Articles from TheCareerAdvisor
25 Hot Tips For Managing Your Career
  Since 1978, I've spent more than 25,000 hours as a career consultant listening to people talk about their work. My clients have included CEOs, law firm partners, professional athletes, engineers, factory workers—you name it. They've shared their highs and lows, and their innermost secrets. They've taught me the dos and dont's of corporate politics and given me the keys to success. My sixteen years of career counseling can be boiled down to a few short lessons:
  1. Achieving success usually involves sacrifice. If it were always easy, everyone would drive a Porsche.

  2. Even if you work for a big company, you're essentially on your own. Businesses offer career paths, training, and teambuilding, and they want to be fair, but they're subject to impersonal market conditions like mergers, acquisitions, takeovers, and international competition; so anything can happen.

    That's why your employer can't be responsible for your career. You have to take charge of it yourself. Those who expect companies to take care of them, or to "do the right thing" are often disappointed. Chances are, no one will ever care more about your career than you do.

  3. The workplace can be fun and challenging. It can also be difficult. It rewards effort, planning, and training, but it punishes indifference and lack of preparation. Those who don't take charge of their own careers—who just let things happen—often end up in painful, dead-end jobs, feeling trapped in unhappy lifestyles.

  4. People are very different. Certain people belong in certain kinds of careers. You have special gifts that fit you for some jobs and disqualify you from others. If you're in the right place, you'll skyrocket. If not, you'll struggle. In order to learn where you'll be happiest, get to know yourself.

    Take time to assess your skills, temperament, aptitudes, likes, dislikes, and natural gifts. Design your ideal worklife on paper, then risk to create your dream. There's no reason you can't enjoy your work. If you need help designing or implementing your plan, seek the advice of a professional career counselor. (But never pay large counseling fees in advance. Pay only by the hour.)

  5. Your career may be your biggest financial resource—more valuable than any stock you could own. For example, let's assume you're earning $20,000 per year today. The average annual pay raise is about 5%. If you earn 8% instead, you'll earn an extra $264,000 in 20 years. You may be paid what you're worth right now, but investigate the market. Don't over- or under-price yourself.

  6. Jumping from job to job—from Salesman to Customer Service Representative, then to Teacher, Staff Accountant, and Technical Writer—isn't a career. Beginning as an Accounts Payable Clerk, then progressing to Junior Accountant, Accountant, Controller, Chief Financial Officer, and Vice President of Finance is a career. A career builds on itself over time.

    In a growing and expanding industry like Environmental Science, job changing isn't necessarily a problem, because there are always too few experienced workers. But in a declining industry like Oil & Gas, where established companies are systematically downsizing and keeping only their top performers, moving from employer to employer makes a candidate an unattractive hire. That's more true the older you get and the higher your pay.

  7. Changing fields, industries, or functional specialties is difficult, and the bigger the change, the more difficult it is. Hardwood manufacturers may not want you if you've been in softwood. And vice versa. Therefore, choose your direction carefully. Once you leave a career path to try something new, it may be difficult to re-enter. You'll look like a "traitor" to insiders, and you'll be competing with those who've stayed.

  8. Today's engineering graduate is obsolete in less than five years. You may be too. If you aren't learning something new today, you may be out-of-date and unmarketable tomorrow. That's especially true for those over 40. (If you're over 40, do you know Microsoft Word? How about Excel?)

  9. Think of your career as a public relations campaign, much like running for political office. Your goal is to get many people to like you as quickly as possible. (And keep liking you.) Therefore, every person—male, female, minority, old, young—is important. Treat all others with kindness and respect. Make life a little easier for those around you, and your career will benefit.

  10. "People skills" are just as important as "technical skills," because even in highly technical jobs, you have to work with others. Many outplacement candidates are technical superstars who've been fired. They knew their jobs, but couldn't collaborate or get along with others. Average performers with strong people skills often last longer. It's better to be a "people person" with average skills than to be an abrasive expert who wins at the expense of others.

