Can you be happy in your career? Really happy? Skip to the shower on Mondays kinda happy? Yep. Sure, it’s hard work and it takes vigilance, self awareness and the willingness to take some risks. But being unhappy at work is also hard work. Pick your poison. What does career happiness actually mean to you, in other words, can you define it? And after you have defined it, do you know how to get it? Before you crawl back in bed and put the covers over your head, here are some tips to get you on your way down the road.
As you may have heard many times, when you are doing work that you love, it really doesn’t feel like work. If you decide that you want it badly enough, and you are willing to do the hard work to get it, then it is possible. But you first have to believe that you deserve it, and have the confidence to go get it.
How would you like to use these talents in a work environment? Don’t wait for someone else to recognize them and tap you on the shoulder. You must know what you are good at and what you like to do. If you don’t know, how do you expect others to know? Oh, and you also have to be able and willing to tell others about them. Gulp.
That’s why it is called your career. Are you behaving in a way that shows the world that you take your job and your career seriously, or are you just doing time? You have to wrap your head around the fact that no one else but you cares about your career as much as you do.
We are too willing to sit back and believe that if we do good work, the right people will take note, and great opportunities will follow. Not necessarily. It is not bragging if you ensure that you make those who are key to your success aware of your results. Of course, it is always good to share and promote the good work that others do as well. They just might return the favor.
You must be able to answer the question, “What is the next step in your career?” If you can’t, then at least you must be actively looking to develop the answer to that question. If you really want to drive your career, you have to know what direction you are heading, or you just might hit a wall.
Well-meaning friends, relatives, and professional contacts that try to steer you are often living their careers through the lens of their own biases and disappointments. They have an impression of you that may not be accurate. If someone says that something that you want to do is inadvisable, foolish, or just plain impossible, consider their input and their perspective, but don’t take what they say as the absolute truth. It may be their truth, but it doesn’t have to be yours.
Finding the success that you want in your career will not be without setbacks, disappointments, and downright failures. No one who does anything worthwhile is without such stories. If anyone tells you that their entire journey has been rainbows and sunshine, your BS-o-meter should be screaming.
If you are unhappy in your job to the point that you can barely get up in the morning, why on earth would you not tell yourself that you deserve better, and start a well thought out, focused job search for something that is a better fit?
We get virtually nowhere alone, so when we become known as a whiner, a slacker, someone who cannot be counted on or just someone who does the bare minimum or is difficult to work with, your opportunities will absolutely be limited. People will not refer you, will not step out on your behalf, and may give you negative behind-your-back references. Is it fair? Doesn’t matter, it’s reality. I’m sure you have done it yourself. Make yourself referable. Always.
The key to effective career self-management is to be focused and flexible. You may have a goal in mind, and have laid out a path to get there. No matter what your goal is, there is more than one way to get there. There are few ‘career happy’ people who would tell you that they followed exactly the path they thought they would to get where they are. The journey is at least half the fun!
This career stuff can be overwhelming, and can make you feel that you are simply along for the ride. Or worse, that someone else is your puppet master, like your own personal Wizard in the Land of Oz behind that curtain with his hands on the master controls. Guess what? You are your own Wizard, but if you fail to take the wheel, prepare to be disappointed on the day you realize that you did not live up to your potential. And in looking for someone to blame, start with the mirror.
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