Whether you’re interested in personal development, focused on earning more money to travel the world, wanting to advance your learning or even eventually set up your own business, careers are something that all of us have to pay attention to. It’s not enough to just coast along and hope that success will fall into your lap – you have to be proactive, think about the bigger picture and take steps towards making what you’re dreaming of coming true. Sometimes in life, things happen and we get distracted. Then we look up one day, and before we know it, we’ve just been coasting along in the same job for years, without ever challenging ourselves or aiming to do more. If that’s happened to you, it can be very easy to become demotivated and feel like there’s no point trying to make things happen – but that simply isn’t true. It’s important for your own self-esteem and progression to come up with a plan as to what your career development will be. Remember that small shifts added together can make big changes.
Understand Where You Are Now
In order to understand how best to move forward, you first need to understand exactly where you are at the moment. So it’s a good idea to ask your line manager for an assessment, especially if there isn’t much in the way of a formal review procedure where you work. Ask them for a clear view of what your strengths are, and what you could improve on. If you’re interested in advancing at your current job, find out what behaviors and competencies appear in the role profile for the next level up – and ask for your manager’s help in identifying where you may be lacking, and how you can gain the skills you need to progress. This could involve signing up for a formal qualification, taking online lessons or working on informal skills like line management. It might also involve shadowing people in other parts of the business or seeking out secondment opportunities to broaden your knowledge base. And if you haven’t had a pay review in a while, it could also be time to address that. Pick up some salary negotiation tips by coming into the meeting prepared – with details of what those in similar roles within the industry are earning (you can find this either by looking up current job adverts for roles close to your own or if you are part of a professional body or a trade association, many release annual average salary data). Compile a list of projects you’ve worked on or ideas you’ve contributed which are above and beyond your basic job description – and if you’re able to add some numbers to these in terms of revenue generated, or value added to the business, then include those too. They all help to make a compelling argument as to why you should be receiving more money.
Squash Your Procrastination
In order to get the most out of your working day, personally and professionally, you need to become more productive. And that means curing a bad habit that a lot of us suffer from, especially if there hasn’t been any movement in our careers for a while – procrastination. There are a number of techniques to overcome this – the best known is probably the concept of ‘eating the frog’ – which simply means tackling the least palatable task you have on your to-do list first thing in the morning. This is when your energy and creative skills tend to be at their peak, plus, when you’ve ticked off something substantial, it creates positive momentum for the rest of your day. Even if something seems too huge to tackle, set a timer for fifteen minutes and resolve to give it all your focus for that time – even if you don’t manage to complete it, at least you will have made an inroad on something which felt impossible to begin with. Some people like to use things like the Pomodoro Technique to make their days more productive as well. If you feel overwhelmed with competing priorities, you could also try using a prioritisation matrix to order your task list and your day.
Create Your Five Year Plan
If you don’t already have a five-year plan, it can be a great way of taking a step back and thinking about what you actually want to achieve. From there, you can work out exactly what steps you need to take to reach your goals. What your plan contains will be different depending on the end goal. For example, if you want to start your own business there will be things you need to do to move towards that aim – such as researching an idea, writing a business plan, saving up some cash and securing some investment. Likewise, if you want to become a head of team at your current business, you would need to sign up for some management training, find a mentor or ask to be included in strategic projects to work towards your goal. So take the time to plot out where you’d like to be, and then work out what the steps are which will take you there.
Understand Your Industry
And whether your ultimate aim is to strike out on your own, or you want to climb the corporate ladder, it’s always a great idea to work on your understanding of the sector that you operate in. Sign up to industry newsletters and publications, make it your business to understand the latest trends influencing the sector, and know who the key players are and what moves they’re making. Join networking groups in person and find LinkedIn industry groups to enhance your understanding as well. Always keep an eye on your career development and look for opportunities within the sector that would suit you. The aim is really to build your authority – this will stand you in good stead both for your current role and for development opportunities in the future as well. Try beginning a blog or authoring a few opinion pieces to really position yourself as an emerging voice in the industry.