And now the Friday Five! In Monday’s post, we took a look at some evidence regarding success in the workplace. We first looked at what it takes to prepare for work and then we examined how opportunity influences our degree of success. From this we provided two examples from outside the workplace on how proponents used creative thinking to significantly increase their level of success; by changing their thinking and charting their course with order and discipline, they altered their status from underprivileged to just as privileged, if not more.
In “Craig Top Five List” for this Friday, I am suggesting five actions that you should take to entrench your career path.
- Confirm Your Career Path: You are about to invest a great deal of time developing a career strategy. Before you commit to an exhausting “find the right job” process, you need to ask yourself a critical question — are you sure that you are on the right path? Will this effort yield a position that matches with your passions? I have conducted hundreds of job diagnostics, mostly for people in their thirties and fourties, who are very unhappy in their first “careers”. I have seen many people chose careers because they were advised that employment in a particular field was guaranteed; however, when training or working in that field they were miserable — and these were high paying, high status positions. Most recently, a friend, laid off after 18 years working for one employer, was forced to seek a new position. “If you are starting over” his wife coached “is there anything you have always wanted to do”? With excitement and no hesitation, he shared that he always wanted to become an electrician. He found a position as an apprentice half way across the country and within weeks was back working.
- Be Integral About Your Preparation: So you have a piece of paper saying that you graduated from university. Congratulations, I guess. First of all, it really isn’t that difficult to graduate from university; there are many strategies that the creative student can use to slide through. Second, only you know the true value of that degree. How did you spend your study time — playing bridge, hanging out in the coffee shops and pubs? The value of your degree is directly proportional to the amount of time you invested in your development. To truly deserve a smile and a hug for your accomplishment, you are the student who spent time studying, in the library, challenging yourself. Remember, a good interviewer will quickly determine how solidly you prepared for the work world; and if you are not discovered then, you will certainly be outed during the probationary period. Remember Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule for developing excellence.
- Accelerate Your Preparation: earnmydegree.com offers a thorough discussion of what currently counts in the workplace. Clearly experience counts and specialized skills also have value. However, the undergraduate degree is quickly losing its relevance to employers. Those with just a BA are exposing themselves to the serendipity of opportunity. That is, I could pick you, or I could choose some other person with a similar degree whose family I know personally. Graduate degrees make a big difference as do community college courses that offer concrete skills. I also found in my working years that employees with graduate degrees offered a higher level of thinking.
- Accelerate Your Career Growth: We are quite simply conditioned to think job; which, of course is normal since the reality is that learning institutions were initially set up to serve the needs of the workplace. However, I am asking you to change your thinking and set your course on this new path. For example, rather than immerse yourself into a large firm where you can quickly disappear and become subject to stringent rules of progression or a boss who refuses to allow your due recognition, choose to take on a higher level of responsibility working for a non-profit organization in your field. You will be paid less, but you will wear many hats and by necessity be a front line worker. Through this action alone you will accelerate your development. Or let’s assume that you take the higher paying position in that stuffy corporation. You will find ways to become known across the organization and most importantly to the CEO. You will sit on committees, participate in extra curricular activities. When assignments come up you will be known. Remember your career path is just that — it is a plan that allows you over a set period of time to take the prescribed steps and gradually progress towards your ideal position.
- Ensure that You Have A Career Attitude: I recently completed a career diagnostic with a young woman who was complaining that she was not being respected by her employer. It was clear from her diagnostic that she didn’t want a career and that her job was just a way to pay the bills. It took about a year for her to reflect on this finding and to her credit she has rediscovered her passion and has committed to a career path. She was just recently hired into a management position. There is nothing wrong with your priorities being family or an activity outside the workplace; however it is difficult to build a career if you have not turned on your career switch and developed a plan.
What I appreciate about Gladwell’s book is that each of us can now strive to be the expert, the manager, the leader, the writer and so on. You have not been left behind unless you choose to accept what society has prescribed for me. The challenge is how will you close the gap; what creative strategy will you employ to outperform the field? Please send me your ideas on how this can be done in your field or pehaps comment on creative strategies you have used.