A wise person once said, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there”. This is especially true with respect to our personal career. Advances in our career will happen in one of two ways: by default or by design. If it is your choice that it is by design, specifically your design, and not that of someone else, here are some strategies to help map the way.
Before anything, know where you are going. Define your objective based on the values that are most important to you. What roles do wish to play? How far up the hierarchy do you wish to go? Are you climbing the management ladder, or headed down the entrepreneurial path? Do you need further education? What is your desired income, now, five years from now, and 10 years from now? These are just some of the questions that will enable you to define your objective and search your heart and soul for where it is you wish to go. Now that you have a destination, you need an action plan to take you there. Allow me to share what I believe to be some of the critical elements of an action plan.
Assess your communication skills.
You will need the ability to translate your knowledge across many audiences. Know how to state your message so it will be received as intended. That may mean you coming out of your comfort zone and tailoring the message to the knowledge level, personality traits, and values of the receiving party. Positive messages usually result in positive responses. Developing versatile communication skills will lay the foundation for the balance of your action plan and bring benefits to you both in your business and personal life.
Create your own brand.
How do you want others to see you? Think about your personal brand as your reputation. Others will recognize your name, what you offer and what you are about. Your personal brand will persist as you move from project to project and position to position, even through changes in employment. Your brand is who you are all the time, on the job and off the job. If your brand is strong, people in general, customers, and colleagues will follow you making you personally a valuable human asset, thereby enabling you to write your own ticket and steer yourself down the road you wish to go.
Build relationships with contacts that last beyond where you are now.
Do anything in your power not to burn bridges. You never know who may be your future boss, or whose boss you may turn out to be. Strong relationships with co-workers, peers, customers, suppliers, and vendors will prove their weight in gold when meeting deadlines or working through challenges. Be willing to give, as the best business relationships are mutually beneficial. Today, with instant communication and social media it is easier than ever to connect and maintain an ongoing network.
Continue to learn throughout your career.
Regardless of your area of expertise, we do not live in a vacuum; all things change. Technology has become an integral part of doing business, and those who resist being a part of it will certainly fall behind the power curve. Take advantage of in-house training opportunities. Stay abreast of industry press releases, events, and innovations. Hone your skills or advance your education through online training. Express your desire to be involved in new projects. If nothing else, it will keep you young and keep your brain sharp.
Learn to handle stress, as it is a part of life.
Just as rain nourishes the plants to grow, the challenges in our life are nothing more than opportunities to grow. We cannot stretch our potential when we are too comfortable. Identify the source of stress. It may not always be possible to eliminate it, but there are certainly actions we can take to manage it. Sometimes it can be as simple as changing how you see the situation.
If it is something totally out of your care, custody, and control, and there is nothing you can do to change the situation, what good does it do to worry or get upset? That can be wasted energy. Move past it and look for opportunities to be productive in other ways. Energy flows where attention goes; so the more attention you pay to the negative, the more energy and power you give it.
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