Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a working professional, you might find yourself feeling stuck when it comes to your career. Perhaps you’ve become complacent at your current level of achievement; you aren’t advancing, and you aren’t honing the skills you have or picking up new ones because there’s neither the requirement nor challenge to do so. If your professional development has plateaued, then it’s time to follow in the footsteps of the most successful professionals and entrepreneurs and take control of your career path. Today’s post discusses five important methods you can use to start doing so.
The easiest way to stall your career is not to have clearly defined goals to be working towards. Without goals, it’s all too easy to tread water instead of diligently working on your professional development. You also need more than just vague and ephemeral end goals. Like any other project, you need to set SMART goals, which is to say, specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic and relevant, and time-based. Setting SMART goals will allow you to create a plan for achieving them as well as to identify benchmarks that help you see your success and what needs more work.
Set a Timeline
It’s important to contextualize your goals in a timetable. Some actions you can take now, or within the next week or month. Other goals will require more time and can’t be rushed. Having a timeline that you can reference and adjust as necessary will help you keep perspective, focus on the right tasks, and stay motivated.
Know Your Strengths
You can’t rely on an outside organization (such as the company you work for) to properly identify your professional strengths. That’s because the organization in question is likely to fill roles according to business priorities and opportunities. By understanding your own capabilities, you can take a look at how you’re perceived within the company and leverage your strengths to maximize your impact and accelerate growth opportunities. This also means you can avoid job roles where you’ll end up struggling.
Knowing your strengths should also reveal your weaknesses, but even your weaknesses should become opportunities. These should become areas for learning new skills and improving.
Once you’ve identified strengths and weaknesses, you should take stock of the resources at your disposal and note which you’ll need to seek out. For example, if there’s a colleague in a role you aspire to be in or who has skills you want to learn, take the initiative to shadow them and ask them questions; this is something you can work into your routine in the near future, whereas identifying a mentor may take more time. Other resources you should consider include networking, attending conferences, reading books and other content from inside and outside of your niche, volunteering, self-teaching and utilizing tutorials, and taking classes.
Stand Out from the Crowd
It’s important to remember that your job and your company don’t define or limit you. Cookie cutter jobs set in identical cubicles don’t exactly give managers and other leaders a good idea about your capabilities or interest in growth. Take the initiative to show exemplary results or a unique perspective so they can identify you as a candidate worth growing within the company.
Start Taking Risks
Taking risks can be a great way to stand out and prove your willingness to work hard and is this is an important point to emphasize on its own. The process of taking risks should grow your confidence, take you out of your comfort zone and the ‘corporate bubble’, create new contacts, and teach you new and valuable skills. Risk taking is at the quintessence of the entrepreneurial spirit, and by its very nature prevents you from becoming complacent.
Stop Relying on Others
We already mentioned that you can’t rely on an outside organization to identify your strengths, but more than that, you cannot wait on your company to direct your growth. If you do, you’re probably going to miss out on a lot of information and opportunities. The first person that should be investing in your career path is you, and part of that is absolutely taking the initiative to start improving yourself now.
If you want to be truly successful, you need to be proactive and take control of your career path. By continuing to learn, taking advantage of all accessible resources, and achieving your own goals, you will advance your career and create new opportunities for success.