Taking charge of your career is your job. Nobody else can do it. Nobody else may be as aptly placed to do it as you. Nobody else is you. Nobody else may be taking the lead. Nobody else may be bothered. You cannot leave it to someone else. Hopefully others will be there to help, support, encourage and empower you…but at the start and the end of the day it’s down to you.
When I was employed full time I didn’t really think about this. It was not on my radar. It was only when I was made redundant 10 years into my first job that I really realised this. I kind of understood it, but like many I kept my head down, worked hard and hoped that that would be enough for others, to help ensure that I got promoted and developed. It worked for a while and to an extent, but in an ever-changing, challenging and uncertain economy and environment sitting back is a risky strategy.
My point here isn’t that you should try and do it all alone; in fact quite the opposite – my recommendation is that you start or step up by building a network, support, professional contacts/colleagues etc. It may be that you seek out a mentor, coach or other types of support and guidance. But whatever you do you must take the lead.
I’m also not saying that – if you’re employed – that others may not be there and very much part of the picture. There are some fantastic bosses, learning and development staff, managers, Human Resources teams and so on out there. But it’s not always the case, and even if it is the case, without your leadership, aspiration, passion, drive, vision and engagement it will be difficult for these people to really help you to achieve your best.
I spend a lot of my time delivering staff development talks and workshops. In fact I have put together a programme for lawyers and have delivered a 3 workshop programme for staff within the NHS. A large part of the programmes for both audiences is the importance of being proactive, positive and seeking/creating opportunities. I have a saying that it is not those who have the most talent who usually tend to fair the best, but actually those who have the focus, drive, vision, desire and who apply themselves.
Here are the three essential parts of taking charge of your career
You need to be aware of who you are, where you are at, what’s important to you, what your skills and talents are. But that’s not enough – you’ve got to be or become aware of the environment you’re in, the world you are in, the sector you are in or seek to get into. You need to understand – or find out – the issues, drivers, demands, needs and aspirations of the organisation that you are / seek to work for and their customers. You need to be aware of the gap between where you are and where you wish to get to.
This is a very, very important aspect of success. Even though it is discussed a fair amount I think it is under-articulated in its degree of importance. Let’s just assume for a moment that you are quite or very talented. And let’s imagine for a moment that those in your sector or are seeking to get into it are also. Then it is your personability, professionalism, personality, liveability and your approach and proactivity that are going to be the key to whether you are seen or overlooked. I’m very aware that some of these factors may well be out of your hands. When you are employed (and even when you are not) much of it is down to whether others feel you fit. There will be all sorts of factors at play as to how you are seen and perceived, and even despite the best intention and legislation there will be times when personalities, prejudices, politics and power-players may bar your way. All the more important it is that you keep your eye on your goal and that you know your magic. All the more important that you ensure that people judge you on your talent, application and can-do attitude. All the more important that you are seen as a team player, someone who is liked and respected. All the more important that you are compassionate, considered and conscientious. Others will act as they will.
3) Action / application:
The third step – and sadly it’s a step that you may fall down on – is action and application. You need to be proactive. You need to take a lead. you need to put yourself forward. If others aren’t doing it – you must do it. I gave an address to a room full of civil servants and then had a follow-up meeting with a bright young civil servant who I am sure is going places. He made it his business to follow up with me. He told me that he’d put himself forward for programmes to develop his career and that even when he’d been turned down he was looking at other ways to develop himself. He had gained himself a mentor. He was approaching me as a coach. He also has put two or three other initiatives in place – on his own initiative – that will mean that he continues to develop his personal, professional and leadership skills outside the workplace. I told him that he was far more proactive than I was at his age. My job is to help him boost his awareness, boost his confidence and – above all – to help him see the magic he already has. It is his job too…and that is where we started. But he has begun by bringing his awareness to where he is at, exploring what he wants and taking the first steps to make it happen.
One last foot note
Whether you succeed in the things you set out to do is another thing. It is the same in all areas: sport, entertainment. there are many factors, many other players, many external factors, many variables. And it is good to be mindful of them. But the mere act of taking responsibility for oneself, one’s life, one’s career, one’s future is magical. The moment that you do, things feel different energetically. When you combine this with taking an interest in others and being kind and compassionate and collaborative, then magic can happen. Because then you step into the space between me, we and all that the wise often speak about. As you step into this space you become at one with life itself.
Take care and best wishes, Rasheed
Rasheed Ogunlaru is an acclaimed life, business and corporate coach whose simple ‘become who you are’ approach has helped countless business owners connect with themselves, their businesses and their customers. His background spans over 20 years in coaching, training, media, PR and performance. Rasheed is the business coach partner to the British Library’s Business and IP Centre and business coach mentor to TiE UK. He is a highly sought-after public speaker and regularly appears in the media, including the BBC, The Times and the Guardian.
Twitter – @RasheedOgunlaru
or call 020 7207 1082