Seven steps to give your career a boost (and do work you love)

Feeling like you’re stuck in a work rut? Love to feel passion for what you do? Here are seven steps that will give your career a boost.

What are your suggestions about how many people love their jobs? Well, the news isn’t good: according to one poll, 70% of people across the US are not satisfied with their job.

So, how can you find a job that would be a good match for you? Or do you just need to change the way you perceive your career?

To provide answers for both intents, I have come up with seven steps to help you feel better in your current role, or find a job that will be a better stop in your career journey.

1) Pay attention to what you are focusing on

This step alone can do magic for you almost immediately. First, understand that what you focus on affects your emotional state, how you feel about your life and your job, and this, in turn, strongly affects your career and your life in general.

If what you are thinking about makes you feel bad, it negatively affects your energy level. If you are thinking about something that makes you feel bad, you will quickly start to feel stressed or tired or just generally have a bad attitude. On the other hand, if what you are thinking about makes you feel good, it affects your energy level in a good way.  

So, use this hint to build a healthy mindset and then, it will generally help you to get on the next level with your career. 

For example, if you know that there is music that makes you more productive or a blogger that inspires you, then turn it on, get some dose of motivation and feel happy at the moment.

If you are having a meeting and feeling bad about some working moments, then immediately find what will make you feel better. For example, imagine how you are coming home and relaxing by listening to that music or person. Also, perceive this bad meeting as only one negative thing among many good ones (and not otherwise).

The trick here is to find positives in your life and mentally stick to them. It may take time and effort to learn how to find good things about your life and your work instead of drawbacks. However, this way, you program yourself on success and happiness. 

Moreover, when you learn how to enjoy your life and be grateful for what you have right now, there are more chances you will be satisfied if you change a job.

2) Focus on your strengths in your career

Strengths are activities that you enjoy doing, that you do well, and that you don’t mind doing repeatedly. For instance, some people are better at doing creative tasks, while others are good at calculations and fixing technical issues.

This vision on strengths was developed by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton in the book, “Now, Discover Your Strengths.”

They promote the idea that people can be happier in their careers by focusing on strengths instead of trying to improve their weaknesses. In fact, the authors say that you can advance further and faster in skill attainment by practicing and developing your strengths rather than your weaknesses.

For example, they develop the idea that a person can work every day to improve weaknesses and achieve only lackluster results. 

This book is what made me realize that most successful people I know have succeeded because of their unique features, their individual approaches, their strengths. Sure, you have to work on your weaknesses as well but don’t make them a cornerstone of your career goals. Instead, give yourself permission to embrace your unique strengths and interests and nurture them. 

3) Be egocentric

Here I don’t mean being egocentric or selfish in a negative way. It is just an understanding that factoring in everyone else’s opinion of what you should be doing in your work (or for that matter what anyone thinks about the work you do) is exhausting and fruitless.

This is the reason to be selfish when I mean career growth. After all, you are the one putting in the time and attention to whatever you choose for your career, and you are the one noticing every day how you feel about your career (see step #1). So be selfish, egocentric, and take charge of your career development to make sure your work is life-enhancing.

To illustrate, if you feel that you are good at graphic design and you love to draw, don’t listen to anyone who says you will fail. Put your vision of what is good for you ahead of what others say.

As another example, imagine your colleague or a manager asks you to stay later at work to finish some tasks. In this case, you should probably say “No” as this might lead you to being less productive the next day and if repeated regularly, it will negatively affect your work-life balance and can simply cause a burnout.

4) Invest in your career

For most of us, our career is the source of funds for all our other needs and experiences. And this is how it should be because to feel good, we need to have money to consume healthy food, have basic good living conditions and be able to spend free time with pleasure. 

However, why don’t most of us spend more money taking care of our careers per year than taking care of our pets or our tickets to special events?

By investing, I mean reading professional books, paying for a good course or conference, finding a mentor etc. Make career growth a line item in your annual budget so that money spent on it is not just emergency spending but thoughtful, pre-planned spending instead which has a much better chance of long-term, positive impact.

