A lot of people coast through their careers, from the time they leave school or university and land their first job to the time they retire. Although such people go to work day in and day out and do what they’re paid to do, they aren’t really conscious of their career overall, at least not in terms of directing it where they want to go. They’re just going through the motions. Career conscious individuals, however, think about what they want to achieve in their professional life and work out how to achieve it, whether that be by themselves, with a career coach or guide or with the support of an online career community.
These individuals are therefore much more likely to set their own defined career goals and accomplish them, than to find the story of their career dictated to them by their employers, recruitment agencies, the global economy and labour market or whatever. Career conscious professionals also have a better chance of being able to foresee and deal with setbacks such as redundancy or an enforced career break. With a lot of thought, planning and hard work, they eventually turn such situations to their advantage, rather than let their entire lives be ruined. Do you want to get what you want or just be told by others what you’re getting? If it’s the former, take a look at these 10 things that all career conscious professionals do and start doing them yourself:
1. They understand who owns their career. Too many of us have been brought up to believe that our employers will take care of us and will take responsibility for our professional development. For most people and for most organizations that’s no longer the case. It’s more important than ever for us to be conscious of the need to take control of our career in order to push on and get ahead.
2. They keep their radars on. They’re aware of what is happening in their organization. Companies nowadays operate in quite competitive environments and can be affected by the issues all over the world over which they have little or no control. By keeping your radar you ensure that you’re able to do the best that you can do, because you are aware of the impact and timing of issues with regard to you and your job. Sometimes we get the timing wrong in our careers, meaning we move to a new role just at the point where there is a change of control within the organization. We end up being caught up in something we hadn’t foreseen, be it a major restructure, redundancy and so on. However, if we have our radar on, once we’re there we can be watching the company from within and also preparing ourselves for whatever might happen.
3. They keep learning. Never before has the need for us to take responsibility for our development and learning been so great. No longer can we expect it to be served up on a plate for us by our employer. We must learn to be intellectually curious about our world of work and to be prepared to increase our value through continuous learning.
4. They create good relationships around them. At every stage of your career, you’ll come across people who are great at what they do. They may be a superb salesperson or an excellent engineer, but it doesn’t really matter what they do or how good they are at it—they could find themselves on the wrong end of a staffing or disciplinary decision their employer’s had to take if they don’t have good relationships with their bosses.
5. They regularly check in with their boss. For the sake of our psychological well-being, we need to know if doing we’re OK at work. We want to know what our bosses think of us and our performance and how they rate us. To find all this out, you need to have check-ins with your boss on a regular basis. These sessions should be in addition to the annual round of appraisals. They don’t need to be a daily occurrence, but they do need to happen many times during the year. Checking in regularly underpins psychological health within the workplace, which is vital if we are to sustain our careers.
6. They keep their eyes open. There are often opportunities for career advancement right under our nose. It’s important for us to be aware of what’s on offer within the organization that we work in and also externally. Connect with people who can point you towards new avenues. This may include ex-colleagues, old bosses, mentors, recruitment companies that have hired you previously and anyone else who’s in your space and who should know you and what you do. Spend more time on LinkedIn—don’t just work on your profile but also join and participate in relevant groups. Follow relevant people on Twitter. Taking part in the new social media revolution can create all kinds of opening for you.
7. They assess their value often. At any given stage of your career you have a value that is predicated on your knowledge and your experience, your skills and your know-how. This value is also connected to the various people and organizations in your life. You also have a market value, in the context of the going rate for your professional worth. Career-conscious professionals wanting to get ahead know what their value is, who in the market will value them and what the economic worth of that value is at any time.
8. They network. We’re always hearing about the importance of networking. Thanks to the social media movement, there are now more opportunities than ever for us to meet people from around the world. Networking can be seen as both a science and an art. The science is to do with how you go about building appropriate networks, whilst the art is knowing how to build those relationships is such a way that they are predicated on interest and curiosity.
9. They develop a personal brand. Personal branding is to do with how you put yourself out there, to the market. The CV used to be at the centre of a personal brand. Now, there are many other channels through which we can be heard and seen—LinkedIn, Facebook and so on. Monitor your social media presence and manage it so that what goes out there is what you want to say. If you don’t control your online presence, things may be misconstrued or information can end up in the wrong place and can get out of date very fast.
10. They’re specific about what they want. To get what you want, you have to know what you want. Whenever you’re making a career transition, the only way to do so successfully is to get really clear about your goals. Getting ahead in the world of work is hugely dependent with your level of clarity around what you want and how you’re going to get it.
To start being more conscious of your career, begin by taking simple steps instead of doing anything drastic. Start by checking out our brand new Career Ignition Club, a members-only portal where you’ll get the training, advice and support you need to take control of your career and take it where you want to go.