You work hard. You do a great job. But somehow, your effort just hasn’t translated into the career you expected. Why? The answer may be that you are not “career ready.”
Research shows that people whose career seems to progress rapidly are mindfully taking specific actions.
Focus on Self-Awareness
Successful leaders are self-knowing. People who make strong career progress are aware of their strengths and opportunities for growth as it relates to their skills and behaviors. They are realistic about their performance. They know which roles and leaders help them perform at their best. They use this knowledge to help them make good career decisions.To become more self-knowing:
Self-reflect. Take time to consider which jobs or projects you’ve loved the most, and which leaders (or teachers) helped bring out your best. The insights you gain will assist you with the type of work that best showcases your abilities and allows you to follow your passion. If you can do what you love, you will do it well with ease. And that will get you noticed.
Take a 360-degree assessment. The feedback you get from leaders, peers, and direct reports can help you discover the strengths you can leverage to support your career, as well as those things that may be a current challenge for you if you want to continue to grow and develop.
Know Your End Goals
Successful leaders are career visionaries. You can’t make good decisions if you don’t know the general direction you are interested in. People who have a clear view of their career goal and what is required to achieve it are better able to stay laser focused on what they need to do to get there. They are purposeful about the roles they take, and they know what they want. To become a career visionary:
If you have a broad idea about what you want to do, now is the time to get specific. If you haven’t read The One Thing, I highly recommend it as you determine what area you want to focus your career on.
Identify a “destination role” (don’t worry, you can always change your mind!) and learn everything you can about what knowledge, skills, experiences, and more you would need to be successful at it.
If you are not sure about your destination, take steps to find out what it might be. Identify roles you think might be of interest, and invite someone who holds that job to coffee so you can learn more. I firmly believe if we know what our strengths are we can develop them into careers that maximize our inherent abilities. A great book to review and quiz is Strengths Finder 2.0 to determine your top five strengths.
Commit to Learning & Experience
Successful leaders build experience. Those whose careers are on the fast track purposely build the experience they need to achieve their professional goals. They maximize opportunities in their current role or in the environment to broaden the experiences that support them most. They are open to change that increases that experience.To build experience:
Start with a plan to acquire the one, critical skill or experience you need to prepare for your next step. Remember, we learn best by doing, so focus your plan on exploiting any opportunity to practice the skills you need.
Don’t limit yourself to your day job to build experience. The things we do outside work help us build experience, as well. Are you a member of the Parent Teacher Association or a sports team? Review everything you do and ask, “What experience am I gaining now that is helpful in my career?”
Build an Impactful Network
Successful career seekers are positive networkers. We all benefit from knowing a network of people who can support us in achieving our goals; we can’t do it alone. But this network can’t be built on insincere relationships, where one person ingratiates herself with others to get ahead. A positive networker develops authentic and genuine relationships. To become a positive networker:
Find a mentor. The best mentors are committed to support you. If you have that sort of relationship with a colleague, ask to formalize it. If you don’t, ask someone who has a skill or experience you would like to have to consider being your mentor.
Look to include those outside your company in your positive network. This will keep your skills up-to-date and increase the possibility of finding opportunities in the future. Does your function have a professional association or network? Is there an alumni group from courses you’ve attended? Once you have identified individuals who could be included in your positive network, remember that you need to give back to them, as well.
Seek New Opportunities
Successful leaders seek opportunities. If you are mobile, open to join a new company, or prepared to try another function within your current organization, you will have more opportunities to grow your career. It is simply a matter of numbers—it’s important to be open to as many opportunities as possible. We can’t all pack up tomorrow and relocate to a new city, but we can consciously explore what we are prepared to do to be open to the next opportunity. Once defined, we can make sure we are looking in all the right places. To become a better opportunity seeker:
Check out a job board. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t looking for a change just now. People who are career ready review opportunities to ascertain the market for their skills and to discover the companies they might like to work for in the future.
Update your résumé and LinkedIn profile. The opportunity seeker knows these are their calling cards, and they are always ready to say, “Yes, let me send you my résumé today,” when asked!
Becoming a self-knowing career visionary who develops positive networks, builds experience, and seeks opportunities will help you be career ready and accelerate your career!
Sherri Elliott-Yeary, the Generational Guru and best selling author of Ties to Tattoos, Turning Generational Differences into a Competitive Advantage, is a speaker, coach and trainer in the area of Human Resources and Talent Management. Sherri specializes in helping employers maximize their human capital by collaborating across the generational gap. Her expertise in human capital management and organization includes: workforce planning, company culture, training, assessments, HRIS implementation, regulatory compliance, strategic alignment, payroll, compensation and benefit programs. Learn more at generationalguru.com.