7 Powerful Ways to Boost Your Career
“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Confucius
Work is such a defining part of our life, our identity and satisfaction. It is critical that you take charge of your career. No one else will!
Most of us spend more time at work than in any other activity. And all indications are that our active life will be prolonged by even more years before we retire, if in fact, we will be able to retire at all in the future.
What’s more, the job market is constantly evolving. Traditional old jobs are disappearing and new ones are created (cf. Brynjolfsson and McAfee, 2014; Bock, 2015).
For these reasons, it is of paramount importance to ask yourself periodically whether your work gives you enough pleasure and financial rewards, allows you to find meaning, and whether you find yourself on a promising career trajectory.
Do you have clear career goals, and are they in line with your values, interests and competence?
Will you be able to respond to new demands and requirements? Are your skills up to date, and do you master the most effective job-search techniques? Are you ready to reinvent yourself (cf. Clark, 2013) and consider new career paths?
The good news is that there are many new opportunities to thrive professionally. There is actually a great demand, worldwide, for talents and qualified workers. We have also learned a great deal about the necessary ingredients for happiness and performance at work (1).
Here are 7 effective ways to boost your career:
1. Identify Your Strengths and Define Your Career Goals
Identifying your competencies and strong points, as well as defining your interests and aspirations is a critical first step to find enduring success and satisfaction in your career.
Think about what you are good at, what motivates you, where you are productive, have pleasure and find a purpose in what you are doing. Define your goals professionally and in your personal life.
“The greatest danger for most of us in not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” Michelangelo
The permanent building blocks to flourish proposed by Seligman (2012) can guide you in the search for fulfillment in your career. Ask yourself to what extent these 5 dimensions are present at work and in your life:
P: positive emotions, feeling good, enjoying yourself
E: engagement, being absorbed, a state of flow
R: relationships, being authentically connected to others
M: meaning, a purposeful existence
A: achievement, a sense of accomplishment and success.
While it is indispensable to reflect on your personal qualities and career goals, it is equally important to analyze your present work situation. Does your present job correspond to your strengths, aspirations and expectations? Is there a good fit between your values, what you do best and job requirements?
A personal SWOT analysis (2) where you identify your personal Strengths and Weaknesses, as well as Opportunities and Threats in your current workplace and professional field, will help you to define your special talents and assets that will enhance your career prospects.
Experience and ample research have demonstrated the great benefits we derive in terms of productivity and satisfaction when we are able to use our strengths as often as possible in our daily work (3).
What’s more, it takes much less effort to further increase our competencies than to correct our weaknesses.
Of course, if one of our flaws represents a major handicap in realizing our dream career, we have no choice but to address it and find ways to overcome it.
Finally, ask yourself whether there are any blockages in your personal life (home, family, friends, work-life balance…) or in your professional environment (superiors, colleagues, working conditions, the job itself…) getting in the way of the career path you seek for yourself. Personalized coaching may help you to overcome these barriers (see below).
2. Upgrade Your Technical Competence
In many ways, career planning has become more challenging due the constantly changing working conditions, company structures, client demands and new technology.
Most likely you have already experienced these rapid shifts and ensuing stress (4). Predictions about even more radical changes to come are not reassuring. Increasing global competition from workers around the world will inevitably result in more cuts in personnel and outsourcing and further increase the pressure.
Future job patterns will include work on demand, irregular working hours, still more technology in all work activities and virtual jobs, as well as more independent practices where essentially workers offer their skills and talents to employers as needed depending on market demands.
All this means you need to constantly update your skills in line with shifting market demands and future needs, enlarge your competencies, become more proactive and flexible to remain employable and be constantly on the lookout for new opportunities.
Fortunately, a wide range of training programs on-line and face-to- face are available to get you up to speed on just about any topic.
3. Develop Your Soft Skills
While it is critical to update your technical skills, it is just as important or even more so to develop your soft skills (5).
Unfortunately, even though they play such an important role in our everyday life, their refinement is often neglected.
Being able to communicate clearly and establish relationships and trust contributes significantly to professional success. The capacity to listen, for example, seems like a soft skill, but is hard to acquire for many! And making a public presentation is still daunting for a majority of people.
Think of the numerous situations where these skills may determine your professional success and career advancement, such as job interviews, negotiations, sales, dealing with a customer complaint, daily interactions with your boss, colleagues and team members, resolving a conflict, presenting the results of a major project you have been in charge of, managing difficult personalities, and the list goes on.
Emotional intelligence, being clearly recognized now as a key component of professional success, is part of this large array of soft skills you need to master. Empathy, self-awareness and self-control, recognizing the emotions of others and relationship management are the main characteristics of E.Q. (6).
“I have learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou
Time and stress management, collaboration, teamwork, building rapport, customer care and many other critical strengths are also part of soft skills, all definitely sought daily and responsible for much of the productivity, financial success and harmony in any organization.
Research has amply demonstrated that soft skills, rather than technical competence, often make the difference, for example, with respect to who gets hired and fired, who wins a sale’s competition, talent and customer retention and effective leadership.
4. Become a Leader
If you aspire to become a leader and feel that you have the disposition for it, why not develop the qualities that are necessary to successfully assume this function?
The Pentagon Model (7) includes 5 key dimensions of effective leadership, as revealed by studies: Vision, I.Q., E.Q., Creativity and Courage. All five can be developed by intense effort, self-analysis and comprehensive feedback.
