Navigating Your Career

navigating-your-career

If you work in the creative or professional services industry, you have probably developed some pretty well-tuned people skills. So much of the work in the services business takes people skills. Whether it’s project or resource management, or running the creative team, it’s a sure bet that you have to collaborate and find ways to work with others. These skills that you’ve developed are valuable, and they provide options for promotions and movement within your organization or perhaps opportunities to leave and seek your fortune at another firm. Whatever talents you possess there is always a bit of angst when it comes to deciding how to best employ them.

What I Can Get vs. What I Want

I’ve been teaching at the University of California since 2003. I teach graduates and working professionals that are looking to improve their knowledge base and typically want to take their career to the next level. Although my classes have focused on marketing and branding, one of the most common challenges my students face is coming to grips with what they want to be in their life and careers. Better said, they often ask “where can I go next?” Perhaps the better question is “where do I ultimately want to be?” A first view of the employment landscape typically is within one’s own organization, and thinking only in terms of “what’s next” versus what they ultimately want to happen sends the entire thinking process into a cul-de-sac.

Where to Start

If one does decide to explore the job market, here are some myth busters from Monster.com:

Myth 1: You must perfectly match all job requirements to apply

“‘Often candidates opt out of pursuing great career opportunities for fear they do not match all of the requirements listed on the job posting,’ says Alyssa Krane, chief talent strategist at Powerhouse Talent, a boutique HR consultancy in Toronto. ‘While the job posting outlines the ideal candidate, the truth is, at times, employers need to adjust their requirements to meet the talent supply in the market.’”

It’s also important to think in terms of not just meeting the requirements but on your work ethic and enthusiasm. Whatever you can add that reflects your own personality will help you stand out from other candidates.

Myth 2: Follow your passion—and only your passion

Having a job you love isn’t necessarily the same thing as following your passion. “‘Consider your passions, but balance that with the larger macro-economy, what your skills and talents are, and the networks you have developed,’ says Ben Brooks, New York City–based founder and CEO of PILOT, a tech platform that helps companies retain their best employees by actively managing their career paths.”

This is an excellent point, and we sometimes forget that passion is often hard to translate into a specific job position. It may be that a job you really like could turn into a passion.

Myth 3: Leadership skills develop naturally with time

According to Monster: “Leadership is a skill that requires continuous nurturing, and getting help from your supervisor can help you set new expectations, sharpen your people skills, and build your confidence.”

Taking classes and role-playing can also help you build confidence. It’s the confidence that you’ll need to call upon when an opportunity to lead appears. And demonstrating the willingness to take the lead will get you noticed even if you don’t have all of the skills yet.

Myth 4: You absolutely can’t quit a job before the two-year mark

“In the past, leaving a job too soon made it more difficult to find a new position, as many hiring managers were leery of ‘job hoppers’ who wouldn't stick around,” says Lynn Carroll, a career coach in Norristown, Pennsylvania. That’s not always the case anymore. With unemployment so low, it’s tempting to leave and take what looks like a better job, so be careful not to jump too fast. Employers are seeing quite a bit more job-hopping because the marketplace is rewarding folks who leave.

Carroll says: “You don’t have to put up with something you hate to meet an arbitrary timeline. However, you should be prepared to explain why you left or are trying to leave so early.” Please remember to not badmouth your previous employer.

Myth 5: Clocking long hours at the office will get you promoted

“‘I see people work themselves ragged, thinking they’ll get that next promotion or raise, and in the process they’re neglecting their families, friends, and health,’ says Dawn Roberts, a career coach and efficiency consultant in Houston.”

Your employer is interested in results, and that’s where your focus should be. If you can demonstrate success then you will earn more flexibility and freedom.

For Employers Only

What if you’re an employer and you know your folks are looking? Maybe they just read this and you’re wondering, or worse you can’t fill the openings you already have because the market is tight and finding good people is difficult. James Parsons has some other ideas in this article from Entrepreneur Magazine. 

Another way to keep good people is to talk with them about employment issues and career paths. Using a mentoring program can help employers get insights into how teams are behaving and feeling about the quality of their work and their challenges before it’s too late to keep them. Keeping the communication channel open is always your best option.

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