Catholicism, Anglicanism and Eastern Orthodoxy all have patron saints—heavenly protectors or advocates of nations, places and activities. There is even an entire list of saints for occupations, such as St. Blaise for veterinarians, St. Joan of Arc for soldiers and St. Patrick for engineers and paralegals. However, when it comes to career development, we are on our own.
Religious affiliation notwithstanding, I have always found it rather odd that, with new beginnings, such as the advent of a new year, more folks do not make career enhancement a priority in their renewed lists of resolutions. These lists often include exercise, weight loss, getting organized, starting a new hobby, saving more, spending less, quitting cigarettes, traveling and/or a determination to read more—all noble and worthy pursuits. Yet, while we spend a third of our waking life on the job for a period of some 40 years at least, my experience is that most individuals spend very little time ensuring their work life is as fulfilling as possible. They appear oblivious to the significant satisfaction that can come from work, the experiences they encounter and the people they meet in the fulfillment of their work mission.
So, as we leave 2020, I offer some thoughts for those who may want to think long-term and spend some sweat equity on making their work life more enjoyable and fulfilling.
This much I know:
- You are in charge. If you do not make your career a priority, no one will. If you are fortunate, you will work for an organization that will provide career development resources, such as tuition reimbursement or access to a career coach, but you have to drive this bus. Take charge and inquire as to what is available. Then take advantage of those opportunities.
- The person you work for is hugely important to your future career prospects. If you are really fortunate, your manager or department head believes in you and is interested in your career. However, the majority, in my experience, do not see their employees’ career development as their responsibility. They are intensely focused on their own progress, so the future of their subordinate bench does not reach a priority level. Here again, you must get up the gumption to ask your superior for some quality time to have a career discussion. How your manager prepares for that meeting will speak volumes.
- Play to your strengths. If you have no attention to detail. you probably should not be in the accounting or quality control departments. If you are in a job that is not suited to your makeup, work on changing that. According to the Gallup company, which specializes in data analysis, if you are tapping into your strengths at work, you are six times more likely to be engaged. Playing to your strengths will bring infinitely more satisfaction and, with that, career advancement.
- Be adaptable. Your career path will not be linear. Very few individuals end up doing what they initially planned. Your preferences will change over time, and you may have to sacrifice some things to get the career you want.
- Be a life-long learner. The truly successful have a passion for learning that does not stop with a university degree. In fact, that is only the beginning and should follow you to the grave. And if you are tackling a new assignment that frightens you, then you are on the right course.
As you work your way through these steps, you likely will find yourself experiencing anxiety. Approaching your manager about your aspirations or considering a change to a new career can be daunting. Keep going anyway. Facing that fear and powering through it will make you stronger and help advance you to the career you want.
Now, what’s on your New Year’s list?
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