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Kate McConnell -
Are you looking to switch your current job or career?
Do you want to advance to a higher job level in your organization?
Do you want to ensure that you keep your job through possible layoffs?
Whatever your circumstances, it’s important to be proactive in getting what you want out of your career. Here are three things you can do to get what you want.
- Dream: know exactly what you want
Suppose you entered a race that offered $10,000 to the first contestant who traveled to Oomballa and back again. What would your first question be? “What is Oomballa, and where is it?”
Suppose I responded, “I don’t know, but the first one there and back wins $10,000.” What would you think? That I’m nuts, right?
How can we find something when we don’t know what it is?
It’s the same principle when it comes to doing the work we love. If we don’t take the time to define what it is we want from our professional lives, we’ll never get there, and we’ll just keep doing the same old jobs year after year after year.
Instead, define what is most important to you. Exactly what does success look like?
Do you want to be a manager or part of an executive leadership team?
Do you want to research and create new programs or innovations?
Do you want to become a consultant in your area of interest?
Do you want a job that allows you regular quality time with your family?
Think big. Think long term. What do you want your work day to look like 10 years from now? In what way will you use your unique skills and talents to make the world a better place? Write this down. When you keep your end goal in mind, you will make much better decisions all along your career path, and then you can create a timeline to ensure that you are on track to doing the work you love.
- Plan how to get there (gap analysis)
Create a worksheet with three columns. In the right column, write down the requirements for getting your long-term job — the skills, certifications or knowledge you need to use in the position. In the left column, write down your progress in achieving each requirement. In the middle column, write down what you will need to do to fill the gap. See an example below for someone who wants to move into a front-line supervisor position.
To obtain my goal of becoming a front-line manager:
- What I have now: 50 credits towards business degree
- What I need to do: Complete 30 more credits toward bachelor's degree
- Requirement: A bachelor's degree
- What I have now: No formal training experience
- What I need to do: Take certification class in training
- Requirement: Ability to train front-line staff
- What I have now: Basic experience 15 years ago
What I need to do: Ask a friend in finance to review basic budgeting procedure
Requirement: Balance departmental budget
Now create a timeline of when you will complete each task you need to do. And now you have a concrete plan of how to obtain your future job.
- Learn how to ask for help
- Get a mentor
A mentor is a person willing to share time and talent to help you succeed in your professional journey. Mentors can be a senior leader in your organization, alumni, a family friend with expertise in your field, your boss.
The mentor relationship can vary. You may meet formally once a month. You may meet occasionally for a cup of coffee. You may simply have a brief phone call when you have a question. You may email each other three times a year. Discuss the types of relationships with your mentor so that it becomes a blend of what you need (advice, information, opportunities) with what your mentor is able or willing to give.
- Gather information
An informational interview is a 20-minute meeting that you initiate with a leader in the field you wish to enter to determine if you are a good fit for this kind of work. If the leader agrees to meet, research his or her organization thoroughly and prepare good questions about the current state of the field or the organization, changes in technology or best practices. (You may not ask for a job in an informational interview. It’s fact-finding only.) Even when you are not looking for a job, continue to meet leaders in your field. Find out the latest changes in your work and keep up with current trends. Subscribe to at least one credible publication in your field. Go to industry-specific conferences.
- Study successful people
Find professionals who have the job you want. How do they speak? What do they do that is effective? Why are they respected by those around them?
Join professional organizations within your field and attend meetings. Introduce yourself. Ask questions. Send notes after meeting new people and thank them for speaking with you. Be prepared to pay it forward.
There are many ways to grow professionally in your career. To learn about the
opportunities that are available at Carlow University, visit its College of Professional Studies.
About the Author: McConnell is assistant director of career development at Carlow
University. She specializes in training professionals to transform their career
stories to demonstrate their strengths and skills in interviewing and public
Contact: Kate McConnell