Hungry for a Hearty Career? Stir Up Your Tolerance for Starting Over.

Most of us dread starting over. It means more cursed change.

Some profess to love change, believing it’s about new beginnings. Those wary of change understand it’s about ends.

Nothing changes unless something stops. Whether we’re optimistic about the change or not, we’re still left with the impacts of “end-ness:”

  • Familiar routines become undone
  • Our role is defined differently
  • Relationship dynamics are affected
  • Adapting to new processes and tools is required
  • Performance expectations shift
  • Opportunities for advancement blur

You’re hard pressed to develop a rich career without embracing change, even as it turns your world upside down.

A career of many colors

The days of cradle-to-grave careers (and even professions) are over, cry as some might. Ours is a business world of movement, innovation, mergers, technological advancement, and speed.

As business changes, the outlines of our careers change with it. We need to see ourselves in the business of building a career path that has sustainability and heft.

You may have a degree in education, computer science, marketing, finance, or business administration. Today that just means you’ve demonstrated the ability to learn, to perform proficiently against standards, and to conduct yourself appropriately in a learning environment.

How any of that a contributes to developing a career is about what you do next.

A hearty career is the amalgamation of many steps and decisions, assembled in linear progression or wildly divergent.

You take the success potential out of building a career when you’re afraid to start over…and over…and over.

Your career is a business trip–you get in gear, follow one route for a while, arrive at one destination, see the sights, discover a new path, change or shift gears, and set yourself in motion again.

Some people arrive at their first career destination and stay there. Very few find their dream jobs, at least right away. But you can tell those who have stopped dreaming or even looking. They complain about pretty much everything.

That’s generally what happens when you’re afraid to start over.

Big careers start small.

It’s the rare person who knows what they want to do with their life while a teenager. But that’s where career paths too often get started.

You see where you get your best grades, assume that’s where your talents are, and set your sights on schools that will credential you. Then you go into the job market, promote your abilities, and get your first real job.

That initial job is your first, small step on the road to a potentially big career ahead. Chances are, though, you’ll have to find the courage to choose from many forks in the road to get there.

Do you want to:

  • Stay in sales or move into marketing?
  • Continue as a company programmer or join an app development start up?
  • Remain a classroom teacher or launch an on-line course design company?
  • Commit to a family-owned business or work in a Fortune 100 company?
  • Play forever as a country band singer/guitarist or go solo in Nashville?

Building a big career means making smart choices. It’s not about following your passion but rather about building a strong base of tested skills and experiences that are your marketable assets. (No one makes this case more strongly than Cal Newport in his book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You.)

Every career decision you make builds on the previous ones, both the good and the bad.

Careers are the ultimate platform for self-discovery, and if you’re lucky, some company is paying you while you figure out your best path.

Fight the fear.

Starting over is scarier than staying put. A lot of worry often comes with your choices.

But when there’s a great opportunity that’s right in front of you, that’s the moment when you must face your fear of change and go for it. So stir up your tolerance for starting over and satisfy your  hunger for a fulfilling career.


5 Ways to Avoid Sabotaging Your Career

feet 166161247_9e1be2f4ff_mA job is a building block. A career is what we build. When starting out, we’re never quite sure what we’re actually building, if anything. We could end up with a useless pile of sticks or a really cool house on a mountaintop.

Careers are not built by ourselves alone. So we need to understand the roles we play (including how we play them) and the potential impact of the supporting cast.

All eyes are on you.

It’s often said: “My career should grow because I do really good work.”

But good work is only one part of it. Well-chosen and savvy professional relationships are another. Without a cadre of colleagues at all levels who attest to your competence, value, and ability to “get along,” your career will likely advance slowly, if at all.

The quality and effectiveness of your workplace relationships are noticed and become part of your personal brand. You can shoot your career in the foot easily by saying or doing things at work that  paint the wrong picture of who you are.

5 cautionary steps

These five steps can help you avoid sabotaging your career along the way:

  1. Don’t get ahead of yourself

The way employees move up is different in every company. Start by figuring out what the leadership sees in those who have been given more responsibility. Be alert to what is said about those who have been promoted. You need to know but don’t have to agree.

Advancement is not about when you think you’re ready. It’s about what the decision-makers think. Until you know, for sure, that you have regularly met the company’s performance standards, defer asking to be promoted or given plumb assignments.

  1. Keep your wants close to your chest

Managers are generally the ones who create opportunities or obstacles to your growth. You may want to assume that your boss is on your side, but that isn’t always the case. So it’s important to build a strong, credible performance portfolio.

Once you tell your boss what you want from your career, s/he has the leverage to help or hinder. So be prudent about how much you let on and when. Timing can be very important.

