Category: Career Vision

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.

Do You Have Both Fulfillment and Career Success?

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If I asked you if you were okay or satisfied with your career, I bet many people would say that they were. However, if I asked if your career was truly “successful”, what would you answer? There are probably hundreds of internet articles on ways to achieve success, either in a job, career or business . However, even though there is plenty of advice and guidance on ways to achieve success, for many people it can remain elusive. Achieving success can be challenging, because it can be complicated. First, there are obstacles preventing a person from reaching goals that he/she would like to achieve. Whether the goal is a certain salary level, promotion, specific job role or particular company, they may be stopped by multiple challenges. However, I think what is more challenging than even getting to an intended goal is whether the person reaching it will see it as a “success”. Sometimes, people create and achieve many goals, but they do not feel as if they are successful or fulfilled. Ultimately, they can be unclear about what success means to them. I believe that this lack of clarity in defining success is one of the biggest career challenges, and yet some people never take a deep dive into exploring and clarifying it.

Some time ago, I became very intrigued with the concept of career success from watching a 48 hours episode. The specific episode was titled “Kiss of Death and the Google Exec”. The episode was about a 51-year-old executive, Forest Hayes. From an outside perspective and by all accounts, Hayes had a very successful life and career. He was hired as a top executive to work at Google X, one of the company’s most technologically innovative and imaginative division. Hayes could be described as “high-powered”, as he had lots of assets that included a $3 million dollar home in California. He had one prized possession a 46-foot-long yacht valued at $200,000 dollars. It had a high-end security system, and even had a captain’s chair estimated to be $8,000 dollars. He also appeared to be happily married for 17 years to his wife and had five children.

I don’t think that anyone would have guessed that he would die alone on his prized possession, the 46-foot-long yacht. Hayes was left dead on his yacht through a fatal injection of heroine, after an encounter with an escort. The entire story is really quite sordid and tragic, and I will not recount the actual details of his passing. You can Google the complete story, if you so choose. The details of his death are not relevant to this discussion. More importantly, the  significant question is, how does someone who seemingly has everything, end up dead under such scandalous and seamy circumstances? From an outside perspective he seemed to have it all. Hayes had a family, money, respected career and many personal assets, and yet he sought out drugs and paid companionship.

I realize that I have used a very extreme example to discuss career success. However, I wanted to really drive home my main point. It is this. There are many people who strive and work hard for the type of success that Hayes had and for many of these people this type of success is very fulfilling, and for others such as Hayes, it is not. A person may have all the external success but still be internally miserable and unsatisfied, even feeling hopeless with their life. There are people who seem to “have it all”, and yet, they may not view themselves as successful, feel happy or be joyous. Sometimes, these people’s stories end in sadness and tragedy. Forest Hayes certainly wasn’t fulfilled, even though he attained a significant level of professional, personal and material success. He still sought after something elusive, in an attempt to reach a greater sense of fulfilment.

The irony is that most of us know that success is highly subjective, being defined uniquely and individually, by each person. True success is defined independently of other people, as only you can define your own success. However, many people still seek the opinions, expectations and perspectives of others around them. To be able to find real and authentic career success you must go through the process of clarifying it, for yourself. I am not saying that if you don’t define success that your life will end in tragic death, as Forest Hayes did. However, if you never define success for yourself you might wind up in a career that is completely unfulfilling, unsatisfying and miserable. I give you four ideas to ponder, when reflecting on your career success:

Clarify Your Definition of Success

Clarity sorts out confusion. If want to head in the right career direction, then you need to have vision. Having no career vision is similar to jumping on a plane for a vacation and not knowing where it is going. Ultimately, you are making no decisions, and you will not know where you are heading. This would seem ridiculous to most people, however, it’s simply astounding how many people do this with their career. They simply apply to whatever job opportunities are available and take the first job that meets their life needs and necessities, instead of planning and mapping out their long-term career focus. No clarity means having no real control over your own career outcomes and future. So, begin to think and reflect on what career success means to you. Start to clarify your own definition of career success.

Ensure Your Definition of Success is Authentic to You

There’s a quote by Harry Truman stating that “If you don’t have your own goals, you’ll be doomed to work toward someone else’s.” Yet, we have tendencies to be guided by those around us. Everyone has recommendations for our career, such as our parents, friends, family, co-workers, bosses, priests, hairdresser, mechanic, plumber and even the news media. It’s easy to rely on the opinions of others when we are unsure of our direction. However, instead of looking externally to others, it’s important to begin an active internal reflection and mediation. As the saying goes, “The heads thinks. The heart knows”. Rely on authentic parts of yourself to help you guide your career decision making and direction

Prioritize Areas of Career Success

Finding career success means determining what is truly important. There are many things in your career that you may want to succeed at. You will have many goals and achievements that you would like to attain and accomplish. However, there is one element that will stop you from reaching all that you would like to achieve: time. Time  

always marches forward, and it will be continuously running out on you. You must pick the most important goals, if you want your career to feel successful, while also leading to greater happiness and fulfilment. You must not waste time on things in your life that don’t matter or contribute to feeling successful. When you waste time on things that are not important then it can lead to major regrets over not achieving the essential goals that you deeply wanted to reach.

