How to Take Responsibility for Your Career: 10 Valuable Tips

by Henrik Edberg

How to Take Responsibility for Your Career: 10 Valuable Tips
Image by mugley (license).

Note: This is a guest post by Hilary Jeanes of Purple Line Consulting.

How important to you is your career?

It is surprising how many people leave their careers to chance.  They seem to think that their career will just happen or that ‘the organisation’ they work for will not only decide when their next step on the career ladder is but also what it will be.  If it doesn’t happen, then the organisation is perceived to be useless or not caring or not recognising/rewarding effort or hard work.  We spend a lot of time at work, so doing something we enjoy and find rewarding (both personally and financially) makes good sense.

From my own experience, both as an employee of large organisations and as an HR professional, here are 10 tips which make it much more likely that you will achieve the career you want.

  1. What do you love doing?  Think about any type of work you have done – while you were at school or college, in your vacations or in your past or current jobs.  What is it that gave you a buzz?  What activities have you done where time passed without you even noticing?  This is likely to be where your natural strengths lie.  Ask your friends and colleagues what they think you are good at.  There are probably no surprises, but it’s good to find out what others think are your skills and attributes.
  2. What did you dream about doing when you were a child?  If you are not doing that now, what aspects of being an astronaut, professional footballer, model, teacher or doctor etc etc appealed to you?
  3. Think about what you’d like to be doing in 5 and 10 years’ time.  Working on your own or as part of a team? What sort of organisation (and which specific companies/organisations) do you want to work for? What type of work would you like to be doing?  At home or abroad?  At a desk or not?  What do you like about what you do now?  What would you like to be different?
  4. Let’s go to the end of your working life now… Imagine you are at your own retirement party.  People are talking about what you achieved in your career and what they admired and will miss you for.  What would you like them to be saying?
  5. What skills do you have that you are not using and would like to?  They may be writing skills that you used on your college magazine or being captain of the school hockey team.  Seek out opportunities to put them into practice now.
  6. Look at job ads – in newspapers, journals and on websites.  Cut out or print off job ads that interest you, that you aspire to or that you are curious about.  Which organisations appeal and why?  Highlight the words that are most appealing.  Keep them in a special folder and every month or so, take them out, review them and write a list of the highlighted words.   What are the common themes?  What of the common themes you identify are you doing now?  What do you need to do to be able to fulfil the requirements of those ads in the future?
  7. Who do you know?  Who can help you get to where you want to be?  Talk to as many people as possible about what they do and what they love about it.  Ask them how they got the career development they wanted or if you could shadow them for a day to find out how they do what they do.  Most people are flattered to be asked and are only too happy to help.  Find someone who is doing the job you aspire to or working in an organisation you’d like to work for and ask them if they would mentor you.  If you don’t know someone, ask your family, friends and contacts if they do – remember the 6 degrees of separation.
  8. Grasp opportunities with both hands.  My big breaks in corporate life came at times when I was facing big challenges in my personal life – a new parent returning to work and separating from my partner.  I really doubted whether I could manage the jobs that were on offer given the other life challenges I was facing, but what I realised was that if I passed up those opportunities, they might not be there again.  It was tough at first, but they were two of the best career decisions I took.
  9. What does your boss do that you could do for them?  Observe your boss in action.  What does he or she spend their time doing?  Are there regular activities that they engage in that you would like to try and that would save them time and energy?  If so, suggest that you do it for them.
  10. Finding the right job takes time and effort.  Put the time and effort in and it will pay off.  Write down the answers to these questions and keep referring to them.  Find a coach and explore your future career aspirations with them.  One thing is certain – if you know where you are going you are much more likely to get there.  If you set off from home without knowing where you were headed you would drive around aimlessly. So it is with your career. Be clear about what you want and you will get it.

Hilary Jeanes is a coach, facilitator and HR consultant.  She is fascinated by people and loves supporting them to reach their potential. Visit her website at Purple Line Consulting.  You can read another article of hers here.

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{ 2 comments }

Shanel Yang October 6, 2008 at 6:45 pm

I totally agree with tips 1, 2, and 3. Finding what you love is always the first step to success! I wrote an entire series about how to do that called “All About You!” at http://shanelyang.com/2008/07/18/all-about-you/

Kate Saltfleet October 6, 2008 at 10:34 pm

Great article. It’s surprising that most people when they think about it spend more time choosing groceries than choosing a career. That’s not a value judgement, it’s an observation. Any tool that gets people to consider their own strengths and personality when deciding which path to take is a real gift. Thank you.

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