Too many people sit back and wait for great thing to happen in their career. They start working and expect that in a few years they will be promoted to Vice President and will be earning a six figure salary. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. In order to be successful, you have to take an active role in managing your career. If you don’t, you will wake up in 15 years wondering why you are still making roughly the same salary and are continuously being passed up for promotions.
With that said, how do you manage your career so that you can earn the highest salary possible and are doing fulfilling work? In order to manage your career, you need to take a look within yourself and figure out what you really want as well as where you currently stand. Here are four steps to take charge of your career as well as action items to get you started.
4 Steps To Take Charge of Your Career
Step 1: Understand Who You Are
The first thing you need to do is to take a step back and evaluate the things that are important to you. Being honest with yourself is critical because if you aren’t honest here, you are going to be miserable no matter which job you have or how much money you are making. At the end of the day you have to be working a job that fulfills and motivates you.
Take my wife for example. She thought she valued money as her top priority. She took a job in sales and was earning a good amount of money. But she recently took the time to evaluate what she values most. Surprisingly to her, it is having a work-life balance and doing work that is fulfilling.
As any successful salesperson knows, balancing work and life when your income is based on commission is very hard to do. She is now re-evaluating things to find a job that better suits her values.
- Be honest with yourself and determine what is most important to you
- Write in a journal for 30 days to get a better sense of who you are, what drives you, and when you feel happy
Step 2: Stay Current
It’s important that you understand what is happening in your field and who the up and coming players are. It also helps you to know what types of jobs are available in your given industry. This benefits you in two ways. First, having contacts in the industry opens the door to other opportunities to come your way. Second, staying current in your field makes you more valuable to your employer as well as more marketable.
For example, after completing the first step, you might realize that you don’t want to sell widgets anymore; you love being creative and want to make them instead. By knowing all about design and having connections within the industry the transition will be a lot smoother for you.
- Attend networking events
- Subscribe to industry newsletters and/or trade publications
- Keep in contact with others in your industry through email, phone and by using LinkedIn in an inovative way.
Step 3: Get Feedback
In order to take charge of your career and improve as an employee, you need to know how you are performing. The only way to do this is to ask for honest feedback. This includes feedback from both supervisors and fellow employees. If you do it the right way, you can use performance reviews to actually propel your career.
I found that my annual review, which I thought would be a review of my performance and where I could improve, turned out to simply be a 5 minute meeting where I was told how much my annual raise was going to be. Frustrated, I scheduled another meeting with my supervisor to get feedback. I also reached out to my peers as well. By reaching out, I learned a lot about myself and the areas where I needed to improve.
There are two important notes to realize before asking for feedback. The first is that some employees will not be comfortable providing it. This is OK and you need to accept this. The second note is that you need to have an open mind and be ready to hear about your shortcomings. Don’t get discouraged when you hear them. Keep a positive attitude by telling yourself if you improve in these areas, you will be that much better of a person and an employee. Remember, we all have shortcomings.
- Have an annual review meeting with your boss or supervisor where your performance is discussed
- Ask for feedback from other employees that you have a working relationship with, especially your peers
Step 4: Honest Self-Assessment
The last step involves checking in with yourself. You need to assess your emotions with regard to your employment. Are you happy and excited to go to work? Or does Sunday night come and you are out looking for people with the flu, begging them to cough on you so you can call out on Monday?
Maybe you don’t dislike your job, but it doesn’t challenge you anymore. Are you bored most of the day? If this describes you, you might be better off switching jobs, careers, or even employers. After all, spending 40 hours a week doing something that you don’t enjoy or doesn’t excite you is a terrible way to live. You only live once, it’s ideal you make the best of it.
- Assess your emotions throughout the work week
- How do you feel at work and away from work
- Take note of your emotions in your journal and try to identify a pattern or relationship
By taking an introspective look at yourself and your feelings about your current job, you will learn a lot about yourself and this will aid you in taking charge of your career.
It could be that you are in your dream job; you just need more challenging assignments. Or, you might find that you really dislike your job and you need a change. By going through the above steps, you will make any job transition much smoother than it otherwise would be. This isn’t saying the transition will be easy, just smoother.
When it comes to your career, just remember, they call it the corporate ladder and not the corporate escalator for a reason. You just don’t stand there to get to the top. You have to exert some effort in order to get to where you want to go. You also need to make sure your ladder is leaning against the right wall, otherwise all of your hard work is wasted.
Bio: This is a guest post by Jon who writes for Money Smart Guides, a personal finance blog that helps people get out of debt and start investing for their future. With your career being your greatest source of income, it’s important you work hard at finding one that fulfills you, so that it affords you the life you desire.