by Linda Huth | Featured Contributor
Would you show up to a 5K, run on a treadmill, and expect to win? I wouldn’t. Your career is the same way. If you show up and lean on your manager or human resources department to show you the right path to take, you won’t win. They work for the company and their job is to make decisions that bring in profits and increase shareholder value. What is good for the company and your career goals, are likely not the same.
If you want to get a promotion, a raise, or start climbing those rungs in the corporate ladder, then you need to start managing your career. There is only one person that is going to make sure that you get to where you want to be, and that’s you. There are a few simple things that you can start right away to take control of your career.
Write some goals down.
You wouldn’t start a race if you didn’t know where the finish line was, right? The same concept applies to your career. Before you can start managing your career you need to have some idea of where you want to go. For me, these are usually high-level goals that are time bound. I usually try to choose goals that can be accomplished within 6 months, 1 year, and then 1 year or longer. Your short-term goals should all work to build to skills that support your long-term goal. Last year, my 6-month goal was to gain some more technical knowledge around the software that I support. For my 1 year goal, I wanted to take on more responsibilities within the projects I had at work. My long-term goal is to become a manager and people leader. My shorter goals were achievable and gave me skills that will help me manage a team.
Based on a study by Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California, writing your goals down increases your rate of success by 42%. So write your goals down. When you put it in writing you are more likely to be successful.
When developing your goals, keep in mind that things change with time. Your life dynamic, your work, or your interests could all change. These could all impact where you want to end up with your career. It’s a good idea to revisit your goals regularly to make sure they still align with your career path. If not, that’s ok. Adjust them and keep moving forward.
Start managing your boss.
Now you need to take those career goals you developed and put them into action. One thing you can do is to start managing your boss. You need to schedule some one-on-one meetings. This helps to build a relationship as well as open the line of communication. I find that it works best when you schedule these and put them on your boss’s calendar because it shows your initiative. During these meetings, learn what goals your boss has for your team, then share the goals that you have for your career. There is usually some overlap and you can use opportunities at work to build your skills to achieve your goals. For example, if you want to work on your presentation skills your boss might give you the responsibility of developing and presenting during a meeting. This helps you develop the skills you need and helps your boss by freeing up his or her workload.
Never stop networking.
An often overlooked factor in your career progression is your network. It is estimated that 70-85% of jobs are filled by networking. You should never stop networking. Your network is your support. Stay in touch with your friends and colleagues. Let them know about your career goals as well. You never know when and where an opportunity will present itself.
My opportunities have all come from people that I know. My network has played a large part in my professional success. Two things that I have found helpful in creating a network are:
- Don’t be afraid to look outside your company. Your network is everyone you meet. This can be someone at church, a friend at the gym, or someone you meet in line at Starbucks. You never know where an opportunity will come from.
- Get used to talking to people. I am an introvert but have forced myself to introduce myself to people. This means getting to know people at work and participating in team-building events.
If networking is something that you struggle with or you need help getting a jump start, check out this post for some more suggestions.
Remember, networking is a two-way street. Make sure that you remember to help out those in your network when you have the opportunity.
Take control and elevate your career by writing down your goals, managing your boss, and continuing to network. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” Start managing your career and you will win the race.