Your Career Belongs to You
By: Rachel Godwin
When I was in the early part of my career, I had the idea that my career path would be primarily shaped by my superiors. I believed if I showed up and did my job as I got asked, tried my very best to do well on my tasks, and was an overall good employee, I would receive the opportunities for advancement, special projects, etc. that those in decision-making capacity thought I needed.
This notion changed while I was at a leadership conference. One of the directors of the conference talked to me about what I wanted out of my career. He challenged me to go back to the firm and ask the shareholders what they thought my career was going to look like. Then, take it a step further and discuss how that matched my expectations and plans. It made me realize that I am ultimately responsible for my career.
Change Your Career Path Mentality
It is often easy to sit back and take a passive viewpoint of our career path and choices. For instance, if an opportunity passes us by, we can complain about being overlooked. Or if a promotion does not come our way, we can get defensive about why it should have been us instead of “that person”. However, from an overall standpoint, we have the career we have chosen.
If we want it to be different, then we have to be different in our approach. Do you want to be involved on specific types of engagements because you have an interest in that area? Then you need to let that be known. Would you like to pursue learning on a topic and bring back that knowledge to the company to create a new service line or add value to a current one? Discuss that with the leaders of the company.
You have to be ready to step into opportunities.
Ways to Take Charge of Your Career Path
Does this mean that we exist on an island all alone to shape and guide our careers? Absolutely not. Below are some suggestions of how utilizing others helps us determine what our path could and should look like:
Find a Mentor: It is a great idea to reach out to someone you respect who can provide you with career guidance. This person can be a sounding board for ideas you have, as well as someone who will challenge your personal and professional growth.
Read: There is a quote by Charlie Tremendous Jones that says, “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” Reading, whether it’s articles, books, or blogs, expands your knowledge and makes you think about things from perspectives you may not have considered on your own. There are a number of good books out there to help you identify the career you want and work towards building it. However, don’t become too narrow with your focus. Find books that challenge you or just make you stop and think about things differently.
Podcasts: Everyone has limited time. Maybe you can’t sit down and read for an hour, but you can likely listen to a 20-30 minute podcast. Pick one on a topic that expands your knowledge or gives you information to bring back to your team. In today’s mobile environment, there are thousands of podcasts out there from which to choose. If you want somewhere to begin, hb&k has just released our podcast “Playing Above the Line”. We interview community and business leaders to get varying perspectives on leadership. You can listen here.
Get Involved: There are often opportunities for employees to get involved within an entity. Maybe it’s joining one of the committees or working on a task force designed to address an initiative for change. Be proactive in finding your spot with a group taking on something at the company you are passionate about.
Build your network: Be involved in community events and other networking opportunities such as chamber of commerce functions, young professionals groups, industry meetings, etc. Find what works for you and your personality. There are ways for both introverts and extroverts to excel at building networks. It may look differently from one person to another, but your network can be a great asset to you as you grow your career.
Encourage Growth from Within Your Company
At hb&k, we believe everyone on our team has talent and contributions to bring to the table. We believe leadership starts on Day 1 and is not reserved for those with a special title. From a book club, to leading internal committees, to attending community events together, we try to incorporate ways for everyone to grow.
We love talking to our clients about their teams and helping them guide their future leaders. We offer many consulting services that can help your team – including strategic planning, Kolbe and Lean Six Sigma. Email me if you’d like to learn more!