Do You Own or Rent Your Career?

This post is by Janine Moon, a certified career coach with CompassPoint Coaching. Do you own your career? “Of course,” you say indignantly. “No one else does!” Well, let’s see about that. Answer “yes” or “no” to each question and see if you’re an owner or renter:
  • Do you leverage your talents at work every day?
  • Within the last three months, have you updated your research on your organization’s direction and competitors as well as your industry’s challenges and market issues?
  • Is your professional development plan — the one you created — on target?
  • Have you completed your objectives and had regular conversations with your manager about your accomplishments?
  • Do you have mentors from multiple arenas (work, professional associations, volunteer gigs, and so on) with whom you’ve defined professional development goals?
If you haven’t answered a solid “yes” to each question, then you’re renting your career, not owning it. You’re allowing someone else to set your direction by your passive inattention to career areas that make a big impact. Career owners take an assertive approach, one that goes far beyond expecting their managers to identify possible career positions or watching bulletin board postings. Career owners view their career like home owners view their home — as an asset that can grow or shrink in value depending upon care, maintenance and smart investments. Just like a homeowner, then, you want to leverage resources to make your assets shine! That means you put your talents — those innate strengths you’re born with — to work so you look good and do great every day. It doesn’t matter if it’s not specified in your job description; you figure out a way to provide value and be a contributor. So if you have a desk job, yet you’re a relationship whiz, make sure you shine with every customer phone call you take or make. You prepare and contribute to every meeting you’re in — and if your manager isn’t there, make sure they know about contributions you made. Speaking of meetings, every meeting you’re in (and some you create) allow you to collect intelligence about your company. If you don’t know what’s happening in the business or about new directions or customer challenges, you can’t determine where you can make an impact. Areas of greatest challenge are your hints to do more research on potential career options: What challenges need the competencies you have and which departments are most involved in them? Once you know those areas, you can participate in a task force, shadow people to learn the ins and outs, or request mentoring from a leader in project areas. Mentors can be from within your organization, but they can also be anyone who can teach you something you need to learn. With the right approach, anyone you ask to mentor you will feel honored to be a part of your development. The key to “the ask” is to be specific, to take responsibility for planning and follow-through, and to be thoughtful of the mentor’s time and space. No longer is it smart to wait for your manager to define your next career move or your development plan—all you’ll get is gray! Look around, figure out your likely next steps and then define the development or skills you need to get there. Then, go after them. Don’t wait for your manager to pay for them, or to schedule you into a training or program. Go after what you need when you need it — like an owner would! Then, instead of waiting to be picked, you can influence your career step through your plan, your mentors and your noticeable value to the organization.
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