People with successful careers don’t sit around waiting for the next opportunity to fall into their lap. Instead, they stand up and take control of their ideas and passion and start planning for what comes next.
For most people, a large portion of time will be spent on their careers although many fail to realise that the key to success is how you spend that time. Your career should be something you manage and not the other way around. The following six steps are key to taking hold of the wheel to steer yourself in the right direction.
Define Your Success
Having a successful career a few generations ago meant moving ‘up’ the corporate ladder. Today, it’s less about going up and more about driving forward, even if progression might come in the form of a ‘sideways’ move. However, when focusing on taking control of your career, the first critical step is to understand where you currently are and why you want or need to move.
Be clear on your purpose and understand what it is you do and the value you bring. Define what important factors influence what drives you, your strengths and weaknesses and where you can grow. With this you can work out what success means to you and begin to plot your route to get there.
Plot a Route
The French Philosopher Antoine de Saint-Exupery said it best; ‘A goal without a plan is just a wish.’ Wishing for a better career won’t get you anywhere, so going from a dead-end to your dream job takes careful and considerate planning.
Start with the end in mind; where do you want to be? What’s at the end of your finishing line? Once you have that in hand, you can begin to write down the steps you need to achieve it. Be realistic with yourself, life like everything else, changes. So be prepared to be flexible and reactive by applying the brakes when necessary; there are no straight roads to success.
Find a Mentor
Most successful professionals have been where you are now at least once in their careers, eager to start putting their plan into action. By engaging with the people you already know, seek out a mentor with the experience relevant to you who can guide you through the route you have planned.
Finding a great mentor is no easy task, but the key is to be someone who is enjoyable to coach. Are you yourself, someone you would like to mentor? Being open, flexible, resilient and respectful, alongside actively building your career, will set you apart from many other people looking to be pushed in the right direction.
Your mentor will be your GPS you have on hand who can point you towards the necessary exposure and experience you will require to be successful. For them to be able to do that, they will need to be someone who you can trust to be brutally honest when the situation requires.
Most people understand the value of getting mentorship but miss the mark when it comes to a sponsor. A sponsor is usually a key person who can help promote you across an organisation and understands the internal political system. Both have strengths and weaknesses but the question should not be which one should you chose, but rather how can you maximize both?
Build Your Networks
Having a strong network of co-workers and industry professionals is one of the best ways to gain momentum in your career. Attend relevant social and business events to pursue every opportunity to make new or strengthen existing connections. Sometimes, the price of attending conferences can be high, so be open to providing help by volunteering at these industry events so you’re still able to get involved and meet people.
When growing your network, it’s imperative to be genuinely interested in the subject matter and to identify the value of each interaction. The majority of industry events will feature professionals focused on similar issues, but each will bring their own perspective and sometimes the most unexpected connections can deliver the most value. You’ll also want to have strong connections with the people in your direct network, such as those you currently work with, as they will be able to vouch for your work and experience.
Develop Your Skills
As your relationship with your stakeholders and managers grows, you must prepare to gain a better understanding of your skills and expertise. Ask yourself whether you know what your greatest contribution to the business is. If you don’t, ask both your mentor and those you report to, as they will be able to provide a comprehensive answer. So even if you have your own list improvements to make, always ask what you could do better.
Gaps in your skill set are holes in your road to success, once identified you can research what you can do to fill these in, such as formal training or shadowing someone with the skills you need.Consider all your options for improving, not just part-time courses and qualifications. For example, keep up-to-date with your industry by regularly discussing it with your co-workers and following influential leaders on LinkedIn.
The final step is to stand out to your leaders, stakeholders and network. To do this, you will need to demonstrate the ability to exceed expectations by completing sometimes unwanted assignments and occasionally leaving your comfort zone.
Your success in completing difficult tasks and consistently performing above expectations will allow you to stand out to others. To be the one others turn to for expertise will allow you to be in full control of the direction of your career.
Whilst we’re on the topic of expectations, don’t forget to manage your own. Ensure your milestones and the standards you will be measured against are clearly defined and understood. This will help you reduce the surprise when things don’t go precisely as planned, and avoid you falling into disappointment and frustration.
Whether you’re faced with starting your journey or you’re already half way through it, you still have a lot of hard work ahead of you. That being said, taking control of your career can be made easier by surrounding yourself with those who can add their knowledge and value to it.
Our specialist Recruiters can help you in every step of your career journey, from right at the start when you need help looking at why you do what you do and what success means to you, or closer to the end and need advice on how to develop your skill set to get you to your dream job. Contact us today or stop by one of our offices for give your career the kick-start it might need.