Choose What Makes You Come Alive

In a previous blog, I discussed that it’s important to find passionate and interesting career activities, as these are major contributors to a positive life. These activities will support your overall well-being, while helping you to reach your highest potential. Many successful people love the work they do, using intrinsic motivation to overcome big obstacles and reach very challenging career goals. Unfortunately, there are many more people who choose work that is ordinary, mundane and dull. These days of monotony turn into months, which eventually turn into years of boring and never-ending work. It’s difficult if not impossible to feel that your career is a success when you are not engaged and interested in it. However, it’s surprising that people never ever search for passion in their work over their entire lifetime. Will you?

What Makes You Come Alive!

With the current release of Top Gun 2, I was reminded about my educational and career experiences as a youth. It also provides me the perfect opportunity to talk about the idea of career aliveness. I think this is a vital career topic, because according to a Gallup organization survey, only a mere 28% of all workers are engaged in the work they do. So, there are plenty of people out there who are disengaged. There are many reasons for this, but in this blog, I want to discuss this crucially important one.

I am not sure how many people will remember the original Top Gun movie. For the younger generation, they may not know about this movie at all. It was a movie starring Tom Cruise who plays Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a F-14 fighter pilot. The main storyline involves his flight training adventures at Top Gun, which is based on the real training academy called U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School, formerly based at Miramar Naval Air Station. For me, as a young 16-year old boy, the movie had everything that I would want in a story; an awesome 80’s rock song, a pretty blonde girl and a gritty dramatic story line, but most of all it had lightening fast and cool fighter jet scenes. I could see myself sitting in the cockpit of a fighter jet, doing crazy dogfight maneuvers like kicking on the afterburner and performing jaw-dropping barrel rolls and yo-yo’s. I was pilot in my prime!

Let’s fast forward many years later. This dream turned into a choice to be an aeronautical engineer. I thought instead of flying planes, I would design them. Eventually, I found myself sitting in engineering classes and hating every single minute. Somebody should have warned me about all the calculus. Go figure!?

Maybe you have had or still have a career dream. You know like being a cop, chasing down a ”perp” and bringing him to justice. Your dream might be about being a doctor who dashes into the emergency room, saving a person from a deadly heart attack. Maybe you see yourself as a young Thomas Edison creating an invention that will change the world. I get it though! You might be saying, “Kerryn, dreams like this are not even close to the actuality of a real-life job.” Yes, I would agree. Not many pilots are doing crazy sonic boom fly-bys when they are in the air, just to annoy air traffic controllers. Also, on the other extreme, some of you might be thinking that your dreams are so crazy that if you told other people about them, they would fall down in a fit of hysterical laughter. However, these comments miss the entire point of this specific career exercise, which is to start an internal conversation and dialogue with yourself about career aliveness.

Even though I never pursued my dream as an aeronautical engineer, and I totally missed the mark of understanding the realities about being a true fighter pilot (Cut me some slack for being 16-years old), it was the first opportunity to ask myself an essential career question that I think most people ignore. It is the question, “What makes you come alive?” I do not believe that many people ask themselves this fundamental and essential question. Most people think they need to be completely “realistic” in their career choice. Unfortunately, I think that the idea of “realism” and being “practical” eliminates the vital aspect of joy, as part of their career. I agree that there are many important practical questions that we need to ask when we are in our careers. These questions include “What are the key qualifications employers look for?”, “Should I go on to higher education?”, “What salary will I be making?”, “What am I good at?”, and “How do get the promotion I want?” There are many important career questions. However, asking what makes you alive is the quintessential question that if you never ask, you will never ever discover your true potential. I also believe it will lead to career that is completely unfulfilling.

Ultimately, finding activities that bring passion, deep interest and excitement to your career are major contributors to a positive life. More importantly it will support your overall well-being and help you reach your highest potential. Many people choose work that becomes ordinary, mundane and dull. These moments of monotony turn into days, which turn into months. These months eventually turn into years of boring and never-ending work. The daily work that you choose is one of the most essential factors to whether you will be highly engaged. It’s surprising that many people never ask this simple question.

