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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.