Many people tend to coast through their careers, from the time they leave school or university and get their first job, to the time they retire.
Although they 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 to where they want to go.
Career conscious individuals, however, think about what they want to achieve in their professional life, and work out strategies to achieve it, whether by themselves, with a career coach or guide, or with the support of an online career community.
As a result, these individuals are much more likely to set their own defined career goals and accomplish them, than to find their career journey dictated to them by their employers, recruitment agencies, or the vagaries of the global economy, the labor market, or whatever.
Career conscious professionals are also more likely to be able to foresee and deal with setbacks such as redundancy or an enforced career break, eventually turning such situations to their advantage.
Which camp would you rather be in?…
Here are 10 things in that all career conscious professionals specifically do to move ahead.
1. Be clear about who’s in charge.
We’ve 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 changed. It’s important for us to be conscious that we have to take control of our career in order to push on and get ahead.
2. Know what’s going on around you.
This means being aware of what is happening to the organization you’re in.
These days, companies are operating in intensely competitive environments and can be affected by global issues over which they have little or no control.
Keeping your “radar” on ensures 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 and move to a new role just when there is a change of control within the organization.
We end up getting caught in events we hadn’t foreseen, be it a major restructuring, redundancy and so on. There is little we can do about things like that, but if we have our “radar” on, once we’re there we can watch from within and prepare ourselves for whatever might happen next.
3. Keep learning, growing and developing your skill set.
It’s essential to keep learning and developing.
It’s up to you to take responsibility for this and make sure you are always enhancing and extending your knowledge base and abilities.
Don’t wait for your organization to tell you to do it, or to offer you different training options or resources. Take it into your own hands and make sure that you are increasing your value, experiences and know-how each day.
4. Develop really strong relationships.
People who are great at what they do have built strong, long-lasting relationships with the people around them, and at every stage of their careers.
The importance of good relationships with your colleagues and boss are critical, since you never know when you may need them or what you may learn from each other if you keep strengthening those bonds.
5. Set time aside for regular check-ins.
In psychological terms, we need to know if we’re OK with our bosses. We want to know what they think of us and our performance, and how they rate us.
Therefore, you need to have these check-ins with your boss on a regular basis. These sessions should be apart from the annual round of appraisals.
This is something that, for some people, might not need to be a daily occurrence, but still needs to happen frequently during a one-year period. It underpins psychological health within the workplace, which is vital if we are to sustain our careers.
6. Keep an eye out on opportunities around you.
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 we work for. Once we know that, how do we let people know we’re interested? It’s also worth seeing what’s on offer externally.
Connect with people outside of your own organization—this can be a fairly long list of people, as it could 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.
Go on to LinkedIn—don’t just work on your profile, but also join and participate in relevant groups. Follow interesting people on Twitter. Take part in the social media revolution that’s creating all kinds of opportunities.
7. Know your value.
At any stage of your career you have a value — a value that is predicated on your knowledge and experience, your skills and your know-how. This value is also connected to a limited number of people and organizations in your life and to your availability.
You also have a market value, in economic terms. Career-conscious professionals wanting to get ahead know what value they have, who in the market will value them, and what the economic worth of that value is at any time.
We hear about networks increasingly and indeed, thanks to social media, there are now more opportunities than ever to meet people from across the world.
Networking, though, is both a science and an art.
The science is knowing how you go about building appropriate networks, and the art is how you build those relationships is such a way that they are predicated on interest and curiosity.
9. Build a personal brand.
This is about how you market yourself to the market.
It used to be that our single point of personal branding was the CV/Resume. Now, there are many other ways for us to be heard and seen—LinkedIn, Facebook and so on.
Control your social media presence and manage it so that what goes out publicly is what we want to say. If you don’t do that, things may be misconstrued, information can end up in the wrong place and can become outdated very quickly.
10. Stay focused and be as specific as you can.
At any moment in your career, when you wish to make a change, you have to go through a process of becoming as specific as you can. Improving your career prospects is highly correlated with your clarity about what you want and how you’re going to get it.
To begin being more conscious of your career, you don’t have to take huge leaps or make drastic decisions in one day.
The key is to take simple steps to begin with.