Take Charge of Your Career & Life, Part II

Clyde C. Lowstuter
President & CEO, Robertson Lowstuter

In Part I, we explored the signs that a career is derailing.  If this is the case for you, what can be done to regain control?  The following 10 steps are a place to start.

1.  Take Complete Responsibility for Your . . . Career.   Don’t seek nor expect others to advance your career.   It’s your responsibility, your challenge, your joy.  Note what is working well and what is not.  Fine-tune your career focus, leverage your talents, and get energized.  Employ the adage, “If it is to be, it’s up to me!”

2.  Conduct an Inventory.  Objectively assess your success in light of the vision you have for your career against the role you currently occupy, the results you’ve achieved, your compensation, your contributions, and your level of satisfaction.

3. Calibrate Reality by Securing Feedback.  Ask confident and successful colleagues to candidly comment on how they see your contributions against your current role, leadership capabilities, and interpersonal skills.  Use this feedback as a reality check to calibrate what you can modify to improve your overall effectiveness.

4.  Build Your Brand.  Simply put, who you are is your brand.  Your brand is a compilation of your talents, skills, abilities, track record of accomplishments, behavior, and attitude.   Assess how you are currently perceived, determine the impact of your brand, and commit to continually improving your image, talents, and skills.

5.  Envision Your Future Career State.  Imagine yourself in your career 10 years in the future.  Imagine yourself being happy, successful, financially set, and having quality, meaningful working relationships with your colleagues who admire and respect you.  When you envision this future state what images, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors come to mind?  Ask yourself:  what role do I occupy?  What are my primary responsibilities?  What is my total compensation? What additional skills am I presently enhancing?

What’s the Delta?  Assess gaps in: role, responsibilities, reporting relationship, staff, professional/personal skills, relationships, and results achieved, passions, and most importantly, career/job satisfaction.

Closing the Gaps.  Observe what other capable leaders do.  Experiment and fine-tune your own thoughts, feelings, and behavior until you are able to consistently replicate your successes.  What can you do right now to begin to close these gaps and get on the right track, taking control of your career and your life?  In 48 hours?  In 30 days?  In 6 months?  In 12 months?

6.  Develop and Execute Strategies to Enhance Your Career.  Identify your short / long-term career and leadership mastery goals.  Outline major milestones and conduct a S.W.A.T. analysis highlighting roadblocks, accelerants, P&L impact, and specific accountabilities.

7.  Commit to Your Success.  Tell others of your commitments.  Your word is your pledge.  It is a declaration of what you promise you’ll deliver.  You are bound to your commitment.   Be reliable.  Be trustworthy.

8.  Gain Leverage on Your Commitment to Change.  Ask Yourself: What has worked in the past?  What will work now?  What will my career and life be like if I don’t achieve my (career, financial, relationship, and health) goals?  In 1 year?  In 5 years?  What will my career and life be like if I do achieve my (career, financial, relationship, and health) goals?  In 1 year?  In 5 years?

Don’t ask what the world needs.  Ask what makes you come alive and go do it.  Because what the world needs, is people who have come alive.          Howard Thurman

9.  Objectively Evaluate Your Progress.  Assess how well you are progressing on a monthly basis.  Keep your “report card” simple:  identify the 5 most important career elements and grade yourself against a simple criteria (↑  means I’m ahead of my plans and exceeding my expectations; ↓ means I’m falling behind in my skill advancement;  and ↔ means I’m in neutral – somewhat stuck in my learning and results achieved.)  Use your grade to pinpoint areas for targeted development.

10. Create an Advisory Group.  Enlist 2-3 executives to help you in advancing your career and leadership skills.  It is very empowering to ask for and receive candid advice regarding significant career milestones.  Quite frankly, others will see things you don’t see.  The role of your Advisory Group is to:  (1) provide feedback to you on issues you may not fully be aware of; (2) challenge you to stretch and grow in your thinking and behavior; and (3) be a  sounding board against which you can safely “think out loud.”

Best wishes in your career success!

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