How To Take Charge of Your Career in 2016
Nearly everyone has had the experience of a small nudge or a major shock that fundamentally changed our thinking.
We carry around a lot of unexamined beliefs. We just have them — we don’t know why. We don’t question them.
We don’t know we have those beliefs, but if someone asks “What do you think about this topic?” the unexamined belief will spill out of our lips.
Many of our most strongly-held beliefs concern our careers. Here are ten common beliefs that come from nowhere, yet are prevalent all over the world:
- The longer I can stay at a company, the better.
- Whatever my employer wants to do with me career-wise is fine with me. They know best!
- The key to being successful is to move up.
- It’s riskier to change jobs than to stay put.
- Only some people are cut out for entrepreneurism — and I’m not one of them.
- I like to get a job and do it as well as I can. I figure that managing my career is the same as doing my job really well.
- I don’t see any need to brand myself. I’m not job-hunting! The less job-hunting I can do in my career, the better.
- Job security is the number one thing I look for in a company.
- I’ll be lucky if I can get hired on with a big company. They have the best benefits and career path.
- I need the security of a full-time job. That’s why I like to get hired and then let my boss manage my career.
These widely-held but unexamined beliefs will hurt you as long as you hold onto them. They are not based in reality.
Most of us grew up in a working world that doesn’t exist anymore. We have to run our own careers now, not let anybody run them for us.
Our client Violet ran into a career-management problem that got her to rethink her path. She wasn’t planning on thinking about her career in 2015, until Mother Nature gave Violet a nudge.
Violet would have said”I’m happy in my job – I know how to do it and it doesn’t ask too much of me, personal-life-wise.”
Violet worked in state government. One day her manager told her “Good news, Violet! I’m putting in your name for a promotion. They’re going to choose one person from this office and train them on the state’s new financial software. I’m nominating you for the job. It’s a nine thousand dollar a year pay raise if you get it.”
Violet was flattered but hesitant. “How do they conduct the software training?” she asked. “Is it during the day, or at night?”
“It’s at night,” said her manager, “but it’s online so you don’t have to go anywhere to be trained. It’s only two hours per class and there are 24 classes, with assignments in between.”
“I just don’t see it,” said Violet. “I appreciate you thinking about my career, but I don’t think I want to learn a highly specialized application that only states use, and only a few states at that. I don’t want to pigeonhole myself as a finance person for state government.”
“Oh, come on, Violet,” said her manager. “If you can learn one software application, you can learn any of them. If you left the state at any point, not that I could imagine why you would, you could learn any software application you might need to use.”
“I agree with you,” said Violet, “but my time is also valuable. I’d estimate one hour of homework for every hour of class time in the training program.
“With 48 hours of class time and 48 hours of homework, that’s 96 hours of my time. That’s two full unpaid weeks of work, for what? To learn a software application that the state wants me to learn. If the state values me, then the state should pay me for that time.”
Violet’s manager was shocked. In his worldview, the best thing you can do is to get a secure job and stick with it, even if your employer’s career path doesn’t excite you. Moving up in an organization is the brass ring and the grand prize. In his world, you don’t say no to a promotion, no matter what.
Violet understands the human urge to seek security, but sometimes the cost of that security is too high.
“The cost is too high for me!” said Violet. Her conversation with her manager opened the door to a frank discussion of Violet’s goals.
She ended up quitting her state job, but she did it in collaboration with her manager who hired her to work 12 hours per week as a consultant for his department after she left.
“Now I’m a consultant,” said Violet. “That was Mother Nature’s decision. I’ve never been a consultant before. I’m finding my way. I have three clients so far. My manager’s plan to nominate me for a promotion I didn’t want was the nudge I needed!”
You get to run your own career the same way Violet does. In fact, you have to run your career. No one else will run it for you. Whatever you do career-wise in 2016, it’ll be your choice. Not making a choice is a choice in itself!
As you step into running your career like a business, you’ll start by asking yourself these questions:
- Where is my current job taking me? What career path does my employer have in mind for me, if any? If I stay in this job for another year, what will it get me besides a year’s worth of paychecks?
- If I can’t see a future at my current job – a future where I’ll keep growing my flame, learning more, earning more and feeling better all the time – why am I still working there?
- If I’m job-hunting, what is in my way? Maybe I’m stuck in an old mindset that is making it harder for me to get hired. Maybe I’m keeping my flame on a low setting when I should be turning it way up!
- What kind of career and life would I have if it were up to me?
- Why am I focusing on other goals – non-life-changing goals like losing ten lbs. and paying down my credit cards — when I can start taking steps to make my life-and-career dream real?
The biggest problem most of us face is that we don’t think we have the right to design our lives to our specifications. We are surrounded by messages that tell us “Don’t have dreams. Who do you think you are? Stick to what you know.”
Well-meaning people around us keep us boxed in, and less-well-meaning people, sometimes including our bosses at work, also make sure to remind us how ordinary and insignificant we are.
The toughest thing to do is also the most important thing: it is to set your own vision for your life and shut off the negative voices that tell you to stop complaining and stop trying to change your situation
Remember that fearful people want you to be fearful, too. The lobsters in the pot pull back the lobster that tries to escape.
It takes mental toughness to say “This is what I want, and I’m going to pursue it regardless of anyone else’s doubts,” but that’s how lobsters get out of the pot.
Take control of your career. Get altitude on your life and career by looking back at your path since childhood and then looking forward.
Create a vision for yourself and then break it down into steps, and take step one. Then, take step two!
Your life is up to you and no one else, and that can be the hardest lesson of all to learn.