3 steps to achieve your career goals
Updated: May 16
3 steps that will help you to progress on your current career or to transition to a new one
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You would be surprised by the amount of people working for cool tech companies in the Bay Area with shiny titles and good compensation who are not happy with their jobs.
Part of it is related to the pursuit of fulfillment and purpose that seems to be the Holy Grail for Millennials and Gen Zs. Many business leaders and media influencers still preach that finding your passion and building a career around it key for success and happiness. More pragmatic leaders, like the Wharton Professor Adam Grant, say that "do what you love" is a terrible advice that generates frustration. Taking a job where you will learn and develop your passion is a better recommendation (he talks about it on his podcast WorkLife).
The more I talk to people the more I learn that there's not a straight line on career development. Even the C-level's have or had jobs that they didn't like and transformed failures on learning opportunities on the path for success.
So divas, the first tip to achieve your career goals is to stop beating yourself because you are not passionate for you job or because your LinkedIn connections are getting promoted faster than you. There is always a story behind the titles, and many of them are not happy.
Now that you are in the right mindset let's discuss how you can get where you want to be:
- If you are not happy on your current role, find out the reason before moving forward: it's easy to complain about your job, but it takes time and self-reflection to understand the real problem. On another post I talked about a time I was worn out while working on a key project. It took me some time to realize that the problem was not the long hours, but the activities I was doing and the amount of re-work. Thus, if I had to do the same work while working less hours I would be equally frustrated.
Last week I led a Career Panel for my alumni club and I heard a great advice from an executive. When you are not happy, understand if the problem is your job, your management or the company's culture. It will help you to define your new path and ask the right questions when networking and going through interviews.
- Networking should be part of your life, not a strategy for job hunting: first, build relationship with diverse people on a regular basis - classmates and the alumni of your University, co-workers from different departments, people you meet in congresses and even people you meet at your yoga, kid's school, running team, etc.
Second, think of what you can give to your contacts - it can be an advice, recommendation on articles, courses, books, events. If you are thinking: "I am an associate, there is nothing I can offer to a director" you are wrong. I just heard from my mentor, who is a very senior executive at my company that he has learned a lot from me - what caught me by surprise. I have shared with him about the courses I was taking at Stanford. He was so excited about them that he decided to take one class himself.
Third, when you ask for something - an advice, a referral for a job - touch base with the person and say how s/he has helped you and how important the advice was for your life and career (even if you didn't get the job you were refereed to). Showing gratitude is key to nurture a relationship.
- Build new skills. Continuously: on the job training, masters or continuous studies, online courses, podcasts, books, professional events, asking friends and co-workers to teach you about their jobs and so on. Nowadays there are many ways to strengthen skills and learn new ones. Define what you want to do in the next 3-5 years of your career and what skills you'll need to get there. Choose the learning methods that are more aligned to your goals and routine and go for them! If you are looking to move to another division or another industry, talk to someone who already has the job you are aiming to get, and ask what skills you need to succeed in this area. With AI and automation taking over repeatable activities, sharpening your soft skills, even if you don't want to change careers any time soon, is a must. Communication, creativity, leadership, ability to sell (yourself, your product or service, your work) are some of the key skills that you should focus on.
A few years ago I started focusing on human-centered design, creativity, storytelling, public speaking - all outside of my comfort zone as I am very analytical. I took classes at Stanford Continuous Studies about Design Thinking and found opportunities to apply it along with creativity and storytelling at work. Aiming to constantly cultivate a creative mindset, I have exchanged some business books for fiction and transformed my apartment re-decor on a design project. I am taking any opportunity to do public presentations and always applying storytelling when doing it.
These are the first steps to understand what you want in your career and start taking action to get there. Starting a change is not easy, even for divas. It can feel overwhelming to reflect and understand what you want to do next and where you want to be in the next 5 years. Having a mentor, coach or trustful friend can help you in the process. Doing something is always better than nothing and you can count on your community of divas to support you!
What are your career goals for 2020? What are you doing to get there? Share your thoughts here or on Facebook!