A successful career is never out there waiting to be gifted to us from a company or someone else. We forge our careers, we shape our path and it’s all down to the choices we make and efforts we put in. We will hopefully align with like minded people along the way who will offer mutual support and inspiration but ultimately our success is not waiting to be offered: we have to own our career and be accountable for what we do.
Of course, not all career choices are always freely available to us. Often we have to take the best choice presented to us in the situation we find ourselves in. But it’s important to not let those things become barriers in our minds to dampen our motivation and allow us to lose focus on where we want to get. Here are some key pieces of advice for owning your career and being accountable for your actions.
Get to know you
Perhaps the biggest part of forging a successful career is getting to know ourselves. Work ethic is something that is instilled in us from a young age, whether it is through our background or through school or early ambitions, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to be worked on and nurtured. This involves not just focusing on the bigger picture of our long term goals and where we see ourselves in life, but also those daily wins. It means spending each day thinking about what drives us; those little moments that put a smile on our face, set off a mini adrenaline rush and make us want to tell our friends what we just accomplished. It means knowing what environments we work best in, what times in the day we are most productive or most efficient, and when our most creative ideas start to flow. It also means knowing our weaknesses, and more importantly, how to address them.
Recall that feeling you get after a productive, successful working day. Make that your aim every morning when you wake up. Of course you can’t predict how things will work out but going to sleep each night knowing you did the best you could throughout the day will help you sleep better and prepare for the next. It will also make the time off you get so much more satisfying!
Break down your life patterns and responsibilities
Once we are acquainted with our characteristics, we also need to examine our schedule and life patterns, allocating time that will need to be spent paying attention to children’s homework or essential personal responsibilities such as financial administration. Communicate thoroughly with clients and colleagues when things are disrupted. This means we can better avoid overcommitting or overestimating the time we have available. Pretending you don’t have a life outside of work is only going to stall your progress, as you start to lose control of your schedule and judgement of how much work you are capable of taking on and completing. It is much better to build a solid relationship with a few clients that you know you can handle, and look to carve out long term/repeat work off the back of it. Build a reputation and level of experience that allows you to command rates that represent the quality of work you will put in.
Assess where there is room for improvement
As well as looking at what we are achieving, it is important to honestly assess the areas where you could work harder and focus more attention to – and answer why this is happening. Is fear holding you back? How can you push through it? Is there something in your life that needs to change to make it easier for you to go after the things you want? Could you spend more time seeking out clients, is it time to call in a favour from someone to help you on the next step? Most of us with any level of ambition can probably admit to areas that require more proactivity on our part to take our careers to the next level.
And when things go wrong – act, don’t react.
Allow yourself space to vent emotion: talk to a confidant or write out how you are feeling in that moment. Then look at what needs to be immediately done to put things right – is an apology needed, what solutions can you present to rectify the situation or get things back on track? What steps will you take to see the solution through and ensure that a similar situation won’t occur again? Once the situation is under control, return to your page or the conversation you had previously, and talk about your role in what went wrong and ways in which you were responsible. Whether or not there were other factors at this stage are less important, the focus needs to be on you and the things that are within your own control. Then, accept it as a learning curve and move forward – as much as these occurrences are to be kept to a minimum they need to be owned as part of the tapestry of your career, just as much as the successes.
As you can see, owning your career is an ongoing process, and regular self reflection and goal assessment is necessary as we journey through life. We are all a work in progress after all.