For as long as I’ve been offering career training programs, people have asked me to develop a short assessment that will help them figure out how to build a happy career.
For years, I resisted, because I felt that career success and happiness are just too deep and complex to be captured in a short quiz. The inner and outer steps you have to take to be happy in your work defy easy analysis or a quick “score.”
After the thousandth request, however, I decided to create a new tool that will give professionals a clear, concrete idea of what they’re doing right, and what they’re missing, in building a career that they’ll love and succeed at, for the long haul. Last month, I launched a new Career Success Readiness Quiz to do just that.
Based on my in-depth research on career success, and work with over 10,000 professionals (and my own career reinventions), the quiz explores what I’ve come to believe are the 30 critical steps you must take if you want to reach your ultimate potential and find great joy and satisfaction in your work. To date, 5585 people have taken the quiz.
I thought I had my finger on the pulse of what’s holding people back from happier careers, but after reviewing the results from these survey takers, I can honestly say I’m floored.
Of the 30 critical steps essential for career success, 15 are being neglected by over 40% of the population surveyed (professional men and women around the world at all levels). And five essential steps are being neglected by over 60% of those studied. I was so surprised that I went back and re-analyzed all the data, to be sure.
The bottom line is this: In order to build a satisfying career, you need to engage in all 30 of the steps the Career Success Readiness quiz shares, but the following five are being overlooked by the majority of professionals today:
Question 5: “I am an active power networker, and focus on meeting and connecting with inspiring new people in my industry and beyond every month.” (71% said “No”)
You can’t succeed and reach your best life and career if you’re alone and in a vacuum. You need great people to help you – loyal fans, ambassadors, mentors, sponsors, friends – people you respect and admire who think the world of you and your work, and will open doors and make important introductions for you. You can’t rise to the next level if you’re slogging through your career alone. Focus on meeting at least one new person a month who inspires you.
Connecting With People Outside Your Company
Question 6: “I attend networking meetings, industry association meetings and regional and national conferences on a regular basis, to build a support community outside of those who work for my company.” (75% said “No”)
I’ve worked with scores of clients from Fortune 100 companies who come to me desperate for a career or job change, but they suddenly realize they know nobody outside of their company. And they’ve been there so long that they don’t know how to proceed.
You need to build a powerful support community beyond the folks you immediately work with. Don’t wait. Get out there and meet new people every month who will expand your horizons and show you what life is like outside of your company. It’s critical that you keep your options open at all times, to avoid feeling trapped at one company or job that no longer fits.
Question 29: “I interview regularly at other firms or organizations, or if I own my own business, I regularly explore new partnerships, collaborations and affiliates, to build new pathways to opportunities that will expand my growth.” (71% said “No”)
No matter how happy you are at your job, you need to be interviewing regularly (numerous times a year) and exploring new partnerships and collaborators. Don’t make the mistake I see over and over with folks over 45 who’ve been suddenly laid off, and haven’t interviewed in 10 years.
Whatever age you are, you need the practice of communicating to hiring managers exactly why you’re amazing and why you should be hired. Secondly, even if you’re happy at your job, there are fabulous opportunities out there that you should be aware of and going for, to help you guide your career trajectory more authoritatively.
Shaping Your Career
Question 4: “I have concrete, measurable and specific short-term and long-term goals for my career, and I know where I’m taking it.” (63% Said “No”)
Angie Ruan, PayPal’s Retail Engineering Head told me recently that the most powerful advice she’s ever received (from her first mentor Terri Jordan, Vice President of eBay operations at the time) was:
“You have to work on every part of your career to assure promotion. Your career is something you have to take control of explicitly.”
Too many people let their careers just happen, rather than taking the reins and steering the course. You have to manage your career proactively, or it will manage you (and you’ll lose control of it). Start today by developing both long- and short-term S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely) goals, and find a supportive coaching buddy to hold you accountable to make these goals a reality. You spend most of your time on this planet at work – don’t you want to make the most of it?
Career Change Transition Planning
Question 8: “If I am considering a career change, I have developed a clear, well-informed plan that contains realistic financial and professional development goals, as well as a sound financial plan for my transition.” (61% Said “No”)
Thousands of people reach out to me a year desperate for a career change, but very few have done the work of identifying the best directions to pursue, “trying on” these directions to make sure they’re a true fit, and finally, building a solid transition plan with realistic financial and professional goals to get there.
On the flip side, high-level professionals tell me everyday, “I hate my work, but I can’t leave it. The money is just too good, but I so want out.”
Both positions are faulty. There are many ways you can transition out of what you’re doing without throwing the baby out with the bathwater. You don’t have to go broke to be happy. You can improve your career and re-direct your work to something more satisfying without losing everything. But to do it, you need a strong, vetted, and proven plan that will take you there.
Are you neglecting these 5 important career-building actions and letting your career wither and die on the vine?