I once had a client who, at each job change, told his boss that he was “title sensitive” which was also code for wanting to be a big player. In each case, his career stalled.

  1. Don’t screen yourself out of opportunities

Too often, I’ve heard job seekers and careerists express an interest in positions and job challenges that are a notch up. They say, “I read the duties but I don’t meet  all of them, so I don’t think I should apply.”

It’s not your decision to (de)select yourself. That’s what management’s paid to do. It’s rare to find anyone fitting all the requirements of a job or assignment. What companies are looking for is the one who brings the best blend of knowledge and experience to the role. That may very well be you.

  1. Don’t follow someone else’s plan

The most important person to please with your career is you.

Lots of careerists pursue paths that well-meaning others have suggested or chosen for them. Then they wonder why the work doesn’t make them happy.

The first sign of self-leadership is our willingness to identify a life plan and then to start putting the  building blocks together, including those that construct our careers. When you don’t follow your own plan, it’s easy to go adrift.

  1. Don’t get seduced by the glitz

The trappings of better pay, high-sounding titles, greater authority, and any number of perks have a price. I’ve seen many people chase those things without seeing the personal and professional tolls that go with them.

There are advantages to career growth, but you need to make sure you understand how important they are to you…not to someone else…to you. Sometimes we need to see what’s behind the big door before we choose it.

Avoid self-sabotage

None of us ever sets out to make a mess of our careers. Sometimes we just do because we weren’t paying attention or had lost confidence in our ability to turn things around. By taking hold of your career, you can avoid self-sabotaging it.

Photo from davemendelsohn via Flickr

7 Steps to Getting Unstuck | A Career Rescue Plan

Have you hit the wall? That’s how it can feel when we’re in a job that’s taking us nowhere. 

One day you wake up and realize that your growth opportunities are zilch because:

  • No one leaves your company
  • The workforce keeps shrinking
  • A zillion employees have a leg up on you
  • You’re not positioned for advancement 

This all comes with a gnawing sense that the longer you stay in your job, the more mired you’ll become, like being in career quicksand. 

Overcome panic with brains 

Nothing gets us out of a “stuck” pattern faster than a smart plan. Here are seven steps to start digging your way out of the muck. 

First, answer these “assessing” questions: 

1. What do I want? It’s one thing to say you’re stuck in your career and another to be honest about what you want. Maybe it’s an assignment that builds your skills, a lateral move, a promotion, or a job rotation. Write down exactly what you want next from your career. That becomes your goal.

 2. What’s in my way? Answer this question with your goal front and center. If you want a job change and there are no openings soon, then you need to find out when conditions might change. If you aren’t qualified for that opening or don’t come across well, then you need to fix that.   

3. What are my options? Be realistic. Look at what’s going on in your company and make your best guess at future growth opportunities that fit your time schedule. If you have to wait five years for someone to retire to apply for the job you want, decide if you want to risk waiting. 

You also need a good sense of whether or not you are someone the company views favorably. If not, weigh that data too. 

4. What am I willing to do? Getting yourself unstuck requires action. Again, be honest with yourself about how much you’re willing to do to expand your capabilities, build broader relationships, look outside, re-brand yourself, increase your visibility, follow leads, and redirect your career. It all rests on your shoulders.

Now take these “actions:” 

5. Prepare your plan. Write down what you intend to do and by when. Hold yourself accountable. Treat your quest to “un-stick” your career like the business initiative that it is.

Effectively managing your career takes the same skills as managing a work project. So if you want to achieve specific career movement by a certain date, write down exactly what you will do to make that happen. 

6. Assemble your support team. We all need a support system—the people who will provide us with insights, ideas, information, encouragement, and feedback. This may include a mentor, your boss, a friend, local entrepreneur, and/or a career coach. Pick people who care about you and can provide concrete help. Engage with them appropriately and often.

7. Keep yourself on track. It’s terribly easy to get discouraged, lose your momentum, and give up. No one ever got unstuck by quitting. Your stick-to-itiveness is the measure of your desire to more forward. That’s why you need to track each bit of progress you make and mark it on your action plan.

Watch for signs that your efforts are making an impact, even if your goal hasn’t yet been reached. Acknowledge your progress.  If you know others who are also trying to un-stick their careers too, consider getting together as a group to support each other. 

Pay attention 

Anytime we take action to move forward, we invite discovery. We learn new things, meet new people, and see situations with fresh eyes. These actions release insights that we would not have seen otherwise. 

Just at the moment when we’re ready to pack it in, something will appear in an email, someone unexpected will call, and some opportunity will present itself. If we’re not in the game, playing full out, we’ll miss these chances. So it’s important to pay attention to the little things since they often precede the big ones! Yeowza! 

How have you felt when stuck? Any steps to add?