It’s just your typical day: clients, meetings, deadlines, office politics, overwhelming to do list, stress and anxiety, not to mention your boss, your team and just when do you get that coffee break?! It can be pretty overwhelming, and leave you little time to focus on what really matters, or get intentional about your career. But you need to make time and space for yourself.
Here are six things to focus on for career success – no matter how you define it.
1. Get clear on your life vision
We need to start with our life before we can get clear on our career plan. Spend some time really thinking about what you want your life to look like. Where are your passions, relationships, spiritual life, creativity, community, leisure time, study and yes career – how does it all fit together in a way that really works? Do some daydreaming and then some planning around what you really want this one and only life to look like.
2. Work with purpose
We hear a lot about the big ‘why’ of work these days (thanks Simon Sinek). To have a career that matters, you have to be working on purpose. But what does that mean? Purposeful work is meaningful work. It’s work that you feel called to do. It’s work that even if nobody paid you to do it, you would still get up every morning and get to it. Is this what your work looks like for you? Where is the purpose in what you do every day? Have a think about where the meaning and purpose sits in your everyday. If you need inspiration go and watch Simon’s TED talk, currently viewed by more than 23 million people (I think he’s on to something).
3. Get a plan
When I was a hot shot marketing manager at GE in my mid to late 20’s, I would have arguments with older senior women who were adamant that without a rock solid career plan, you wouldn’t (couldn’t) be successful. I was more in the winging it stage, but hey, it was working, so why fight it? Well I hate to admit it, but they were kind of right. I don’t believe in the fixed five-year plan but you at least need to know directionally where you are headed and have some idea on the types of role, skills, experiences that will help you get you to your goal. Then, you can also stay open to the magic moments that can be career defining or changing.
4. Know and use your strengths
We are geared with a negativity bias and trained to focus on our weaknesses. In fact, our brains are hard wired to do so. You know, run away from a tiger and all that. Helpful in the jungle, but not so much in the office each day (unless your boss is the tiger, and then, as you were). We know that only two out of ten people get to do what they do best every day at work. Don’t be one of them. Learn to use and play to your strengths. Go and take the free character strengths survey at the VIA Institute and watch how your levels of engagement, productivity, health and happiness skyrocket when you start to use your strengths at work and play each day.
5. Close the confidence gap
Whether you look at research or experience, it’s undeniable that for many women, self doubt, self criticism, an overly tuned antennae set to ‘what will they think of me?’ or being hard wired to the people pleaser channel, can be career limiting and stop us from playing as big as we would like to. Get under the stories you are telling yourself about what you can and can’t do, why you do it, and what beliefs may be stopping you from taking big leaps forward (or even raising your ideas in a meeting). The simple question of ‘Is that true?’ when you hear those stories surfacing can be enough to start to silence your inner critic, and re-frame your less than helpful stories into ones that help you take action.
6. Build your personal brand
When we think about brands we usually think about Apple or Virgin. But you have your own personal brand that you need to positively cultivate for career success. It’s about who you are, what you do and how you do it. Start with making sure you are showing up authentically, in line with your life vision, purpose and strengths. Then have a think about what you want to be known for. Think about these questions: what do you do better than anybody else? What are you an expert in that you really love? What’s your zone of genius? Then go and do an audit of your current brand online – are you representing yourself in a way that supports your most authentic and aspirational brand? Take your brand as seriously as you do your career and it will serve you well.
Building a career you love takes work, and it takes positive intention and strategy. By working through these strategies and putting the right plans in place, you really can have the career you dream about.