One person who exemplifies exploring activities that cultivate aliveness is Richard Branson. I think most of you know who Richard Branson is, but I will highlight his accomplishments. Branson is an English entrepreneur, investor, philanthropist and founder of the Virgin Group, which includes more than 400 companies throughout 30 countries. He is a larger than life character, having gained notoriety through many daring and audacious achievements. Richard has set a record for the first person to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a hot air balloon. He successfully crossed the Pacific Ocean and made attempts with several colleagues to circumnavigate the entire globe by balloon. As of 2014, he held the records for the oldest person to cross the English Channel by kiteboard. He has millions of followers on LinkedIn and is the richest reality TV presenter with an estimated worth of £3 billion. In 2004, he founded a spaceflight corporation, Virgin Galactic. As recently as July 2021, Branson travelled as a passenger onboard Virgin Galactic Unity 22, a spaceplane that travelled to edge of space.

One quote that Richard Branson lives by is, “The brave may not live forever, but the cautious do not live at all.” He reveals that he has always searched out adventure because it is where he feels the most alive. Branson attributes his success in building businesses, expanding his mind, and discovering new perspectives on having a true spirit of adventure. He uses this essential principle of aliveness to go beyond his limits and has been able to forge an unparalleled career and life. Richard Branson seems to hold on to dreams, like those that we had as kids. What happened to these dreams? So, if you haven’t asked yourself what makes you come alive, you need to do it! After all, a balloon flying, space-trotting, wealthy billionaire might have some very wise and enlightening career advice. It might be the critical difference between you attaining an extraordinary career that is fully alive or one of absolute unfulfillment.

What do you SEE in your career?

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.

Steve Jobs

I once read an article on a popular career website that was titled, “No, Really: Why There Are No Right or Wrong Career Decisions.” The final sentence of the article boldly stated, “There is no right and no wrong. There are just choices and opportunities.” The main argument was to not worry about being satisfied with your career decisions, because every decision is simply a “stepping stone” to something better. Having read the article I was perplexed at what the author was trying to communicate. If there is no right or wrong decision, then why do people have careers filled with many unhappy jobs? From a wide range of employee surveys, we know this to be a miserable reality for many workers. Having provided career counselling to individuals, was I giving the wrong advice? Should I simply say to all my clients, “No need to be concerned, because no matter what choice you make everything will work out in the end, as all roads lead to new opportunities.”

I have encountered many clients who have taken this approach, treating every job as a move to another one. However, when I talk to individuals that have done this, they never seem authentically satisfied with their career choices. Sure, they find it “okay”, but it was not described as deeply inspiring or meaningful. To achieve an intensely satisfying, rewarding and purposeful career, one needs to have a vision, and I believe that the article was missing this key concept. Without a very clear career vision and specific goals, you will not be able to define what is really important in your career. Having a vision and goals sets a stage, enabling you to find true meaning and provide you a process by which you can evaluate what is worthwhile. Many famous personalities have attributed their success to this one critical factor. One such person who utilized his extraordinary visionary abilities was Walt Elias Disney.

Out of all the great business leaders, Walt Disney stands as one of the most influential public figures of the 20th century, with powerful talents for executing a uniquely creative vision. Throughout his career, he provided leadership through the impacts of the post-World War I economic boom, Great Depression and World War II. In addition to these severe times, he experienced his share of hard failures including company bankruptcy, mental breakdown, devastating employee strike, and loss of control over one of his major creations. However, it was his vision that was his key to success, stating that his most powerful tool was “dreaming.” He used to say, “If we don’t dream or desire to have a vision for something better for ourselves or others, then what is it that gets us out of bed every morning?” He also stated, “I execute my vision to make those dreams come true.” Walt Disney knew how to focus his time, talents, energy, and resources to make his dream a reality. To this day Walt Disney’s legacy lives on.

Walt Disney did not achieve these accomplishments by meandering through an unintentional series of “stepping stones”. He had a very specific vision of what he wanted. Indeed, there have been many stories told by early Disney Studios employees explaining how Walt would even demonstrate his ideas for a new film. He would gather everyone together and then act out the entire movie sequence, to show what he envisioned the final story to be.

But why specifically is a having vision so important? Creating a vision is vital, because it reveals exactly how you want to live and the dreams that you have. Most people have no idea about how they want to live, instead letting circumstances, life situations and other people dictate where their life is going. How may people do you know that aren’t living their own lives, but the goals and expectations of others? All things are first created in the mind, and a vision will help you design a picture of your future. A vision brings to life the dream of your new reality, enabling you to achieve something very specific and tangible. Without a vision, you will not know what you are trying to achieve.

Ask yourself, what are your greatest dreams, and do you believe you can achieve them? Do you have ongoing “hunches” or “whispers” about different career choices you want make? What is your future vision? A very famous celebrity once said, “You are the author of the book of your life.” Don’t you think it’s time to start envisioning and writing your own book?