Learn to steer your career
You wouldn’t jump in your car and drive in a straight line crashing in the first curve. Instead you would look ahead, take control, and steer into the turn. Your career needs the same attention. Often we feel like our careers are on cruise control or worse out of our control. But you can take back control of your career and steer it where you want to go. It starts with goals. Think about it. You don’t get into your car with no direction in mind. Your goal may be to pick up groceries, drive to the office, visit friends, but you have a goal in mind when you put the key into the ignition. The same should be true of your career!
Your career needs You at the wheel
No one can set goals for someone else, but you can get help! Start by thinking about your ultimate goal. Is it to retire by a certain age? Maybe to travel the world? Could it be that you have a monetary goal to hit? No matter what your ultimate goal is think of it as your destination. It won’t be your first stop but it guides every decision between where you are now and where you want to end up.
Now that you have an ultimate goal in mind you can plan your route. Just like driving to a destination and checking your progress along the way, you’ll be doing the same but the destination is your goal. You can ask yourself what’s next in terms of progress toward your ultimate goal. Should you be looking to change careers? Do you need to get promoted within a year or two to stay on track? Should you move to a different area to increase your job options within a field you’re interested in? The answers to these questions become much easier to answer when you have a clear goal in mind. Just like do I need to stop for gas is easy to answer when you know how much further you need to drive.
Do not put your career on Auto Pilot
Too many people put their careers and really their lives on auto-pilot. They just go “where life takes them” and end up complaining about where they end up. You can’t afford to leave that to chance. You need to grab the steering wheel and hit the gas! Think about this: Let’s say you are doing a great job and your boss is a big fan of your work. Sounds great right? What if you were able to double your productivity? Would your boss double your salary? Probably not. In fact if you work for a large company there are often salary and bonus caps in place that limit the amount you can earn regardless of how much value you deliver. So what should you do in this case?
If your ultimate goal is to retire early and accumulating wealth is the key to accomplishing that you need to look for a new job where you start out at a higher salary. It’s super simple once you have that end goal in mind and can clearly see how your decisions today lead toward or away from that outcome.
But that’s a crazy example… you couldn’t possibly DOUBLE your productivity… or could you!?!?
Steering isn't hard
It may seem like a lot of work to steer your career, but it is not. All you need to do is set that ultimate goal, align your next career move toward that goal, and make slight adjustments here and there after that. If that next career goal means a significant change that is ok too. Take everything one step at a time, it’s a leisurely trip not a road race. The key is to keep that goal in front of you on a monthly basis and ask yourself 3 questions:
- What did I accomplish last month that brought me closer to my goal?
- What can I do during this month to bring me closer to my goal?
- What if anything is keeping me from being able to move ahead?
The answers to these simple questions will give you insight into everything you need to know to move closer to where you want to be! Be honest and open about your past performance, set realistic goals for the future, and address any impediments blocking you from success. It sounds simple because it is simple. You got this, so jump in the driver’s seat and enjoy the ride!