We asked Chicago-area career and business coach Vickie Austin for her insight into why your career may be stalled.
Your career and the direction it takes is very much up to you. If you're waiting for your boss, the human resources department or a mentor or sponsor to move you forward, you may not get what you want, says Austin. "While those folks can assist you, it's ultimately up to you to be the CEO of your own career."
Are you a member of your professional association? Even if your company doesn't pay the membership dues, Austin says it’s critical that you be part of your industry by participating in your association. "Being engaged in a committee, contributing to the board, attending events all give you a robust network that will help move your career forward," she explains. "Take workshops, keep learning and be willing to pay for your own education."
Networking is one of the most effective tools in your career-building arsenal, but you need to make time for it. "Networking takes time, patience and commitment to build those relationships, and a lot of people wait until they need their network before trying to find one," says Austin. "But by then it may be too late."
Without a vision of where you want to be, it's hard to know how to get there (kind of like taking a road trip without a map). "Take time to create a vision for where you want your career to be in three to five years and beyond," advises Austin. "What's your dream job? Spend some time thinking and writing about your future and be specific."
Just like a business, your career needs a plan. That plan needs to include your mission or goal, your objectives (how much money do you want to make?), strategies and tactics, notes Austin. "In order to be strategic, the plan needs to support your vision for the next three plus years," she says. You need a plan to move your career forward.
This is a particularly common mistake for women who think if they just do a good job, they'll get noticed, says Austin. "So they put their nose to the grindstone and all they get is a stubby nose. Doing the work is important, but so is being clear about where you are and where you're going," she warns.
Let’s face it, whenever you get a few people gathered under the same roof, there will be politics. Within an organization, it's important to know who you’re dealing with day-to-day — and what role they play. "This doesn't mean you have to back-stab or gossip, just be clear where the power is and who has it, and understand how people form relationships along the way," advises Austin. "Pay attention to what's going on around you."
We love our independence, but it can be tough to achieve anything significant without the help of others. "Whether it's a coach, a mastermind group, a mentor or a sponsor, there are people to help you get from where you are to where you want to be," says Austin. "But they have to know what you want so they can help you, so just ask."
While working hard and networking are important, so is lending a helping hand at work. Austin suggests asking yourself the following questions: Do you spend time to help others who are in transition? If someone reaches out to you to talk about their own career journey or job search, do you stop what you're doing to help? "Don't be too busy to help others along the way. The investment will pay you back tenfold."
Sometimes our fears hold us back from getting what we want. "Whether it's fear of failure or the fear that we may, indeed, get what we want, we're often our own worst enemy when it comes to fulfilling our career dreams," says Austin. "Talk it out with a friend, a coach or, if there's a lot of anxiety there, a therapist," she advises. "Then get out of your own way, and be the success you are really meant to be."
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