What's the No. 1 thing you can do to find success and fulfillment in your career? "QTIP, or, quit taking it personally," says Tammy Gooler Loeb, MBA, CPCC, career and executive coach. In today's uncertain economy, it is important to focus on the big picture: keeping your job and enjoying what you do. Whether you are a new graduate or on the brink of retirement, don't allow minor challenges to get in the way of your career goals. ADVANCE spoke to career advisors to get the best tips on moving up the career ladder, building a reliable network, and finding joy in your job every day.
Assess Your Goals
Alisa Cohn, executive coach, said the first step in achieving a fulfilling career is to clarify what you want and where you are going. "Speak to people who are in positions that might interest you and find out what they do and how they got their position," she said. "In doing so, you will focus your goal and build your network. If you hit it off, you'll be the first person they think of when a good role opens up."
Stan C. Kimer, career consultant and president of Total Engagement Consulting by Kimer, said that it's important to discover what career goals motivate you. "What are you truly looking for? Financial potential, continued learning and intellectual growth, getting to work with innovative technology, making a positive impact on the world?" Kimer said. "Documenting what you really want from your career is important in finding your first job and evaluating how it fits into your long-term career potential."
According to Mitchell D. Weiss, adjunct professor of finance at the University of Hartford and author of "Life Happens: A Practice Guide to Personal Finance from College to Career," having a career plan will not only be logical for you, but for potential employers. And "once you have a better idea of what your needs, strengths and values are, you can identify which parts of your job are fulfilling and which areas may need some adjustment," Loeb said.
Build Your Network
Whether you are a new graduate or a seasoned professional looking for a new direction in your field, Kimer said the best thing you can do to build a fulfilling career is network. "If you are getting ready to graduate, check with your placement center and get some names of people who graduated a year or two prior to you. Contact them. They will be valuable mentors who can share their experiences and provide insight and guidance into the job search," he said.
Cohn added that even for those well into their careers, networks should consist of a variety of professionals from your field. "Your network should be up, down and around - not just up," she said. "Peers are just as important for your advancement. If colleagues don't think you're a good worker, it could come back to haunt you." But no matter where you are in your career, Loeb said it is important to develop relationships that help you learn. "Networking is about information gathering first and getting a job second."
Befriend the Job Market
When developing a successful career, it is important to be mindful of the job market. "Who said you are supposed to keep one job for a long period of time?" Cohn said. "That hasn't been true for 20 years. The economy has changed, and it's ok to have more than one job in line." Loeb added that with a few exceptions, company loyalty to employees and employee loyalty to companies no longer exists. "It's important to think like an entrepreneur about your career and be ready to make adjustments as the job market shifts," she said.
But how can you focus on building fulfillment if your position keeps changing? "Different jobs will give you diverse experiences and allow you to meet new people," Cohn said. "This helps you learn and gives you a broader view of what you want." Instead of looking at the number of times you've changed jobs, focus on the key skills and knowledge gained in each position. "Common themes will have evolved across many jobs," Kimer said. "Focus on those as a package that can be used to sell yourself during each successive position in your career."
Take Joy in the Small Things
For those that are wary about job changes but still desire a fresh set of challenges to build success, Cohn said it's important to focus on the positives. "Do you like your coworkers? Are you committed to helping others? Remember that excellence takes just a second: it's a decision you make in the moment to apply your best self to a job."
Kimer said that even if you're not in your ideal position, you can still find success and fulfillment in what you do. "In today's rough economy, you may have had to take the first available job. But that's ok. Analyze how it can help you grow toward some of your goals and consider the transferable skills you can build in that position and carry along with you as you move up in your career."
Kelly Wolfgang is assistant editor for ADVANCE.