Sunday, August 3, 2014

What’s the Best Way to Keep Your Career Moving Forward?

With pay increases in line with the consumer price index being the exception rather than the rule in the first part of the 21st Century, many people, especially those starting out on their careers don’t seem to have given much thought to medium and long term career goals.
It seems to be more about getting a job with decent pay and trying to keep that job; ideally with a large corporate that ‘supposedly’ offers more job security, greater benefits and a ‘sniff’ at some form of career development and advancement.
There seems to be little correlation between career goals and career decisions; where career goals are considered more like ‘dreams’ and aren’t believed to be achievable unless one is ‘just lucky’ and either in the right place at the right time or happen to bump into 'someone’ that can help you achieve your ‘dream job’.
David Lax, who’s the editorial board member of ‘Negotiation’, advises you to begin by taking a broad approach to employment. “Most people err by focusing too much on salary and not enough on career satisfaction, says Lax. As a result, many people end up in stable, well-paying jobs that they don’t like very much.
Exploring alternative paths through research, career coaching, classes, or volunteer work can give you psychological bargaining power in negotiations involving your current job. Even finding out that you don’t want to walk away any time soon can help you recommit and reengage,” (p.1).
You’ll find many authors suggesting that to get noticed you offer to help more; to take on more and to show more empathy for your boss and their stresses. But this statement only works in a healthy organisational climate – there are plenty of managers out there that would love to have employees willing to take on more and show real empathy for their predicament, as they would then take full advantage of your charity and you would get nothing more in return – except the potential for disciplinary action when you start to realise you’re being used and pulling back on giving all the extra help.
It’s an extremely sad reflection on how cynical many managers have become – that extra effort does not equate to appreciation and career development opportunities.
Not everyone achieves their career ambitions and to be brutally honest it’s probably the exception rather than the rule. First you have to have a realistic expectation of your ‘dream’, which means you have to understand what the ‘dream’ is, what it entails, and what skills and experience you’ll need at a minimum to have a chance of success.
Second you need to do the research to understand whether your dream career path is something you have to ‘qualify’ in – i.e. have specific academic achievements, as required for most professions, for example – and whether it’s best to have these qualifications early in your career or whether it’s a career you can ‘train’ for much later in life.
Thirdly, and maybe most importantly, identify and develop ‘real’ relationships with key ‘stakeholders’ that can support your career. This doesn’t mean pestering some professor on linkedin; or becoming an annoying supporter of a business professional – it means spending time identifying who are the people that can help you achieve your dream and then building honest relationships with them, most likely over a lengthy period of time. These relationships cannot be ‘fair weather’ relationships where you only contact people when you want something and must be genuine if you want to optimise your future potential in a particular field.
Fourthly, you need to learn to be patient. As much as it’s the exception that people genuinely achieve their career goals, it is even more rare to achieve those goals within your desired time frame – where more often than not, you take two steps forwards, one step back, two steps forward again and so on; as you compete for your place in your chosen field.
Finally ‘going’ for your career dream will always have some form of risks associated with it – whether it’s short-term financial constraints; or a lengthy commitment to an education path with no guarantees at the end of the day; or having to move around organisations to get the experience you need – whatever the ‘journey’ it will have risks and you need to be honest with yourself and your family (if you have one), in respect of what will be involved and any ‘hardships’ that will have to be endured.
But if you are fully committed to a career dream and you have your feet firmly on the ground in respect of what’s going to be involved then the next bit is to just enjoy the journey – as “it’s better to have tried and failed; than never to have tried at all” – whatever happens you’ll have a story to tell and you will have lived your dream.

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