Ways to Take Charge of Your Career

Feeling confident — or pretending that you feel confident — is necessary to reach for opportunities. It’s a cliché, but opportunities are rarely offered; they’re seized.
— Sheryl Sandberg

If you’re not constantly looking for ways to enhance your professional worth, you’ll soon find yourself in the cloud of dust your peers leave behind as they race past you. They’ll be moving rapidly toward your promotion, your job, and the recognition you were meant to have.

If you don’t take action, your value will simply be undermined.

To avoid getting stuck in your career while your colleagues outplay you, you must increase your market value. You must continuously acquire new skills and new experience.

Take charge of your growth

To avoid undermining your professional value, you have to stop settling for good enough, and start aiming higher.

Trying to exceed your own performance can be scary, especially if you’re a fan of comfort zones. Naturally, you fear ending up with even more work and longer days in the office.

Luckily, taking charge of your professional growth doesn’t mean you have to spend 10 extra hours a week at the office, or that your happiness depends on getting a promotion (although the latter might unintentionally happen after what you’re about to do).

Rather, you should approach your development as a series of projects. Projects are advantageous because they’re designed to be completed one step at a time within a definite time frame. This allows you to work on a project alongside your daily tasks and avoid overwhelm.

Come Up With An Idea

So, what should the project be about?

Doesn’t matter. The only requirement is that it allows you to acquire skills and experience that benefit you and your work place. The idea is to make your professional development an intrinsic part of your work life. Since you’ll be spending time on it during office hours, it must have a positive impact on your work.

Maybe you want to read about the latest trends in your professional field, build relationships with people in your industry, create a more efficient system for solving your daily tasks, or even find new creative ways to improve the work environment.

Choosing which idea to pursue can be intimidating, since it involves taking a chance. You have to set a course and commit to taking one step forward every day, even if you’re not sure whether you’re on the right path.

For instance, if you’re looking to acquire new skills, but you aren’t sure which ones would be more beneficial in your job, pick one at random and commit to studying as much as you can in the next hour, day, or week. If it feels right, keep going — if not, change the topic.

Decide On A Time Frame

To increase your chances of success and avoid getting stuck (again), assign a specific time frame for your project. Once the time is up, move to something else. Your primary purpose is to keep growing.

The time frame could be everything from 1 to 12 weeks. Its primary purpose is to make sure you don’t get stuck on a particular project. Even more important, however, is that you commit to taking small steps and set milestones that illustrate your progress. How many hours a week will you spend on the project? How many minutes a day?

You can also measure progress as an outcome, e.g., how many books you read, how many leads you create, or how much time you save due to increased efficiency. But beware: you have limited control over these outcomes. Therefore, we recommend assigning an amount of time or specific little tasks as your measure of success. It’s valuable having a clear direction — maybe in the form of a measurable goal — but it’s the effort that counts.

Take Action Today

The first step is usually the hardest. So to get the ideas flowing, start by asking yourself:

What would be a fun project to do?

Some measure of fun (in this case, earnest interest is just as valid) is critical to mustering the energy necessary to keep growing professionally. Of course, you can’t practice rope skipping during work hours, but surely there is some topic you’d be interested in studying or a skill you’d enjoy improving.

Please share your idea in the comments below. For accountability, you could also share it with a friend, or stick a post-it on your computer screen. Just commit to start working on something that will help increase your professional value.

So get out that pen and paper, and write down one idea for a project that you could start today. Keep it simple — and enjoyable!

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