Month: August 2022

3 Ways to Enhance Your Career Success

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I believe that most people want a successful career. Unfortunately, there will be many people who won’t achieve it. They are many that are stuck in work of endless routine and stress. But, have you thought about what the important factors are that contribute to career success? Is it your education, the supervisor at your  company or the kind of experience you have that are the key influences? Is it sheer luck? Certainly, these and many other factors play a role in a person’s career success. However, as a counsellor working with clients over many years, I believe that there are three really important areas: proactivity, opportunities and progression. Not being consciously intentional and making poor decisions in these vital areas will limit you from attaining a successful career.

Have a Proactive Career

Proactivity is about the level of direct control that you take over your own career. This essential concept was presented in Stephen R Covey’s best-known book the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It was first published in 1989, selling more than 25 million copies worldwide. In his book, he introduced important aspects of the Proactive Model. Proactivity is the opposite to reactivity. Upon experiencing change, reactive individuals have a tendency to let their physical environment significantly affect them. Life for reactive people becomes highly random, being caught up in whatever surrounds them. If the weather is bad, they feel bad. When others around them are negative, they are negative. There is an overreliance on external circumstances to influence their attitude, decisions and perspectives. Conversely, proactive people carry their own personal “weather” with them. Whether it’s grey or sunny, they remain independent of it. Proactive people are driven by carefully developed internal values that are deliberately chosen and internalized.

As a career counsellor, I encounter many clients that allow their company, work setting, life events and people around them dictate what happens in their career. This is especially true with downsizing and restructuring. In this age of labour market disruption, there are people who have a “wait and see” attitude. They wait for disruption to occur, and then decide what to do at that specific point in time. Unfortunately, this reactive approach severely limits opportunities and choices. Reacting to a restructure or downsizing is similar to a ship being caught in a very bad storm, with the possibility of it sinking. People who are reactive, let the external environment entirely control their outcomes. A more effective strategy would be to prepare for impending disasters and create concrete action plans. Better yet, it’s well worth to gain grater knowledge and understanding, attempting to foreseeing possible dangers. The most effective strategy is to avoid catastrophes all together. Always be proactive, creating and developing a strong career management strategy for yourself. If you don’t have a proactive career strategy, you will constantly find yourself in a reactionary and random mindset, with little or no control. The question you need to ask is, “Are your proactively managing your career or is your career managing you?

Expand Your Career Opportunities

Many career experts and professionals will tell you to “never stop networking”, even when you are employed. Yet, many people do not maintain an active network. When I work clients, I will typically ask them about their LinkedIn profile. Unfortunately, most clients mention setting up a profile, but never touch it again. I understand that many people do not like social media when it comes to work. However, the key idea here is not about being on social media, it’s about maintaining an active network and connections.

A connection to other people is critical to your career success. One powerful story to illustrate the importance of connection involves how Harrison Ford got the role for Han Solo in the movie, Star Wars. It was legendary producer Fred Roos that had hired Ford to complete work for him at a film production office. Before Ford became a famous actor, he worked as a carpenter. Ford built a door in one of the offices. Roos stated, “Harrison had done a lot of carpentry for me.” He added, “He needed money, he had kids, he wasn’t a big movie star yet. The day he was doing it, George (Lucas) happened to be there. It was serendipitous.” George Lucas was the director of Star Wars. At the time, he was holding a casting call in the very same office. As it happened, Ford auditioned, and the rest is history.  One could make that argument that the meeting was all just one amazing coincidence or accident. However, I really beg to differ. It’s obviously clear that if Ford did not have that initial connection to Fred Roos, there would have been no opportunity for that one single audition. Ford would have never been in that same office, as Lucas. If there was no audition, we would not have Star Wars as we know it today. There would also be a different Indiana Jones, and possibly no Blade Runner. Indeed, Harrison Ford might have remained a complete unknown.

The connections that you have in your network will be at the heart of finding your greatest opportunities. Unfortunately, most people never build a large professional network, and this limits their career success. Always seek to grow and expand your network, they are a doorway to many unforeseen and potential opportunities. 

Create an Amazing Career Vision and Career Goals

A famous person once said, “If you are not growing, you are dying.” This statement is also true of your career. There are millions of people in jobs that simply struggle to get through their day. They wait from their work days to be over. They are in a dead job, repeating the same meaningless activities over and over again. Many people question why they are showing up to work. However, the ironic thing is that they never stop to wonder why their job is not fulfilling. This might even be you!

Expansion, evolution and change are the key to attaining greater career fulfillment, otherwise you will remain inactive and stagnant. Having a clear career vision with progressive career goals will help you establish a more meaningful and purposeful connection to your work. A clear vision will support your career progress, and along with this growth provide greater enjoyment and satisfaction. It’s important to keep in mind that everyday work experiences and interactions offer tremendous growth in knowledge and skills. However, this will only happen if you treat every moment and opportunity with a full intention. It’s easy to be very unconscious with repetitive work activities. However, actively engaging and taking opportunities to grow will help you move forward. Do not let chances to broaden your experience, expand your skills and deepen your knowledge go by ignored. Maximize them. Acting with conscious intention on exciting growth opportunities and moving towards your own meaningful vision should always be part of your daily career activities.

