Who owns your career?
□ No one – I am just letting it happen.
□ My parents – they pushed me into this and wouldn’t support what I really wanted.
□ My life style. The amount of money I make keeps me from pursuing other options.
□ My boss – he/she determines if I get a promotion.
□ My career path – This is the available position in my chosen career.
□ My community – This is the available position in the location I want to live and work.
□ Fate – Something (such as health) prevents me from being in the career I want.
The answer to this question is influenced by your outlook, the support you have, and your personal confidence. You either let others manage your career or you own it yourself. At any time you can choose to stay and keep doing what you are doing, or you can choose to take control. Sometimes circumstances dictate that you have no choice; but, the majority of the time we have a choice.
I have had several careers during my working life – microbiologist, manufacturing manager, salesperson, product manager. I’ve worked different industries including in healthcare doing cancer treatment research and selling diagnostic reagents; as well as marketing in the paint industry and retail environment.
I did not choose these careers and it wasn’t until I realized that I was not having fun or feeling satisfied at work that I took things into my own hands and became a leadership coach and facilitator. I have been happy ever since.
I could have been more content in my careers if had followed these strategies for taking ownership of your career:
- Have a clear vision of what you want, why you want it and what that career will look like in 5 years. How will it make you feel? Does it fit your values? What motivates you? If you don’t know where you want to end up then how do you know what path to take? I was good at sciences in school, but it didn’t mean it was the right career for me.
- Speak up and communicating your desire for change with the person to whom you report. Sheryl Sandburg says “Lean in” and ask for what you want.
- Reframe negatives; be positive. Look for the good in every situation.
- Be a problem solver. Look at situations, accept them for what they are, and determine what you can do to change the situation.
- Never leave your current position for another company or a promotion unless it is moving you toward your end goals. We are often enticed by money. Be certain that the new role will satisfy your needs. If your goal is to take a year and travel or to retire early, then a position that pays significantly more might be the right choice, but money alone will never be fully satisfying.
- Establish strong mentoring relationships, so that you have a great person to reach out to for advice.
- Develop confidence in your competencies and your ability to speak out.
- Choose to learn and strive to take value from every experience.
No matter what you choose to do, always make it an active choice rather than a consequence of not making a decision. Own your own career.