Taking control of your career:

Taking control of your career

Fresh out of college, I made ends meet by bartending at the local. While I had graduated with honors, I hadn’t given my career path much thought. Quite frankly, I was more concerned with whether the weekend would yield a trip to the beach. If someone had lectured me on how important ‘taking control of your career’ was, I would have shrugged them off.  

When I received a promotion to management, I was super excited about the pay increase. However, I never considered whether the promotion would help me pursue a particular career path. Heck, like most people, I didn’t have a path. 

It Isn’t Your Fault

Have you ever taken a class that taught you how to set career goals? Maybe a better question is this: have you ever seen this type of class on a high school or college curriculum? 

I haven’t.

Most people claim to understand how important it is to set goals. But it has been my experience that only a small percentage actually set career objectives for themselves. As a recent example, a Clinical Operations Lead contacted me a few days ago with a desperate plea for help. She was miserable in her current position and needed an exit plan. She was willing to take anything. 

And therein lies the problem. Have you ever seen an ‘anything’ job post? 

I asked her several questions with the hope that I could help her. But all of her responses were so vague that I didn’t have enough details to even start. She was so concerned with leaving her current position that she had no vision of where she wanted to go.

I certainly understand wanting to run away from your circumstances. Haven’t all of us been in a situation that we desperately wanted to escape?

I know that I have.

But doesn’t it make sense to form some type of plan? Otherwise, you are likely to land in another desperate situation…only for the cycle to continue.  

What To Do Instead

At what point are you taught that taking control of your career is important? My parents taught me about work ethic when I was very young. I cleaned neighborhood houses when I was 12 years old and landed my first real job at the snack bar with Sky City when I was 14. Missing a scheduled shift or showing up late was never an option…I can still hear my Mom telling me how important ‘an honest 8 hours pay for an honest 8 hours work’ was. 

But having an excellent work ethic is completely different than identifying career goals and mapping out a strategy to obtain them. 

Here are some signs that you may be missing the boat when it comes to taking control of your career.

You wait for the next opportunity

I fell into my first management job because I had been a great team member. Similarly, I landed my first programming job because I was dependable, had a terrific attitude, and always wanted to learn new things. When I was working on my Master’s degree, I was hired for a job at IBM because I just happened to strike up a conversation with a random guy at a career fair. I was then promoted into a management role with IBM because…you guessed it….I was so dependable and always willing to volunteer for new projects.  

Having a new position magically appear is wonderful. But in today’s company-driven market, waiting for a recruiter to reach out to you is a flawed approach. While in management with IBM, I was assigned a mentor who taught me how to set career goals. And I will tell you this: learning how to set a career goal as well as how to map out a strategy to obtain that goal was a game changer for me. 

I no longer had to wait for something to happen. I knew I could make things happen myself.  

You don’t celebrate enough

As a business owner and manager myself, I love working with team members who I can trust.  And the reality is that you should be a trustworthy team member who exhibits a strong work ethic. 

But when does having a positive attitude, working hard, and being completely dedicated to your team become a bad thing? 

When you don’t openly celebrate your successes. 

Don’t assume others will see your dedication. If you just put your head down and do the work without celebrating your successes, you may be missing an opportunity to progress your career. 

You aren’t clear

Instead of focusing on what you don’t want, clarify what you do want. If you aren’t sure what you want for yourself, you won’t be able to articulate what you are looking for to others. And…lack of clarity also means that you will not evaluate if opportunities align with your career goals.  

You quit when things get tough

People without goals give up too easily. We see these resumes daily…lots and lots of short tenures. Or, it is evident that the candidate has a habit of taking ‘any’ job because the resume shows no clear path or progression. When individuals have strongly established goals, they hand-select their new positions and stick with them. Why? Because the new job offers something that will help them ultimately achieve their goals. 

How to Set Goals

We outline five simple steps you can follow to help establish goals in another article. But before you get started, do some self-assessment. Make sure the career goal is important enough for you to be truly committed to obtaining it. 

For example, I always thought it would be cool to be an Olympic swimmer. But I never wanted it enough to commit to the training schedule. Make sure you are passionate about whatever objective you set. That passion will fuel you when things get tough.