Reading the article, "Six Tips from Your Future Self," started me thinking about the career lessons I've learned over the years. As a career coach, I now understand how experience is a teacher, but may also be a curse. Sometimes we become so rooted in our ways based on past experience that we fear taking the risk to go after something better or something more. Questions arise such as: What if I fail? What if I lose? What if I don't like "it" after I achieve it?
Pain is too comfortable. It took me several years to learn this lesson. While one may hate their job, it is familiar, and therefore, offers comfort. Such a convoluted feeling! After falling into my first career (a career by default, not choice), I spent over five years trying to figure out how to get out of it. How I wish I'd had access to a career coach back then! The solution to my pain? Change jobs, but stay in the same field. I thought it was the employer I hated, but it was really the work I that I did. My first job in this career lasted nine years. Then I changed jobs twice inside of three years trying to find job satisfaction. Needless to say, this approach didn't work at all. With serious introspection and reflection, I finally began to plot my next move to go where I wanted to be, a process that took a couple of steps before I landed a solid job in my chosen career field.
Beware of blurting out what's on your mind. Oh, the innocence of youth! Yes, I learned to contribute ideas and such in teamwork situations, but inside the context of helping the project or mission succeed – never trashing the idea behind it. Unless you're the CEO, your vision for the company is just your opinion. If you're smart, you will be on the same page as your manager. If you operate from your own agenda instead of your company's, you will quickly get labeled a troublemaker and end up on the short list when it comes time for layoffs.
Respect for your boss is expected; he/she doesn't have to earn it. I'll never forget the day when I told the company president not to call me a girl. A "mature" 25-year-old, I was hung up on the stereotype between men and girls. I wanted to be treated as a woman, not a girl. The president hadn't said anything resembling gender harassment, but stupid me still had to point out that when he called the administrative pool "girls" he was being demeaning. Surprisingly, I held onto my job after that. I even got promoted. I realize now what a good leader he really was.
"Friends" at work are different from friends outside of work. No matter how close you feel to someone you work with, you can never completely trust them when it comes to your career. Maybe that's a bit cynical, but wherever competition is involved, I've learned that each person looks out for Number One first. I guess the true scoop here is that those with whom you work are never your family. The workplace is for improving your company's bottom line, not for building a safe haven for you. And what about dating someone with whom you work? Do so at your own peril!
Your career needs a plan to follow, similar to a business plan. Without a plan, you'll continue to leap at whatever presents itself as new and shiny – not necessarily smart and wholesome. Not too many people know which career position they want three years from now. But imagine if you did! Now you could be developing the necessary skills for that move; acquiring the knowledge you need to succeed in that role; networking with the right people to help you make a smooth transition.
I look back on my career and see it as choppy, at best. I know that making a move for money was not always the best strategy. While I learned a lot about life and work over the years, the only career move I truly made as a planned choice was the one to start my own business. It took me six months of research to confirm that my goal was achievable and good for me. Thirteen years later, I know it was the right move, too. Can you say the same about your current position?
If you're in your '20s, heed what I say here as you begin to design your career. If you're in your '30s or '40s, it's still not too late to shift career course. If you're in your '50s or '60s, you can still find that right career for you – many of us will be working into our '70s, or longer.
Wishing you career success in 2012! Happy New Year!