Careers. Ugh the dreaded question “what do you want to be when you grow up.” Remember those days of our youth. When ignorance really was bliss, and we were so excited to shout out our future plans. Go ahead…. ask a kindergartener “what do you want to be when you grow up?” You’ll see it, that light in their eyes ….A fireman! A doctor! A vet! THE PRESIDENT!!! … Young and naive, we use to be so passionate about working (now the word ‘work’ instantly makes me cringe). Little did we know….we’d be working for the rest of our lives. I swear every parent who beams with pride when their child says they want to be a teacher, is also secretly laughing to themselves.. HA! Have fun being BROKE for the rest of your life, losing any shred of patience you once had, and learning not to do anything, BUT complain. . Ohhh little did we know how quickly that enthusiasm would dissipate. Then there’s me. I’m well into adulthood and just now starting to think about where I want to go professionally. I’m just starting to think about how I plan to get there. Hey! Planning your life is stressful. Succeeding is stressful. I don’t blame the guy down the street who has been in his job for 20 years, never moved up and never went anywhere. I understand, planning is difficult! Motivation comes in waves, and if you haven’t started paddling out to catch it….oops, there it goes.
I’ve been in my job for six years. I’ve learned all I believe I can learn in my position. Yeah, yeah, once in awhile a user comes up with a question that stumps me, but …. I find these situations are getting few and far between. So I’ve been thinking, what is it I lack? Is it ambition? Is it clarity? Or is it guidance? … So here is my list- how to get where you want to go.
1. Find a Mentor:
I wish I had thought about this a long time ago. Yes, I have coworkers that I talk to about where I think I want to go, but a mentor is someone who has already walked the path that you are on. They will tell you exactly what you need to do to get to that next step. Find a mentor. My biggest mistake was that I thought for the longest time my boss was my mentor. I mean in my mind my goal was always to be THE BOSS. And after six years, lets face it…My boss is a middle aged man, who is comfortable in his position and who will probably never venture outside of his responsibilities so.. There is no room for me. Yes I’ve moved up as far as I can in my current job – but where do I go now? A mentor should not only motivate you to get moving, or start studying, but they should also be someone you can trust. This person can give you the proper advice when it comes to everything we face in the work place. Manger / employee relations, how to prepare for meetings, how to deal with difficult situations, how to deal with all the political bullshit that you WILL face in any office environment, and how to approach conflict to achieve the best possible outcome. A mentor teaches you the street smarts of your job, they also advise you on how to get the most out of each experience you encounter in a work environment. Most importantly, this person should want to see you succeed. They will not hold you back, but will encourage you to push your limits. Your successes are their successes. A true mentor wants to see you strive for your goals, accomplish them and stands by your side through the entire process. Find one. Right now.
2. Career Development:
This is another area that can be difficult to figure out on your own. I think you should use the same strategy that you use in college planning and apply it to career development. You go to college, you pick a major, the school gives you a list. Here– to achieve this degree you must take xyz, you must comprehend xyz and after completing this list…you get the certificate. We should think about our careers with the same mindset. What is your top goal? Own a business? Become a Manager? CEO? Head chef? Find out what your top career goal is, then get to work. Research. Lay out a plan detailing what you need to do to get there. Does the position you are shooting for require certain levels of education? Experience? A masters or PHD? Does it require certifications? Is there a track you can find that will plainly lay out how to move from step one to step two and so on? If there isn’t, this is where your mentor comes in. Talk to those you know who are in the position that you strive to be in….ask them, how did you do it? What did it take? Then… start mapping.
The importance of networking should never be overlooked.. Network. Network. Network. The more people you know, the more people that know you. Have that dialogue. Meeting people in your career or in your career path can really work to your advantage. I am a stronger believer in it’s not what you know, but who you know. I’ve seen some very interesting eyebrow-raising hires in my day, all because that person knew someone. Create a Linked-in account. Correspond with the recruiters who reach out to you, if anything, just keep your contact list growing. Always have your business cards on you and hand them out. Send follow-up emails after meeting someone. If you spark their interest, at least they’ll have your contact information. Attend events, pass out your friends cards if you hear someone mention an issue that may not directly relate to your profession, maybe it directly relates to theirs. Smile, shake hands, and be confident. Networking is key and it takes practice.
4. How much are my skills worth?:
Marketability. Find out how much you are worth. There is nothing wrong will checking out the job postings and surrounding market to see where a person with your skills fit in. Don’t get comfortable. We do the job that we were hired to do, but then slowly, we find out that not only are we doing the job we were hired to do, but somehow we got roped into a long list of additional responsibilities. Well, those added responsibilities need to go on your resume. And when you are researching the job market you might be surprised how much other companies are willing to pay for someone with your specialities. If you were hired as a dishwasher, but now you’re being asked to prepare meals and you are doing it (and quite well I add) — stop thinking of yourself as just a dishwasher. Here’s a secret — that’s how the corporate world gets you. They hire you as one thing, pile on responsibilities, but then on paper…..you are a dishwasher. Check out the market. And when you start to look or apply, look for a Sue Chef title this time. Remember that you are marketable. You have worth. And any good company should try to harness that and promote good staff. If you aren’t getting promoted… Sometimes it’s time to promote yourself. Which brings me to my next point.
5. Don’t be afraid to leave:
Like I said, I’ve been with the same company for six years. I’ve been approached for many other opportunities, but I’ve always felt a sense of loyalty. Maybe that’s because this job “made me” it has been my career and that can be hard to let go of. It’s funny I have friends who have moved jobs, for better jobs every two years. They’ve gotten higher positions, more experience, are challenged, increased their education and now the entire time I’ve been at my one job they’ve had three or four – and their salaries ($$$$$$$) have tripled, and their market value has sky rocketed. I think in the past there was something to be said for those who could say they had been with their company for 20-30 years. That isn’t the case anymore. Unless you are a government worker, 20 years in a place doesn’t give you an edge over any other candidate (pensions are non-existent, sorry). So when you hit that glass ceiling and you know that there is nowhere else to go, start looking, start putting your feelers out – because just because you hit the ceiling in your company, doesn’t mean you cannot go up someplace else.
We all have career goals and a path we ideally want to find ourselves on. Finding that path, getting on it, and starting our journey (or journeys) can be an overwhelming feat. Don’t worry, you aren’t the only one who has had to travel these unfamiliar roads. So, now that I’ve blogged about it – I guess I have to be about it. See. We are all in this together.
Wishing you success and happiness in your journey to finding the right fit.