eight steps to career success

eight steps to career success

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit"


In these empowered and enlightened days, employers proudly tell their staff to manage their own career development. However, most people are not properly equipped to do so and haven't a clue how to go about it. That's understandable, no-one was ever taught career management in schools, our parents were probably in the same company (if not the same job) from school until retirement, and if you ask around your peer group you get as many differing pieces of advice as you have friends.

So where do you begin?

Step 1 - Understand the concept of career management.

Good news: gone are the days when we were made to feel nothing short of inadequate if we weren't crystal clear at age 14 of our career path for the rest of our working life. It's okay to change your mind - and your career. We used to view it as failure if people shifted career. Not any more, it's smart. Why? If you're changing career it probably means that you're adapting to a changing work environment, going with the flow, learning, reviewing how your own skills fit with the careers which are opening up.

The world looks a bit different from when we were at school: jobs - and companies - come and go. Employability is what you need to aspire to, not simply employment. So career management is not about knowing all the answers and having a career path mapped out, it's about adapting and being flexible so that you are best placed to respond to opportunities. Better still, the people who've really got this cracked learn to create their own opportunities. Read on...

Step 2 - Know yourself.

Self-awareness is the key to success. If you're clear about what you have to offer then you'll be clearer about what you can do. Take opportunities for feedback - learn to see yourself as others see you. Personality-profiling and 360-degree feedback can be invaluable in this. Seek objective professional assessment if you need to - it'll be money well spent. Be aware of ongoing changes in your self, your skills and what interests you.

Exploring your self will inevitably mean that you find yourself taking risks - pushing your personal boundaries forward - in order to find out what your skills really are and what you enjoy. Also consider your values and what motivates you and how these shape your sense of a satisfactory work experience. Understand your strengths and your pressure points - where do you go to recharge your batteries? What motivates and energises you? What are you known for in your organisation?

Also look at the bigger picture, at your lifestyle. What changes do you need to make to your work life to accommodate changes in your private life? If the two are not in tune you'll experience stress, so learn to anticipate change and deal with it.

Step 3 - Focus on skills, not jobs.

Jobs are changing rapidly and some jobs exist now which didn't a few years ago. It's also more difficult to determine exactly what people do - the title Marketing Manager, for example, can encompass an entirely different range of tasks in one company over another. Also job titles become redundant, whereas skills are transferable. So forget about job titles and concentrate on skills - that way you'll be flexible about new opportunities, either in your current organisation or in different industries. If you scan through vacancies with this approach, even you will be surprised at what you could do. Write your CV to focus on skills and achievements, not jobs.

Think about what you've achieved and how you did it, that way you'll build up a picture of your unique contribution to the work environment.

tep 4 - Set goals.

You can't get anywhere if you don't know where you're going. Come on, you know that's what you tell your children. Again, this is where focusing on skills has the advantage over focusing on job titles. Ideally set short- and long-term goals but concentrate on short-term ones if the future is just too fuzzy right now - it will unfold, I promise.

Be clear about how you want to build on your skills to secure the next job. Is it developing a specialism to build on your current expertise? Or is it developing new skills, eg experience of managing others, to move into an entirely different role? Set smart targets for achieving these goals and use your key strengths to support areas where you are less strong ( - this is why you really need to know yourself).

Step 5 - Know your industry.

Learn about what's happening in your industry. Read everything you can and think about the implications, not least for your own role. Understand the challenges facing your industry and think about the skills which you have which will address those. Also think about the skills which you don't have right now which you will need to acquire.

Be one step ahead. Join professional organisations. Become someone who is known for being tuned in to what is happening. Publish articles and conduct seminars to demonstrate your understanding. By becoming informed about your industry, you'll be the first to take advantage of new jobs and the first to spot when it's time to move on.

Step 6 - Keep learning.

This will build on your self-awareness and increase what you have to offer, both within your current organisation and externally. As long as you're learning, no-one loses and everyone gains. On that basis, most companies will fund training which has some relevance to them. Recent training always looks good on your CV, especially as you get older - it suggests that you're still open to new ideas and ways of doing things. New skills and experiences broaden your options for work and, as an added bonus, make you a more interesting person.

Step 7 - Build a network of contacts and use it.

Most jobs aren't advertised. Make sure that people know of your current skills and future aspirations, so that you'll be front of mind when those to-die-for opportunities come up. Know what your contacts are interested in and supply it. Learn to network effectively, ie not a scattergun approach, but with a desire for genuine exchange of ideas and information with the right people.

Step 8 - Make time for regular reviews.

Well, how can you know if you're on target to achieve those goals you've set if you don't make time for reviews? Take a minimum of half a day every six months to review your career. Using your CV as a focus, think about what you've learned and what new experiences you've had. If none, why not? Think about what you need to do to move on to the next step. Then do it

This article © Copyright Ad astra Career Management. Please do not reproduce this article without permission. If you wish to reproduce this article please contact us.



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