Take Charge of Your Career Development
Who owns your career?
I hope you are loudly saying right now “I do!” It’s solely up to each of us as individuals. A short thirty years ago, many people went to work at a company, or maybe a few at most, and stayed. Their training, promotions, and compensation all came from that one firm. The career “ladder” was linear and pretty straight forward for most individuals.
What I say now is “what career ladder”? It’s not that there isn't progress to be had and promotions available, there’s just no ladder. The ladder now looks like a jungle gym with bars connecting left, right, up and sideways. So many ways to have career progress. And so many shifting priorities in what we want from work. It’s all different.
In a study by LinkedIn, results showed that over the last twenty years, that’s just 2002 folks, the number of places people worked for in the five years following graduation has nearly doubled. The average job tenure for all of us is now is now 4.1 years. Job change is no longer seen as a negative but as a sense of being open to growth.
CEO of Your Career
With that being the case, there is no corporate hammock to swing any of us happily through our career. The first component of taking charge of your career is the full acknowledgement that you are the CEO of your career. And that’s just the way you want it to be. Who would you want to be in control of your destiny besides you?
I want to share CEO behaviors that you can use as a guideline for making your career decisions. These will shift your mindset and serve as goalposts for you to follow.
CEO’s will make tough decisions. There’s never as much data as one would want to have on important matters, and at some point a decision has to be made. Ask yourself the hard questions about the career choice in front of you and consider the various outcomes that are possible. You then get to live with your decision. That’s fair. Think about the advice you’d give a close friend if they were in your shoes to remove yourself a step or two.
CEO’s are always learning and don’t rest on their accomplishments to date. New soft skills and technologies. Classes. Certificates. Degrees. Executive Coaching. Leadership. Time Management Skills . Taking the time to be up-to-date and to invest in themselves is never pushed to the backburner for too long. Take a page from their playbook and hold yourself highly accountable for keeping current in the ways that matter most in your career field.
CEO’s have mastered the art of saying “no”. Make sure you say “yes” to the things that you have prioritized and that move your goals forward. Keep your calendar focused on the things that will give you the results you want in your career. Develop the skill to gracefully decline the things that don’t. Why are those two little letters so difficult? The culprits are usually clustered around people pleasing tendencies, fear of disappointing others, or anxiety about repercussions that can occur at work or in our personal lives. Make your answer succinct. Try one of these two ideas: “I’m sorry, I’m not able to fit this in” “I don’t have the bandwidth for that right now” Add no more to the sentence you choose. If we continue on, our statement loses weight and people sense that and will press forward for a change of heart from you. Short and firm is definitely the way to proceed.
CEO’s are known by the company they keep. We’ve all heard the statement that “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with” from motivational guru Jim Rohn. And it’s way bigger than that. We are an average of the community we surround ourselves with in our lives. Make sure your community gives you support, honesty, feedback and a listening ear.
CEO’s illustrate perseverance. I believe it’s one of the best qualities any of us can have in life and in our work. There will always be adversity, setbacks, unexpected bumps and conflicts. A few quotes here: The last thing to grow on a fruit tree is the fruit. - Tom Bilyeu Ponder that. We get so impatient. You can’t lose if you don’t quit. - Stephen C. Storey We only lose when we stop trying. Let me tell you the strength that has led me to my goal. My strength ties solely to my tenacity. - Louis Pasteur You know, the guy who discovered pasteurization of milk and wine to stop bacterial contamination and moved vaccine principles to a whole new sphere, only changing all of our lives?
That’s what they have to say about perseverance. Develop your CEO skills. Use them. Read about CEO’s you admire. There are great books to dive into. Inhabit the thought process that you are a CEO because you are. It’s up to you to play the role well.
Let’s talk about the next component.
A Career Plan. Do you have one? Let’s make sure that’s done with these steps:
Self-Exploration and Self-Assessment. Write down your experience, interests, accomplishments, skills, knowledge and values. Write it down. Really. What we write down is forty percent more likely to happen than things we just talk about. This is your career we are looking at. Each one of these items deserves your time and thoughtfulness. See what arises for you. Let it rest. Revisit it. You need to go inward before you can launch into the world with your plan.
Research and Feedback. Ask for input from a few trusted advisors. Your manager. Co-workers. Subordinates. People you’ve worked with at past companies. Individuals who know you professionally. Ask them what they think about your accomplishments, skills and business attributes from their point-of-view. Ask the harder question around what you can improve on and insist on honesty. How others perceive you adds a great element to your self-exploration and self-assessment in number one, making a nice overview you can use.
Set Initial Employment Goals. Should you stay where you are and grow? If this is a “yes” for you, excellent news. Have a more in-depth conversation with your manager and others who can help guide your career forward. Check out the internal job boards. Talk to Human Resources. Assess what the opportunities for advancement are with clear eyes and make sure they fit in with your plan. This is an area I encourage you to be very honest with yourself about. Or is moving on the best idea? Switching jobs is one of the fastest ways to move up in the ranks and secure a higher salary. With raises hovering at around 3%, staying at the same company can cost you thousands of dollars with no guarantee of job security because that no longer exists. Other reasons to change jobs include the desire for learning and growth opportunities as well as work-life balance, the latter having assumed huge proportions since 2020. Maybe you are interested in becoming an entrepreneur? This requires a lot of work, due diligence, and strategic planning. It is also a path that people who are interested in working for themselves find very worth it. Being an entrepreneur is not the same as having a job. There are a lot of hard days and growth usually doesn’t come easily or quickly. It can be a rewarding and life-changing experience. Talk to other entrepreneurs who’ve successfully stood up a business to get the real skinny. These are your initial goals. You aren’t going to engrave them on a stone tablet. They can change.
The final component is to Build a Development Plan. Time to dig down deeper. Using the knowledge from the CEO of Your Career Section and the Components of Your Career Plan that you identified, you can craft the framework of your own personal development plan. These are components to consider.
Skills/Learning What do you need to do to get up to speed on your path? This could include certificates, degrees, classes, courses, networking, reading, videos, blogs, industry events and education. Again, make a written list and prioritize it.
Build Relationships - Connect on LinkedIn strategically based on what you’ve determined your next step to be and join appropriate LinkedIn groups. There are over two million LinkedIn Groups. You can join 100 of them. I don’t advise that. Pick a handful, think five to seven and be active. - Join a couple of networking groups that have applicability to your industry. Two or three are just fine. Get involved. - Check out Meet-up Groups. - Start now inviting people you’d like to know better to lunch or coffee based on your plan. - Join industry associations or organizations that support entrepreneurs if that’s your path.
Establish a timeline and Take Action I recommend short term goals between when you start the action plan and up to one year, broken down along the way as well as long term goals that are in the three to five year plus range.
This is a great overview…and there is much more to be considered because career choices are so individual and multi-pronged.
Career goals feel big because they are.
We are way too close to our own situations to have the best vision. I work with people to clarify their career choices and decisions. I have an expertise in partnering with women in corporate jobs at the Director level or higher. If you are ready to get excellent clarity on your career situation or are pondering changing jobs, I can help. I’ve worked with thousands of people on their career goals.
Now ponder this quote by Earl Nightingale
“Remember: jobs are owned by the company, you own your career!”
Let’s talk. Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your best life starts now.