Imagine getting up every day feeling stalled in your career. You greet the world with your best smile and can do personality, and you’re even achieving the results that are expected of you, but you dread Monday mornings. To the outside world, you are winning but deep down inside you are unhappy and your energy is waning daily.
You are not alone. According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report, nearly 70% of U.S. employees are disengaged at work. Often when I am coaching clients who are unhappy in their careers, they tend to initially focus on external factors like their boss and the work environment. However, they quickly realize that the most important and game-changing factors for driving their careers are themselves.
1. Start with the end in mind: Visualize the outcome you want to create for your career by the end of 2018, and consider the following questions: What is my vision for my career? What type of experiences do I want to have? What type of impact do I want to have on the world?
A powerful tool that I have used to help clients articulate their career visions — and that I’ve used personally — is a vision board. A vision board is a visual representation of the big picture you want to create for your career and life. Vision boards can be extremely powerful in illustrating your career hopes, dreams and aspirations in a way that inspires you to strive for them.
2. Determine your career motivations: In Shakespeare's Hamlet, Polonius famously says, To thine own self be true. It’s extremely important to understand your motivations and how they align to your career. Starting from a blank canvas, consider what’s important to you in your next career opportunity. What are the intrinsic and extrinsic benefits you desire?
Extrinsic benefits are typically tied to compensation, for example, paid time off, profit-sharing, salary or bonuses and stock. Conversely, intrinsic benefits are non-tangible and are often tied to emotions. Intrinsic benefits may include words of praise, meaningful work, learning and development, autonomy and work-life balance. One exercise my clients leverage to categorize and prioritize their career motivations is to write down their Must Haves, Nice to Haves and Trade-Offs. After completing the exercise, they have a deeper awareness of what’s most important to them.
3. Redefine your strengths and weaknesses: Earlier in my career, my manager at the time shared with me their perspective of my core strengths and weaknesses. Even though I didn’t particularly agree with my manager’s opinion, I moved forward on the prescribed trajectory. Once I began to feel disengaged in my career, I decided to redefine my strengths and weaknesses on my own terms.
I leveraged the brilliant work of Marcus Buckingham, a motivational speaker, business consultant, author and performance management expert, to help me redefine my strengths and weaknesses. According to Buckingham, your strengths are what light you up and energize you.
Think about the work you’ve done when you lost track of time because you were so engaged. Once you understand these strengths, it's time to get clear about your weaknesses. Typically, when people think of a weakness, they automatically think about a limitation. But Buckingham believes a weakness is any activity that weakens you or zaps your energy. You may even be good at it. Once you understand your weaknesses, you're able to determine what type of opportunities would add meaning to your career and life.
4. Leverage your network: Recently I was speaking to a client who wanted to accelerate his career in a different direction. When it came time to discuss relationships that could potentially support his career transition, he couldn’t name one person. Having the relationship capital to support you in moving your career forward internally or externally of your organization is truly invaluable.
As you evaluate your network, explore sponsors, mentors, previous managers, colleagues and other relationships that will help you in accelerating your career. If the relationships don’t exist, create them. With nearly half a billion professionals on its platform, LinkedIn is a tremendous tool for building new connections.
5. Implement an accountability system: Any viable business has an accounting function with checks and balances to ensure the achievement of financial goals. Similarly, it is critical that you have an accountability system in place to support your career goals. One aspect of the system is to have a career plan with key goals and milestones. Because 92% of people who set goals do not achieve them, consider engaging a professional coach, mentor, colleague, community of practice or friend as your accountability partner.
Steve Jobs once said, Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.
Now is the time to move forward with owning and driving your career success no matter what. As we enter the new year, get clear about the outcome you want to create for your career, determine your career motivations, redefine your strengths and weaknesses, leverage your network and implement an accountability system to accelerate your career.