It can be a struggle these days to keep up with the inevitable laundry list of to-dos and increasingly frenetic pace of changes in demand of the business world, let alone carve out time to ponder the plight of our careers. The result is that in many cases we lose sight of where our career is headed altogether, drifting off into the throes of current circumstance.
Before allowing yourself to get too far off track, gain control of your future and redirect yourself toward success by testing out the following career-saving strategies:
- Explore mental time travel. As Stephen Covey advocates, “start with the end in mind”. Instead of getting caught up in thoughts about the challenges you currently face in your professional life, imagine what could be if you pushed beyond those seemingly insurmountable barriers. Think about what a meaningful career would look like if you spent the rest of your lifetime doing your best work. What kind of legacy would you be proud to leave behind? What would you see as your greatest accomplishment looking back on your career? Shifting your perspective to one where you’ve already accomplished what needs to be done is typically far more empowering and is more likely to bring you to the insights you need to make your goals a reality.
- Define what success means for you. We all want to be successful, but success is a relative term and looks different for everyone. For one person it may mean rising the ranks of an organization as a leader, whereas for someone equally talented and motivated, she may find the idea of driving performance through others to be a huge turnoff and instead choose to master her ability to excel as an individual contributor in her industry. It’s really a matter of personal preference. Knowing your stance on the definition of success for you personally can mean a world of difference in terms of how content you are with your career.
- Consider how your personality fits in the mix. There is a vast difference in how we all experience the world as well as how we make decisions based on our interpretation of what we experience. Understanding your personality can provide a distinct advantage in navigating your career path. Are you more energized by engaging in conversations with others or thinking through things reflectively on your own? Do you enjoy following established logic or creating new, innovative approaches to existing problems? Are you more comfortable impacting a situation from an objective standpoint or would you prefer to help others firsthand? Do you work better in a structured environment or do you need the flexibly ability to adapt to changes as they arise? Asking yourself these questions and evaluating how well the responses fit with your current work scenario as well as your career aspirations can be illuminating and in most cases well worth the effort.
- Know and leverage your strengths. The best way to push the edge of your personal and professional potential is to capitalize on your strengths. Social norms in both education and business have taught us that the best way to succeed is to fix our weaknesses, when in reality decades of research by the Gallup Organization have proven this to be untrue. While we shouldn’t ignore our weaknesses, we shouldn’t necessarily spend too much time worrying about them either. Your time is much better spent in maximizing the potential that lies inherent in your natural strengths and managing around your weaknesses. An excellent place to start in evaluating what strengths you possess is to think about your spontaneous reactions to events. When you naturally respond in an advantageous way to a situation, what strengths are you calling upon? How can you use these inherent abilities to drive peak performance at work? What career aspirations align with these strengths? Chances are, when you’re using your strengths at work, you’ll be more engaged, more productive, and more in line with a future that resembles your vision of success.
- Craft your role to align with your passions. While there are always going to be elements of our job we don’t feel completely passionate about, there are usually areas where we can incorporate what it is that most excites and energizes us. We just have to look for them. The trickiest part with this is knowing our true passions intimately and being objective enough about our work environment to determine where changes are possible. It helps to start with considering your natural yearnings – what it is you most long for and would do all day long if you could. What completely lights you up? What makes you feel like you’re in a state of flow and makes the complexity and complications of the world fade away? These can be excellent sources of information about the traces of your passions. Once you better understand your passions, look for opportunities to bring your passion to your work; even small changes now can lead to dramatic differences in your experience at work and beyond. Every great accomplishment starts from a small endeavor, so don’t discount how far some tweaks to your role at work can take you when they’re backed by what it is you care about most deeply.
Keeping these strategies in mind can help you in both a short- and long-term perspective in achieving your career goals. They will benefit you in making the most of your current professional life as well as in charting a vision for where it is you’d like to your career path to take you. The important part is to keep coming back to them and having the courage to make changes that align with who you are and what unique gifts you have to bring to the world.