Careers don’t just happen. You need to take a proactive approach to your career.
Working a job isn’t enough.
Most employees focus too much on working IN their jobs instead of concentrating on how to work ON their careers.
Some people may not realize their job is different from their career.
Jobs Versus Careers
To a large extent, a job is simply a means to an end.
It is a role or position that earns money. But for most people, a job doesn’t necessarily provide a strong pull or have significant meaning.
“Jobs” are the norm early in your working years, before you establish a career path.
As a teenager, I worked several part-time jobs. I was a nanny, a housekeeper, and a tutor. I even worked at the campus bookstore unpacking and shelving books because it provided me a discount on my textbooks each semester.
None of these roles were key in the development of my career.
Careers are defined by a sense of cohesion.
The roles (i.e. jobs), and various experiences (paid or unpaid), as well as education, come together to paint the picture of a career path, even if that path has a lot of twists and turns.
There are likely goals, benchmarks, or other accomplishments, that career-oriented individuals are strive to achieve throughout the course of their career.
Careers do not have to be one-dimensional. Few people stay in the same industry throughout their career anymore. As a result, most careers these days include several turning points and pivots.
For me, I transitioned from foreign policy to hospitality and tourism. Then I went into academia, and most recently, into entrepreneurship.
While these transitions may appear unrelated, but there was logic in each shift. The progression made sense because each new role built on skills and evolutions that occurred in the previous position.
Ultimately, a string of jobs doesn’t automatically equate to a career.
How To Improve Your Career
As James Clear says in his book, Atomic Habits, “a 1% improvement every day for a year results in you being 37 times better at the end of those 365 days.”
Working IN your job is likely to improve your career a little bit.
But purposefully working ON your career will generate more long-term and useful benefits.
You don’t have to work a lot on your career. You just have to put in small efforts. Done consistently, this can yield major results.
Episode 3 includes several ideas for how you can upskill and develop as a professional.
Aside from professional development efforts, you should take what you are doing in your job and build upon it to enhance your career.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Expand upon current projects. If you complete a project for a client which is well received, don’t just accept the pat on the back and “Thanks for a job well done.”.
You can post about the project’s success on LinkedIn.
Or ask the client if there are follow-up projects you can work on. Better yet, show initiative and make suggestions regarding how you can take what you did to the next level.
Also, network with anyone involved in any part of the project. You never know what might grow out of a new relationship.
- Position yourself as a thought leader. Consider publishing blogs, being a guest on a podcast, speaking at conferences or other industry meetups to showcase your expertise. These activities build your reputation and career capital.
- Volunteer, both in and outside the office. Be a willing contributor. Rather than waiting to be asked for assistance, volunteer. Pet projects or mentoring new employees are great ways to add value and showcase your knowledge.
And don’t forget to use your professional skills in the community. There is frequent crossover between our personal and professional lives. You can absolutely work on your career outside the office and while having fun on the weekends.
This is an excellent idea if you want to consider moving into a different field.
An accountant I know was the treasurer for the local footie club for several years. When he decided to shift into sport management, he was already familiar with the policies and people that could help him make the jump.
In the end, remember your career is your responsibility. It is up to you to be an active participant and help it grow.
Don’t focus so much working IN your current job that you overlook opportunities to work ON your career.
Again, it doesn’t take a lot. Just some small, but frequent efforts to take what you are already doing and grow the impact you are making can make an immense difference in the long-run.