Far too many professionals today look to their managers for managing career development. That is a sad fact since this is yours and yours alone to manage. It is something I learned early in my IBM management career. It’s so easy to get caught up in our work that we lose sight of our career. So, what are the secrets of managing career development for you?
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Is there a secret to why some people have successful careers and others don’t? Research shows that IQ or abilities often have no cause and effect relationship. Certainly, socio-economic background does have a signficant influence but no guarantee.
You are accountable for your own success. As such, it is your responsibility to discover your special gifts, attributes and capabilities that can give you a competitive edge and the greatest probability to have a flourishing career.
Career management requires quality networking, being in the right place at the right time, earning a voice at the table, knowing your unique value proposition and how to use it, managing your personal brand, being influential – to name a few essentials. But in the end, all of these factors require one important thing: a personal initiative to manage and invest in your career.
On the surface, this sounds simple – but it is actually quite time consuming and requires strategic thought and planning. Making an investment in your career requires you to know what you should invest your time, money and resources in.
I have seen too many people waste time and money on making career investments that don’t align with their passionate pursuits and ultimate career ambitions. They can’t see the opportunities around them that they can effectively seize for their own advancement and personal satisfaction.
To invest properly in your career, you must know yourself extremely well. Knowing yourself requires you to understand the factors that positively inspire you to achieve something substantive and relevant – with passion – every day. For some people this takes a long time to discover. For others, they know themselves well enough to make good career investment decisions.
Here are 17 ways you can start managing your career today:
Set measurable goals
The key to getting what you want is knowing what you want. You must know what you want out of your career and you should be clear about these goals with your manager and your mentor. These goals are also great ways to measure your progress through the year and years in your regular performance reviews.
Maintain an open feedback loop
The hardest thing to do is to hear honest feedback, because it isn’t always positive. But, the ability to listen to all feedback and adjust accordingly is what will elevate your career. Be sure you are open to the good, the bad and the ugly feedback. This will help you adjust your work and your goals.
Secrets of managing career development … continuous reading
Read industry publications, websites and blogs. Share the best articles and have a point of view of your own. Position yourself as a voice of the industry and a valuable resource within your professional community. When you see great content, make an insightful comment and connect with influencers in the industry.
Be open to volunteering for new tasks
When a new project comes up and it aligns with your goals, raise that hand. Let your manager or HR team know that you want to learn some new skills or gain new, more advanced experience. Be clear on what you can offer to the project and get involved.
Build your networks
Cultivate networks inside and outside the organization you work for, and both online and offline. Find ways to be of service to the people in your network. It could be as simple as introducing them to each other, or sending them articles and other information that are meaningful and valuable to them. Attend worthwhile events to continually build and expand your network of contacts. When you hear of an event that’s worth attending, pass on the information to people who might benefit from attending as well, and let them know why you thought of them.
Secure a career mentor
A coach holds you accountable and forces you to manage your career, so you won’t lose momentum.Managing your career is important, because it encourages you take proactive steps to make better choices about your career, and the seven strategies offered above will get you started.
Treat every conversation as an interview
Everyone you talk to judges or evaluate your worth. Make that conversation worth something. And focus on the other person and not yourself;
Focus on strengths
Do what you’re best at, and what you have a passion for. Don’t spend an inordinate amount of time trying to make your weaknesses strengths;
Being clear about your values and living them; continually being mindful of your inner state; being aware of your impact on others; and learning how to manage your emotions and thoughts can be the greatest contribution or downfall to career success;
Under promise and over deliver
The celebrity and professional athlete hype and heroic CEO promises of super achievement have captured the public’s fancy. But humility, kindness, compassion and selfless service are a powerful combination that have a bigger long-term impact;
Invest in Your Strengths
Become increasingly aware of your natural strengths that allow your skill sets and capabilities to thrive and make the commitment to invest in them. For example, if you are a good negotiator, never assume that your technique doesn’t require fine tuning. Take a negotiations class, enhance your abilities and then put them to work more frequently.
To get your mindset in the right place, try this: the next time you are in a meeting, carefully observe your colleagues. Notice the dynamics in the room – and begin to ask yourself: what are other people doing to invest in the betterment of their careers?
The ultimate prize is to find happiness in your career and in your work by fueling your strengths and passion.
Invest in intelligence and know-how
Never stop learning. This begins by investing your time to acquire the right intelligence and know-how that will accelerate your career advancement. For example, most people want to build their personal brand – yet don’t invest in the process of developing one and thus miss opportunities along the way.
Never assume that you don’t need to get smarter, wiser and more strategic about how to better manage your career. Be proactive. Get to know the goals the industry you are serving desires to achieve and how you can contribute. Build relationships with key thought leaders. Identify the best executive search firms that can support the career path you seek – and get to know what your direct competitors are doing to secure the position(s) you may be targeting.
Invest in relationships
Build a personal advisory board who can properly guide your career goals. Identify your circle of influence. Who are they today? Are they guiding you rightly? Are you truly investing in these relationships in ways that are continually helping you move your career in the direction you want it to go?
Invest in how to network the right way. Your networking should be viewed as a professional development boot camp (read about this here). Learn to value your time and how to connect with the right people. Nurture the relationships that matter most. Give them proper time and attention and keep the most meaningful relationships active at all times.
Invest in a mentor
Staying focused can be difficult with so many different responsibilities to manage. This is why most people lose momentum when attempting to advance their careers. Most people start and stop the career management process – finding it difficult to manage their time.
Make career management a new best practice; a process that becomes an embedded part of your daily activities, goals and objectives. If possible, invest in a career coach to increase your commitment levels and hold yourself accountable. Today’s competitive landscape requires you to stay on track by investing in someone that can provide you with the tools and perspective to keep you focused.
Take on one thing a week that nurtures your success
For instance, attend a speech by someone in your industry or write a blog about your field. Go on YouTube to hear a motivational speech by someone wickedly successful, like Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg. And use this kind of time, too, to develop your “Big Mouth list” (all the people you email with important professional news about yourself).
Create life balance
Balance is the key to success – in both business and in life. Contribute to the success of your career by investing in work/life balance and dedicating more time and attention to your personal and family life.
My family and personal friends are an essential component to my career success. They help clear my mind and enrich my points of view. Engaging in activities separate from your career allows you to broaden your observations through a different lens and appreciate new types of ideas and ideals that can help shape your thinking and contribute to your professional growth.
If you don’t have the right skills (public speaking, social media, whatever) for the next big job in your sights, get them.
Also, check out online the jobs you think you want. What are the full descriptions and necessary requirements? How can you position yourself to be a better candidate for those jobs?
The bottom line
There are no magic potions or formulas for career success. It requires sustained effort, street smarts and insightful strategies, much like the focus of successful organizations.
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Test. Learn. Improve. Repeat.
Are you devoting enough energy continually improving your continuous learning?
Do you have a lesson about making your learning better you can share with this community? Have any questions or comments to add in the section below?
Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he blogs on topics that relate to improving the performance of your business. Find them on G+, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Digital Spark Marketing will stretch your thinking and your ability to adapt to change. We also provide some fun and inspiration along the way. Call us for a free quote today. You will be amazed how reasonable we will be.
More reading on mentoring from Digital Spark Marketing’s Library: