Most careers are built by "pinballing": If a recruiter calls, great. If your boss tells you to move somewhere or do a different job, great. You're pinballing by saying "yes" without checking to see if the change is supporting your career goals and if it's building a coherent skill set and competency. Instead of saying "yes" right away, ask yourself: What job would I like to be in two jobs from now? You have total control over this vision. Once you have the concept, research job descriptions for your future job. Ignore geography; you're doing market research, not applying. Once you have seven to 10 job descriptions, pick out the common denominators and the skills you'll need two jobs from now. You just set up your "to do" list and guidelines for whether you say "yes," "yes, but…" or "no" to the pinball proposals.
Become a Jane-of-all-trades, but a master of two. Your job research comes in handy for this step, too. Here is where you build your reputation and start getting people to come to you for your expertise rather than you chasing them for your next job. On the list of skills that you just developed, what gets you really excited? What would you like to spend more time learning about and doing? New trends in your field that your company should be embracing are always a ripe area. If you do your current job well (i.e., are a "Jane-of-all-trades"), it's time to develop expertise in two areas that both your company and you can use. This is going to make you stand out, and you'll be developing the right reputation for your next career move.
Sounds easy, but it doesn't happen too often. If you see your company struggling to meet its budget, build customers, lower inventory or attract the right talent, you probably have ideas about how to address these needs. Conversely, you may see opportunities in the market where your company could make a killing, but isn't. Volunteering to work on your company's unmet needs is a career risk -- but also a sign of true leadership. That's why people don't step forward too often: they don't have the broad vision of what's in the company's best interests, and they're fearful of the risk. You're not.
When you step forward, you're taking control of your career, building your reputation and making your company more successful all at the same time.
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