However, investing means not exclusively spending money. It is also about spending time. Time is an even more important resource each of us has, so spend it wisely. Identify what skills or knowledge you need to climb higher on the career ladder, make a plan of how you can reach this, and act.

5) Find a career role model

Having an example to follow is very important and funding such can be a great push on the way of your career enhancement. How to find such a person?

First, outline and write down what your career will look like when you arrive at the “next level.” What will you be doing during a common working day? What experience and education will you achieve? Who will be your colleagues? How will you impact your industry?

Second, find people who are already doing what you outlined as a “next level” career. To find such people, check for top companies and people who work for them, watch professional conferences and conduct research on their speakers. Finally, search for such experts via professional social networks like Linkedin.

Often, when someone is successful in their field, they are passionate about what they do and love to share their expertise. The key is to find the people who are where you want to be and get some time with them. 

Third, start a dialog with those you identify. Ask the question, “what advice do you have for someone interested in doing what you are doing?” Ask also how they stay up-to-date in the field. Make sure you thank them for their time by writing them a thank-you note or email or a quick follow up a phone call or message later.

Consider them a part of your professional network and send info their way when you see or hear about something they might like to know. Finally, be open to reciprocating when someone approaches you with the same questions about how you got where you are.

6) Track your career

How long would it take you to gather up all the information you need to fill out a complete professional history for a job or school application? Would you be able to get your hands on all the data you would need? The truth is, despite the best of intentions and filing efforts, most people struggle to pull together their career and educational histories.

If you have ever scrambled to find papers and wracked your brain to piece together dates you have held jobs or received educational certifications, then you know what a headache it is to have disorganized professional records.

If you have ever agonized over writing a CV because you can’t remember what you accomplished in past positions, then you know the feeling of missing (or almost missing) a deadline to apply for a position.

Or, if you have ever not gotten the raise or promotion you were hoping for because you didn’t have your thoughts put together well enough to build your case, then you know firsthand that disorganization can lead to missed opportunities.

Weekly or monthly career tracking is important for several reasons. First, details are much easier to record while fresh in your mind rather than having to hunt for them later. 

Secondly, knowing the specifics and being able to speak confidently about them will help your confidence and credibility when applying, networking, and interviewing.

And thirdly, if you ever get stuck in a career rut where you don’t know what to do next, you can get ideas by easily taking an inventory of what you have done previously.

If you haven’t kept up with these details so far, then you will have a good bit of extra work to get started, but once you’ve established a baseline record, keeping it up to date will be a piece of cake. Investing the time to do it now and as you go along will save you time in the long run. 

When you take ownership of your career materials and records, you take ownership of your career direction. Career tracking is meant to help you secure the most satisfying, rewarding, and, if you desire, money-making opportunities at any moment in time.

7) Find what keeps you motivated

Your motivation must be jealously guarded, protected, renewed, and nourished when you are looking for a new job or simply for ways of promotion. Thus, you need to take special care to ensure your proper motivation.

I suggest those tips as a hint of how to eliminate self-doubt and find motivation for improvement:

  • Periodically ground yourself with your value by reading your resume and remembering your successes.
  • Use motivational books and videos as well as nurturing times with your family or friends.
  • Attend networking groups, but only the ones that create a positive mental attitude. If you feel burdened, flat, etc. after a network meeting, then you have just attended a “Pity Party.”
  • Meditate so to cut off all the negative thoughts, doubts and anxiety.
  • Avoid negative news, movies, books and, most importantly, negative people. People tend to come away with a general depiction of life as boring, tragic, and inane. This is something you cannot afford while job hunting. Do keep up-to-date on important news, particularly developments in business that may alert you to opportunities and help you present yourself as an informed candidate while networking.

What can you do starting now to help your career?

This article reveals my list of tips for career development which you can start to implement right now, if you wish.

It’s important to remember that the cornerstone of being satisfied with your job, is to build the right mindset and figuring out your strengths. When you do that, your way to job happiness would be smoother and you will learn how to set long-term career goals. You can make a big difference for yourself by putting these steps into practice immediately.

Nancy is a passionate searcher of career happiness, a creative writer and editor at Self-Starters, and a volunteer.

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