Your Most Authentic Self

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You are not an empty shell. This is the key idea that Marcus Buckingham makes in his book, “Love and Work”. He argues that you are a highly unique individual; a distinct pattern of “loves and loathes”. This pattern comes from your genetic makeup, which has been formed by a vast network of approximately one hundred billion neurons in your brain. Each of these neurons reaches out and makes connections with at least one thousand other neurons. To put this in context, your brain has more connections than five thousand Milky Way galaxies has stars. There is no one else in the world who will ever have the same pattern of connections that you have. It is these connections that make you, you. You are built to love and loathe very specific things. This is part of your distinct authenticity. Yet, it’s always been perplexing to me the large number of people who feel the need to conform within their career!

I believe a large percentage of people choose jobs based of their urgent lifestyle needs. As a result, these individuals give little thought as to whether their work is truly authentic to them. Many feel that they need to lose the authentic parts of themselves when choosing a career. You might be one of these people. However, there are countless examples of people achieving greatness in their careers, by leaning into their most authentic selves. For instance, many musical artists have accomplished this. There have been countless singers who have had their voices criticized. Among these singers who have been mocked are Shakira, Billie Eilish, Jennifer Lopez and Miley Cyrus.  Even the “King of Rock and Roll”, Elvis Presley was once admonished by critics, saying that his voice was “lusty caterwauling”. As you know, many of these artists have gone on to sell records in the millions, along with receiving innumerable awards and recognition.

But what exactly do we mean by being “authentic”, as many people define the word differently? For this blog, I would like to use the humanistic psychological meaning of this word. Professionals in this field note that people who want to achieve greater authenticity share common characteristics. These characteristics allow a person to achieve greater personal growth and higher functioning. The very first characteristic is that they are accepting of themselves and of other people.

Accept Your True Nature

As mentioned, many top singing artists possess this key characteristic. To express who they truly are and develop their own authentic style, they must first have to accept their own natural voices. They must resist the urge to believe that their voice or singing style must be adapted or changed to fit audience expectations. Artists who want to triumph in their career must dismiss the opinions of critics around them, believing in their own unique singing voice, style and sound. This is a critical aspect to their success.

Express Your Own Thoughts, Emotions and Ideas Freely 

The second characteristic is that people who are authentic are able to express their emotions and ideas freely and clearly. Expressing your authentic and unique personality, values, opinions and beliefs need to be communicated to others. Anyone who wants to grow into who they truly are needs the ability to express themselves with confidence and honesty. They do not give in to being swayed and influenced by others around them. A person who is authentic, will never leave anyone guessing about who they are, because they are transparent. One well-known leader who exemplified this was Steve Jobs. Jobs was well known for his passion to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products. He never shied away from telling his staff that their ideas were wrong and would refocus them on his vision for Apple. Jobs once stated “I don’t think I run roughshod over people, but if something sucks, I tell people to their face. It’s my job to be honest.” Although, it may be difficult to attain this level of honesty with people, it demonstrates a high level of authenticity. If you want to become more authentic to others, express what you truly believe, think and feel.

Develop Self-Knowledge

The third characteristic of authentic people is that they have a high level of self-knowledge. Being authentic means being true to unique aspects of yourself such as personality, strengths and values. There is an alignment between these key aspects and a person’s ideals and actions. However, for this alignment to happen you must understand your true traits, along with your motivations. It was Aristotle that once said, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom”. It is very difficult to disagree with this statement , as the relationship with yourself is the most important. If you expect others to understand and know you, then you must know what makes you distinct and exceptional. More importantly, when you know who you are, you can fully trust in yourself and realize your highest potential. Instead of letting others dictate what they think is best for you, you can take full control over your life and decisions.

Stop Depending on Others for Approval

Finally, authentic people have a sense of independence from others. Overall, they do not seek the approval of others to feel valued. Highly authentic people can demonstrate caring, concern, compassion and understanding towards people, but they do not strive to achieve others’ unfair expectations or try to please them. They have the confidence to continually live in who they are and what they do. They do not try to conform themselves to fit in and be accepted. The bottom line is that they do not seek or need validation from other people to be who they are. At the same time, they avoid comparisons to other people when assessing their own progress and life achievements. They do their best to strive for their own unique life, dreams and aspirations. These individuals fully understand that other people will define success very differently than they do.

When people are deeply authentic, and living out their personal values, ideals, perspectives and self, it can give them a greater sense of well-being. Unfortunately, according to studies there are a large percentage of employees in North America that feel pressure to suppress their personal values, attempting to go along with organizational standards. You might be one these individuals, and it’s understandable. There may be many reasons to conform such as the need to get ahead, future job promotion, conflict avoidance or supervisor influence. However, there is a real cost to losing your authenticity. There has been research suggesting that people expressing less authenticity have higher levels of depression, experience less life satisfaction and increased career disengagement. Instead of attempting to conform, it is vital that you seek higher authenticity. By being in greater alignment with your most authentic self, you will remain true to your own unique feelings, beliefs, ideals, dreams and aspirations. So, the main question is, if you choose not to be authentic to who you really are, will you be prepared to sacrifice these important aspects of your life?