February 2016

Six Strategies to Boost Your Career

Jamie GraceffaBy Jamie Graceffa

More than half of U.S. workers are dissatisfied with their jobs. You don’t have to look any farther than the latest Conference Board Job Satisfaction survey for confirmation. For the eighth consecutive year, this measurement of key business trends reports that most of us are not happy in our careers. So, when hitting the lottery starts feeling like your only viable plan, it’s time to start thinking about what you can do now to fix how you will work tomorrow.

The typical approach to career enhancement is to first evaluate the work you’re doing: Do I like it or not? A close second is looking at work values: are my values aligned, or out of whack, with what I need from the organization? Other common actions may include networking, considering external influences such as family or geography, and updating your resume.

All these activities are important, but we often overlook the emotional and human elements embedded in our work, as well as their impact on career satisfaction. If you’re going to truly enhance your career, you owe it to yourself to adopt a holistic approach to attain your goals.

Below are several tips to consider before you take action. Read through them carefully. Write down a response to each of the questions that follow. When you can identify what makes sense, the most sense, you will be equipped to understand what you should do.

1.Check your reputation. Be nice, if you’re not already. More and more companies have designed their performance appraisals to evaluate not just what you do, but also how you do it. You can achieve, even exceed your goals, and still find yourself in the “needs improvement” area if you are viewed as difficult, rude, condescending, abusive … you get the idea. Being nice doesn’t mean appearing weak, withholding your thoughts, or avoiding a difficult conversation. It’s simply the manner in which you conduct yourself that makes the difference. The bottom line: treat people with dignity and respect. Seek to understand, to listen, and if you think you’re going to lose your cool, remove yourself from the situation, center yourself, and try again at another time.

Does your reputation need repair? If yes, what might you do to change this? If not, how do you know?

2.Look in the mirror. If you’re not happy in your job, it’s time to get real and examine how your behaviors contributed to your own career dissatisfaction. It’s easier, at times, to blame your manager for not promoting you, or your peers for not stepping up and impeding your success. Remember, you also had a role in the situations you believe have contributed to make your work less rewarding.  

What could you start doing, stop doing, or do differently, that will help you end the blame game and take responsibility for your career? 

3. Reset strained relationships. If there’s a relationship you need to repair to be successful at work, go fix it. Collaborating with someone can be quite stressful when tension exists, so you owe it to yourself to improve the situation. Be open and honest. Explain that you feel there is a strain in the relationship; ask if the feeling is mutual. Tell the person you are committed to improving the relationship and would like to have a “reset” conversation. Explain that having a positive interaction is very important to you. If you did something wrong, apologize and say what you’ll do differently. Ask about what you need to do, too. Avoid statements like: You did this, or you didn’t do that. Don’t attack; talk about it from your perspective. At the end of the day, the relationship may never be perfect, but you’ll earn respect for having the courage and the class to bring it up.

Who is due or overdue for a reset conversation? What is your desired outcome?

4. Seek help from others. This is pretty obvious, but not many take advantage of the wisdom of others. Very rarely do individuals succeed on their own. You are not perfect, and it’s OK to ask for help. If your manager is uninterested, or too busy to support you in your career development, find somebody else. Look for a mentor, coach, peer or another manager to help you. This can be particularly helpful when starting a new or a bigger role. Who do you know that possesses the skill you want to develop? Who has experience with the type of job you want? Reach out to that person and ask for a moment of his or her time.

Write down the name of a person you want to contact. What is it you want to know or learn from this individual?

5. Work within your purpose. For some, the word “purpose” conjures thoughts of curing the common cold or some other grandiose goal that is unattainable. Think about it this way: It’s about doing the work you love that has meaning and can benefit others. When your work is not centered around your purpose you may experience feelings of restlessness, distraction, longing for something else, and you may develop the chronic syndrome of the “Sunday night blues” or “the Mondays.” When your work has a purpose (your purpose), you feel more comfortable, more settled, centered, content and fulfilled. When it happens, you’ll know it.

What did you always want to do? What work brings you joy? What one thing could you do to move you closer to your purpose? 

6. Own your career. You own your career, not your manager, or your significant other, or your parents … you do! Why would you give something as important as your career to someone else? Nobody knows you better than yourself.

Are you in the driver’s seat of your career? Are you ready to take responsibility for your career? There are no lines here to write an answer; just say YES!

Now that you’ve had some time to think through each tip and question, take a look at the answers you wrote down. What resonates with you the most? Decide what one or two things you are going to do to enhance your career and write it in the space below. Don’t try to do too much and don’t overthink it. Keep it manageable and reasonable. Once you take one step, take another, then another. This is certainly a more realistic approach to success than pinning your hopes on picking the winning ticket.

WHAT will I do? Be specific.
WHEN will I do it?
WHO else is, or should be, involved?

Jamie Graceffa is speaker and the author of Career Control, Love the Job You’re in or the One You Want  Jamie's areas of expertise include job and career development, employee engagement, team transformation, and coaching. Contact Jamie at Jamie.graceffa@gmail.com , or through Facebook and Twitter.