cheryl’s Amyx’s article on How to network on Purpose.
How to Network on Purpose – Cheryl Amyx
And if you are going to build a sustainable network based on genuine relationships, you need to pay attention and listen. I can’t tell you how offputting it is when people talk at me rather than with me, either online or in person.
So I was delighted to find an article on wholehearted listening and the difference it can make, all based on the Chinese character for listening.
Habit Three: Take stock
Take regular stock of where you are with your work and career, both emotionally, psychologically, and intellectually. Are you still excited by your work? Is it challenging, or are you becoming a bit bored and jaded with it? Maybe you feel trapped inside a ‘velvet rut’ – comfortable but not progressing or being stretched?
If you are not springing out of bed in the mornings – Is work a drag? Pinpoint causes of dissatisfaction and satisfaction and see what you can do to minimise one and enhance the other.
Identify the aspects of your role that make your heart sing – is there a way to do more? Recognise those aspects that make your heart sink – it might not be possible to remove them altogether, but can they be reduced? Can you wrap them up with those things that you do enjoy?
One alternative is to look for things outside work that challenge and stretch you, though this may only be a short to medium-term solution. In the longer term, you may need to decide to move on.
It might also be helpful to check in with your values. Are they aligned with those of your organisation? With the role, you are performing? If you want to look at this in more detail, do read my article on energy, engagement and enjoyment.
Habit Four: Audit your skills
Carry out regular audits of your skills and knowledge. Ask yourself: what can I do now that I couldn’t four/six months ago? What achievements can I add to my CV?
It might even be worth setting up a learning file, a journal so that you can keep track and reference when needed. Far too often, it seems people are drifting without necessarily knowing where they are going.
Regular check-ins will enable you to track progress, identify potential gaps and keep up-to-date. Otherwise, the danger is you trundle on in the same vein while the rest of the world moves on.
So ask yourself– what new skills have I acquired? What new knowledge? How am I applying the skills I already have? How am I innovating with them? If there are gaps, how can I acquire what I need? How relevant am I staying?
Now, of course, participating in training and development is excellent – but there is danger in stockpiling learning and new knowledge and not practising at the earliest opportunity. And I am a little guilty of this – so consider, ‘just in time learning.’ As you learn, think about how you will apply it and when. Practice and application will both embed the learning and increase your skill level.
Habit Five: Seek feedback
Finally, seek as much feedback as you can from people you trust and respect – people who will help you identify your strengths and any gaps in your knowledge and skills.
The Incompetence/competence model shows that we don’t always know what we don’t know. Actively seeking feedback will help you identify areas where you can improve, understand possible new areas of strengths, and identify areas for improvement.
More about Janice
Janice Taylor is a Brighton based Career Coach, with a passion for promoting resilience in others, either through the design and delivery of her courses or through her coaching work with clients. Her business Blue Sky Career Consulting has been in existence since February 2000.
Specialising in career and work issues, Janice works in partnership with her clients to support them through reviewing their career and working life, researching, exploring options, and taking steps towards change with renewed energy and focus.
Janice is passionate about promoting resilience in others. She strongly values the ability of individuals to take ownership of their working lives and careers; with an acute awareness of her resilience, Janice has developed some expertise in helping people to maintain energy and focus during challenging times.
As a coach and facilitator, her expertise lies in getting people to:
- Take a step back and think more strategically
- Recognise and celebrate their strengths and talents
- Think more clearly and constructively about their situation
- Keep focussed and on track
Outside work, Janice’s interests include playing the piano and writing a collection of stories.
You may find these resources helpful:
Blog: How to Lead the Conversation about your Personal Brand
Motivational Podcast: 7 Days of Inspirational Audio