New year, new career?

ChangingCoursesquareI witnessed several acquaintances embark on new career journeys in 2014. Some returned to college, others obtained new jobs, and others switched to new careers.

In each case, calculated risks were taken, values were identified, and transferable skills were marketed. To be exact, in every case they had to identify their next job or career target. Some had just reached the conclusion that their current field no longer met their needs and they chose to act on that awareness.

Setting and achieving future career goals is a process of experimentation. Unfortunately, many of us get paralyzed at this point because we want to be sure that we are making the right decision, so we don’t take any action at all. The way to get “unstuck” is be proactive in identifying potential next jobs or careers and researching those options.

Do you own your career, or are you renting it?

Owning your career refers to whether or not you are taking action to do and be whatever you choose. Renting a career is when you choose to follow the whims of others, with no thought of your own desires. According to Janine Moon, a certified career coach with CompassPoint Coaching, how you answer the following questions determines if you are a renter or owner of your career. Answer “yes” or “no” to each question and see if you’re an owner or renter:

• Do you leverage your talents at work every day?

• Within the last three months, have you updated your research on your organization’s direction and competitors as well as your industry’s challenges and market issues?

• Is your professional development plan — the one you created — on target?

• Have you completed your objectives and had regular conversations with your manager about your accomplishments?

• Do you have mentors from multiple arenas (work, professional associations, volunteer gigs, and so on) with whom you’ve defined professional development goals?

If you haven’t answered a solid “yes” to each question, then you’re renting your career, not owning it. You’re allowing someone else to set your direction.

Career owners are assertive and proactive when it comes to their careers. Career owners view talents and skills as assets that can be used to add value in the workplace. They do not wait for their managers to promote them or open door of advancement for them. Career owners take action and create their own opportunities for advancement.

Who is responsible?

If you were to divide up responsibility for your career satisfaction between you and your employer, how would you do it? Many would respond that the employer is responsible for 50 percent of an employee’s satisfaction. The downside to this argument is that your manager is not a mind reader, and only you know what makes a career satisfying.

Only you know whether or not you need a change. Employers cannot tell you what you value, what skills you like to use or what motivates you. These questions must be answered by each individual — you must do the work to determine your preferences.

The truth of the matter is that you have a greater stake in your career satisfaction than does your employer. Research shows that there is a correlation between employees who are engaged in their career satisfaction and business results such as employee retention, productivity, continuous contributions from employees, and profitability.

Most employers and HR professionals agree that you must take 70-80 percent of the responsibility for your career satisfaction and success. Employers still have a role in supporting employees’ growth and development, but you must set your own career goals and provide the energy and drive to accomplish them.

As a new year begins, I challenge you to own your career, not rent it. Set careers goals that are specific, measureable, attainable, realistic and time-sensitive (SMART goals). You be the determining factor for your career success — no one else.

Tammy McIntyre, M.Ed. is a workforce development consultant providing individuals and small businesses with career development services. She welcomes reader responses to