By Perminus Wainaina
What does career success mean to you?
Every professional defines career success differently. For some, success is earning a top salary. For others, it is working in a conducive environment. Others still, would define it as being recognized for their efforts. However you describe it, we can agree that every professional wants to become successful.
Margaret contacted me a while back. She wanted to have a career coaching session. She felt unsuccessful in her career.
Margaret has been working as an event planner for five years. Through this time, she has planned hundreds of events in the region. However, she felt she was not successful yet.
During the career coaching session, I asked her what success meant for her, she said she wanted to earn more money from her job. Moreover, she wanted to get recognized for her work.
Like Margaret, we’re all trying to make a success of our careers. What can you do to ensure you have a successful career?
Here are a few tips to help you.
1. Define your success
As mentioned above, everyone has their unique definition of success. To begin, first identify what success means to you.
If you would like to earn more, list the figure you are after. If you work in a toxic environment and would like to move to a conducive workplace, list what you’re looking for, and what you would term as a favorable working environment.
When defining your success, be specific. This will help you create a mental picture of the success after.
Additionally, when you have defined your success, you’re able to work towards it, as opposed to just going to work every day without seeing results.
2. Create a growth plan
Once you’ve already identified what success is to you, you now need to create a plan to get you there.
A growth plan establishes where you currently are and what you need in order to get to the level of success you’re after.
For example, Michael, an accountant, wanted to advance in his career. He had worked as an account’s assistant for four years and wanted to move up. In his career growth plan, he looked at the skills he lacked, and how he could acquire them. After eight months, he had acquired the skills to boost his career. At this point, he started applying for jobs as a senior accountant. Soon after, he got a job in a startup. He later moved to the manufacturing industry as a chief accountant.
To succeed in your career, create a growth plan. This plan should have your success as the main objective. Then, break down the requirements needed to reach the objective.
If you need new skills, get the opportunities to acquire the skills.
Without a plan, it’s difficult to know how close you are to reaching your goal, or what you need to do in order to get there.
3. Improve yourself
Every professional is after success. If for instance, you view promotion as an achievement, remember your colleagues are also after the same promotion opportunities.
So, how do you ensure you’re the one who gets promoted? One sure way is by improving your professional qualifications.
Essentially, you want to position yourself ahead through the skills, experience, and qualifications you possess.
One way to advance your professional qualifications is by improving essential soft skills needed in the workplace. For example, if you want to move up to a managerial position, consider improving your communication and leadership skills.
What skills do you need to improve your professional qualifications? Note down these skills, and then look for ways to acquire them. You can opt for short courses as they are effective and tailored to a specific skill. For example, if you want to speak with confidence, you can take up a public speaking course. This course will help you build on your confidence and presentation skills.
Jane graduated three years ago. Afterward, she got a job as an auditor. Her passion, however, was in accounting. After two years in auditing, she decided to make the move to accounting. Most employers were reluctant to employ her as she did not have an accounting background.
Seeing this, Jane decided to get accounting experience. She began by enrolling for a practical accounting course. Later, she volunteered to handle the accounting books of a local NGO. After three months, she got a lucrative job as an accountant.
One great skill that most professionals overlook is networking. Nearly half of the available jobs today are never advertised. Instead, they are filled through referrals and recommendations.
Networking can help you when you’re looking for a job or seeking to move up within your organization.
For external positions, when you network, you create relationships with professionals and leaders from other organizations. When there’s an opening in their organizations, they’ll first circulate it within the networks, putting you at an advantage to get the job. Have networks that will benefit you, and remember to be of benefit too. For example, if there’s an opening in your company, or you come across a position that would help another professional, let them know about it.
Networking also holds a high place for internal positions. When there’s an internal opening or a promotion, the manager involved will first go with the people they know and can attest for. Place yourself strategically and create relationships with the managers that could help you grow your career. These relationships, too, should be beneficial for everyone. For instance, if you see a training that would benefit the manager, you should inform them.
Networking will open doors for your career that you would otherwise not have access to.
5. Get rid of distractions
There’s a price to pay for career success. As with any successful journey, there are hurdles and distractions along the way. To succeed, you must learn to walk away from these distractions.
For example, if you hang out with your friends every day after work, this could be a potential distraction. Take, for instance, you start a short course or voluntary work. It’ll be hard to balance working and spending time with your friends every day. In such a case, you can reduce the time you spend with your friends and use the time to focus on your career.
To succeed, you’ll more often than not be required to make sacrifices.
However, as you’re making these sacrifices, remember to have somewhat of a balance that will help you grow in all aspects of life.
At the end of the day, understand what success means to you, and work your way towards achieving it. Regardless of the position you hold, your age, or any other factors that could be weighing you down, remember it is possible to rise against the odds. There are multiple cases of successful professionals and CEOs who began at low positions. With dedication and focus, you too can succeed in your career.
Perminus Wainaina is the C.E.O and Managing Partner at Corporate Staffing Services, a leading HR & Recruitment consultancy firm based in Westlands. Through personalized career coaching he assists mid-level and senior professionals get solutions to complex and challenging career issues that they are facing. Click here for more on career coaching.