  11. Be careful expressing strong emotions in business, especially anger and disappointment. Communicate your feelings quietly and tactfully. Understate your case. Anger is powerful, even when expressed softly. Don't explode, threaten, or attack others publicly. Don't tell opponents off, even if it would feel great.

    Burning bridges damages your reputation—not only with the person you dislike—but with the business community at large. Remember, if you make an enemy today, it may take them ten years to "get you." But chances are, they will.

  12. Spend time with people you admire. Success really does rub off. There's no substitute for "knowing the right people," and for "being in the right place at the right time." Take a risk to contact someone you'd like to meet.

  13. Whether you are an entry-level shipping clerk or a CEO, a warm, enthusiastic, caring, and positive attitude—outwardly expressed to others—is your single biggest career asset.

  14. On any given day, your present job may end, even if you own the company! Therefore, think short-term. Don't take your present opportunity for granted. I define a consultant as "Someone who wakes up every morning unemployed." You should feel the same way. Get up every morning feeling unemployed, and constantly fight to prove yourself. Appreciate your job, but figure out what you're going to do next. It's always nice to have a "Plan B."

  15. Except in rare cases, don't sue your former employer if you're fired or laid off. Take a good, hard look at yourself. Ask yourself what, if anything, you could have done differently. Did you stay on the leading edge of technology? Were you too political? Not political enough? Were you giving it 110%? Did you get complacent?

    Honestly determine your part in causing the problem. Then work to create a better life for yourself, even if you think it was the employer's fault. Don't dwell on the past. It's non-productive and it prolongs your unhappiness.

  16. If you lose your job, 80% of your marketing for a new position will already have been done. That's right. Your reputation, results, accomplishments, people skills, contributions, and friendships are all a matter of record. If you've been a contributor, if you've been kind to others and easy-to-work-with, you'll be in demand. If not, you won't. No career consultant in the world can create close friendships and a good reputation for you if you haven't laid the groundwork yourself.

  17. Your friends—even distant friends—are your best allies in your life and in your career, especially in job hunting. No one will help you more than those who already know you. So make an extensive list of your business and personal contacts (essentially, everyone you've met), and stay in touch with them, even after you've found a new job. I use CardScan to scan business cards, automatically enter names into my database, and store my contacts online. I can access my network from any Internet connection. Perfect for traveling. Nothing could be easier.

  18. Employers hire their friends first. Only when they run out of familiar faces do they consider hiring strangers. When companies recruit from a group of outsiders, they interview, test and screen heavily. Your best career strategy—besides keeping your skills up-to-date and achieving a lot—is to cultivate deep, long lasting friendships.

  19. Your accomplishments are your calling card for the future. They will help to determine your marketability. In selling yourself, it's results that count. A baseball player who gets a hit every time at bat is easier to market than one who doesn't. It's that simple. Try to contribute something substantial and measurable every single day. And make sure you keep a written record of your results in something like a FranklinCovey diary.

  20. Don't let yourself be unemployed, even for a day. Volunteer a few hours, work part-time for a temporary agency, help a friend in his or her company. Do something to get yourself out of the house. We live in a fast-changing world. Look carefully. There are people all around you who need your help.

  21. Love, happiness, friendship, and time for oneself are just as important as making it big in the world. If your career is your whole life, you're vulnerable to disappointment and burnout; and burned out people are often less marketable.

  22. Too much success can kill you. Learn when enough is enough. If you think you're burning out, you may be right. Highly successful people are the most subject to burnout. They demand too much from themselves—and from everyone around them. Seek balance. Remember The Golden Mean: "All things in moderation."

  23. Don't stay in a job you hate. Hating your daily routine can ruin your health; and it can make everyone around you, including your spouse and family, miserable. Take a risk! Take action! Change things!

  24. Don't make excuses when things go wrong. I have collected a list of "101 Handy Excuses," and few of them are valid. When facing challenges, tell yourself this: "I'm in control of my own future. No one can deny me a happy life if I decide to plan it and work for it. Ultimately, no one can stop me from becoming successful but myself."

  25. Whatever your expertise, give some of it away. | Return to index of articles.

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