Do the words “fresh start” come to mind as a new school term approaches? What would a fresh start mean for you at work?
At the start of the school term, students often get a list of what to pull together and how to prepare. We as adults at work need to take a look at that for ourselves.
Let’s take some time to review where you are with your career intentions. They may need some freshening up.
First Things First. Check In With Yourself.
Are you one of those people who keep their head down working? Then one day you wake up and realize the situation isn’t working anymore? Now you feel stuck or desperate.
When I left my corporate job, employees repeatedly asked me, “Is there something we should know about?” (When the HR manager leaves voluntarily, it makes employees edgy.) My consistent advice is, “Pay attention and stay current with yourself.”
Notice your health. How is your sleep? Do you find it hard to stay focused? Do you still light up at the prospects of certain types of projects or assignments? Are you meeting deadlines? Look for changes in your habits. Are others commenting on changes?
If things are all good, now check in with your career goals. What is your intention for the near-term and long-term? Are you moving toward that? If you answer, “I don’t have an intention,” or “I haven’t made any progress,” we’ll address that in a minute.
How Are You Performing Now?
Employees ask me for help with their career intentions. Many want more responsibility, visibility, or advancement. I always like to start with where they are.
I remember when the HR manager at work authorized the funding of my Master’s in HR. He emphasized to me that it was important for me to “grow where I was planted.”
I had never heard the phrase before, but I got it immediately. I’d better deliver on the job at hand — not that I had a history of not doing my job. He wanted to remind me I had a job to do while I was earning this degree. Got it.
How are you delivering? Look at your objectives for the year. Where are you on those?
If your company doesn’t have a system to prompt intermittent reviews, initiate one with your boss. Be ready to discuss where you are. Be ready to assess whether the objectives need adjustment. What would you recommend to your boss? How would you recommend this?
Be sure to ask your boss to weigh in with their view of your performance. You might hear something like, “I think you are doing moderately well.” Ask what an excellent performance would look like from their perspective. Don’t let the opportunity pass to make sure you understand each other. Check your assumptions.
Reflect On Your Own Intention
Now that you have some foundational steps out of the way, ask yourself about where you want to go.
There are times when you just want to get through the year. You may have one big project or many. You may have your head down getting work done. At times like this, it’s important to know how this work is serving your career. This type of year can serve you by allowing you to:
- Develop a new skill.
- Practice leading a team or part of a project.
- Learn to delegate effectively.
- Improve your collaboration skills.
- Learn about another part of the organization.
Even if it’s “one of those years,” simply determining how it is serving you can help you stay focused and make more of your intention. At the right time, you can then speak to how this year’s work supports your intent to take more responsibility, advance, or shift the type of work you are doing.
You Don’t Have a Career Intention?
I remember being asked early on in my career what I wanted to be doing in 5 years. I felt so inadequate not being able to answer the question. I found later that I was not alone. It works differently for different people.
I continued my work for a few more years, and then I became clear on my intention. During those years I grew and developed. I learned how to prioritize, make decisions, influence others, how to be resourceful and how to be a team player.
Those types of skills can serve you on many fronts. If you are struggling with a career intention or goal, try to identify how what you are doing now will serve you long-term, no matter what.
I’ve heard plenty of people tell me they just want to keep doing what they are doing – even if they are mid-career. This is okay, and you need to understand all sides of this.
For instance, I served an employee community of research scientists. It was safe to say that many of them wanted to keep doing this throughout their careers. At the same time, each would grow in their ability to influence and lead others. They may take on more responsibility.
Understand that your employer expects you to grow and develop throughout your career. This happens even if your occupation doesn’t change. In fact, your same level of performance that at one time was good can be viewed as sub-par if you do not continue to grow. You don’t want to be in this situation.
Whatever your situation, if you are at a loss for your career intention, talk with someone you trust. Talk with someone who knows your work and respects it. Ask them for ideas. It can be as simple as working on collaboration, teamwork or influence skills.
Follow your interests. Ask others you admire how they developed certain skills. Do whatever it takes to create a spark so you can remain fulfilled and contributing.
Take charge of your career development to get the job that supports your work and your life. Check out the tools and resources in the InPower Coaching Career Center.