The core of this model, the personal attributes of leaders, such as integrity, modesty and trustworthiness, is a critical component of leadership and must be taken into account in any attempt to progress as a leader.
Many people may have the potential to become leaders, but lack self-confidence and courage.
Effective leaders are highly sought in all organizations and at all levels, as team leaders, departmental heads or executives. They impact the engagement and wellbeing of workers, the work climate, productivity and innovations (8).
5. Learn Effective Job-Searching Techniques
Looking for a new job involves several critical steps. First, you need to ask yourself whether the time is ripe for you to make your move (9).
Has your professional situation become increasingly unsatisfactory (work environment, job activity, learning opportunities, your superiors…), have the forward paths (promotion, salary increases, changing into another area…) become too limited or blocked or are you longing for new challenges (assuming greater responsibilities, broadening the scope of your activities, moving into a new field…)?
But before resigning from your present job, remember it is usually much harder to land a new job when you are unemployed!
It is important to master the modern job-search techniques, including where to find job offers, activating your personal network and social media connections (Facebook, Linkedin…), updating your CV, adapting your motivation letters, as well as carefully preparing for job interviews and final negotiations.
Fortunately, guidelines on how best to proceed are now widely available on all of these tools and you are well advised to consult them (cf. Bolles, 2014; Schwabel, 2015).
Before settling on a new position you find appealing, make sure you get as much information about the organization you are considering: Their financial situation, outlook and perspectives in their sector, their reputation… One important consideration that is often overlooked concerns your immediate superior (10).
Your goal is to find a position where you can exercise your talents, find meaning and new challenges, enjoy sufficient freedom and autonomy, where you can grow and where the financial rewards, work-life balance and the working conditions are in line with your values, aspirations and competence you bring to the job.
One more point. Even if you are not actively involved in finding a new job in the immediate future, be proactive and remain on the lookout for new opportunities. Exploring the job market and considering new offers and websites of organizations that attract you, will permit you to stay up to date with new tendencies, discover new opportunities and give you a measure of your worth and employability.
6. Start Your Own Company
“The biggest risk is not taking any risk” Mark Zuckerberg
Another way to boost your career is to start your own company. If you make that decision, you will not be alone! More and more people are taking this leap. In 2012, more than 12% of U.S. adults reported starting a business (11). By 2020, as many as 40% of workers may be freelancers (12).
Becoming independent can bring many rewards and satisfactions. Who has not dreamed some day to be his or her own boss? Being able to do what you like best, having autonomy in your work, freely structuring your day, choosing your work place, and may be even making a great deal of money in a short time…all looks appealing, doesn’t it?
If you have acquired experience and skills that are in high demand, as well as a good network, may be this is the moment for you to take the jump. Let’s not forget that more and more companies, to cut costs, outsource jobs. This in turn creates new opportunities for budding entrepreneurs.
Furthermore, demographic changes have created new demands. For example, as the proportion of older people increases, new needs for assisted living in the care and health sector emerge. Ever more complex technology has created the need for independent consultants and technicians. An increasing number of professionals look for assistance and help to manage their busy daily lives by calling on concierge services and child care, creating a whole new industry.
Of course starting your own business is not without its own challenges and can also be stressful. Finding and satisfying clients, competition from other independents in your own niche area, financing your operation, no matter how small, determining the legal structure, writing a business plan, creating and managing your website and many other issues need to be resolved.
Helpful resources (cf. 13; 14) are available to get you started.
7. Invest in Continuous Training and Personalized Coaching
You will of course be well advised to engage in continuous training to broaden and deepen your skills and open up new areas of expertise that will provide you with more choices in future career changes.
Given the high stakes involved in your self-development and career management, getting professional advice and help may also constitute an excellent investment. Personalized coaching, for example, offers you the possibility to explore more widely and in more depth your personal goals, strengths, interests and values (15; 16).
In coaching, improving your skills in such vital areas as communication, time and stress management, leadership, emotional intelligence and creativity can be approached in an individual manner, specifically related to your personal needs and objectives.
Coaching also offers you an opportunity for obtaining feedback on your accomplishments and desired career path, your attitude and behavior, as well as your potentials and finding ways to remove any blockages that hinder you in your progression.
Finally, coaching serves to inspire, accompany and encourage you in your quest for a brighter and more rewarding career. It will increase your self-confidence and insights.
We spend much of our life at work.
It is critical to take charge of your career, no one else will.
The principal objective is to find work that is in line with your goals, personal values, strengths and interests.
The constantly evolving employment situation requires continuous adaptation and flexibility.
Upgrading and expanding your technical competence, refining your soft skills, becoming a leader, mastering modern job-search techniques, starting your own company and investing in personalized coaching, represent powerful ways to boost your career.
Bock, L. (2015), Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead, Twelve.
Bolles, R. N. (2014), What Color Is Your Parachute? 2015: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers, Ten Speed Press; Rev Upd edition.
Brynjolfsson, E., McAfee, A. (2014), The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies, W.W. Norton & Company.
Clark, D. (2013), Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future, Harvard Business Review Press.
Schwabel, D., Buckingham, M. (2014), Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success, St. Martin’s Griffin; Exp Upd edition.
Seligman, M. (2012), Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Wellbeing, Atria Books.
Marcel Lucien Goldschmid, PhD, Directeur, Management Training & Coaching, MTC