The beginning of the year tends to be a popular time for setting goals. If you haven’t already started – now is the time to review your career and assess whether it is going in the right direction. We have been programmed somewhat over the recession to be grateful we have a job – so many people have put aside even thinking about getting their dream job. It’s difficult to criticise this mindset when the state and evidence of the economy and job market have been indisputable.
However, remain with this mindset and continue in your career without a specific goal or plan of action and someone else will get your dream job (internally or externally). The job market is picking up and if you don’t move to the next job or level this time round you could be in for a long wait before a similar opportunity arises again. You may even miss an opportunity when it’s presented because either you’re not ready to progress or you simply didn’t see it because you weren’t open to the idea or possibility. This is why it’s so important to continue your career development plans regardless of the external environment – so you are ready when the market takes a positive turn.
It’s never too late to design your career path and put together a development plan. In the meantime here are some things to avoid if you want to get your dream job.
1. No career plan or goal
Some careers or jobs have a natural well trodden career path and once you are on that path you don’t really need to work out the level or the rang of that ladder as it’s all worked out for you. Some organisations are extremely good at mapping out career paths and what a person needs to do before moving to the next level.
PwC for example, manage their auditor’s career paths exceptionally well. They not only map out the different jobs and levels, they also clearly and concisely describe the tasks and competencies they need to perform before progressing or being promoted to the next level. And they don’t stop there! They make sure those employees get the opportunity to do those different tasks and demonstrate the competencies.
For other sectors there are several diversions along that same path and unless you know where you want to take your career it will be decided by someone else. If you want to achieve career success and progress upwards you need to have a plan and be willing to execute that plan.
2. Not knowing the ultimate job
If you don’t know where you are going then how do you know how to get there! Not everyone wants to be the next CEO or the Head of a department but most of us want to do something we enjoy and that matches our motivations. Some people plod through their career and make slow progress because they don’t really know where they are headed. This is okay if you’re not particularly ambitious or career orientated. However, the fact you are reading this blog indicates to us you are potentially interested in working towards your dream job.
If you know what job you are working towards then you are in a much better position to research the necessary qualifications, experience, knowledge and competencies you require to work your way successfully up that particular ladder. If you know where you are going then it’s much easier to map out a plan of action to get there.
3. Not knowing your career values
It’s essential not just for career success but for your general happiness and satisfaction to understand your values – those aspects in life that are really important to you. Career values are those things in your job that really matter – things that motivate you to be productive. Ask yourself are you family orientated? Do you care about the environment and green issues? Are you motivated and driven by money and material possessions? Do you like to work hard and play hard? Do you like to follow or lead?
Ideally you need to figure out these values before selecting a career path. Some people suggest choosing something you are passionate about and really enjoy as you’ll become an expert and the money will follow. Rather than chasing money and then realising you’re not happy in that job. Others suggest that we should learn to love the job we do as converting a passion into a lucrative business is extremely difficult and requires a burning desire and an unshakable faith and belief to be successful. Steve Jobs stated, “The only way to do great work, is to love what you do.”
4. Not conducting a strengths and weaknesses analysis
You must understand your current strengths and weaknesses (developments) to be able to understand how to address any training and development needs. Again it’s important to know where you are heading otherwise this self analysis will end up being a pointless exercise. It’s easier to conduct a self analysis when you know what skills, knowledge and competencies are required in each job along the path.
Don’t get hang up on a “weakness” – a weakness is just a skill you haven’t learnt yet and if you are keen and enthusiastic about progressing in your career than you’ll love learning new skills and gaining new knowledge. The results of the analysis can be factored into your career development plan and reviewed regularly.
5. Not keeping up to date with sector knowledge
We all know how quickly technology progresses and changes. If you have not done your homework or research properly then you could be working in a sector that’s going through some major changes that may affect your career direction or future progression.
We know the importance of keeping our skills, knowledge and experience up to date but it’s equally important to keep abreast of your sector and changes to legislation and regulation that could affect your career decisions.
6. Not being flexible
Often people mistake a plan for being a document set in stone – this couldn’t be further from the truth. All plans must factor in some flexibility – there will always be factors outside of your control and some factors that will make the task of climbing the corporate ladder just that bit harder but not impossible.
It’s important to include regular reviews throughout your plan to check and assess whether you are meeting objectives, progressing as planned towards milestones and keep a watching brief on any external social or political influences that may affect the implementation of your career plan.
7. Ineffective Networking
It’s been said before about the importance of networking and how this can be extremely beneficial to your career progression. Having worked in the Financial Sector for six years it was clear that employees in banking are particularly good at networking internally. Those employees spent time engaging with colleagues in the departments and jobs they were working towards. The managers spent time with their equivalents in other banks (external conferences, seminars and exhibitions etc) and picking up important market intelligence in their sector.
If you haven’t started networking yet then it’s time to consider factoring into your career plan. If you know where you want to go then you’ll know what type of people you need to network with. At first keep in simple – invite someone in that team out for coffee – just say you want to pick their brains and understand more about how to progress in the right direction. Be prepared to put in some time and effort before asking for any favours.
8. Exaggerating your skills
It would be a real shame to land that dream job only to be caught out later for exaggerating or even lying on your CV or application form. It’s just not worth taking the risk – someone’s mistakes and errors can follow them for years and it may even demand your career permanently.
No one can be an expert in everything, so showcase your strengths and the value you can add to the role and organisation. If asked about “weaknesses” be honest and fully prepared to talk through these areas and how you are already addressing these developments with training for example.
9. Skipping a level
It must be really tempting to skip a level or grade however, you’ll likely be missing out on valuable experience, knowledge and skills that later could come back to bite you. It’s best to gain as much depth and breadth of knowledge in each position when you are climbing the ladder.
As stated above you don’t have to be an expert in every single task to manage a team but an understanding would certainly be helpful when you are overseeing the overall productivity of the team.
10. Not being able to deal with rejection
As it’s an extremely competitive job market your commitment, persistence, motivation and resilience are going to be put to the ultimate test. You are going to have to learn to deal with rejection – every single successful person has at one time or another had to deal with rejection. Rejection isn’t failure unless you give up or quit. So you are going to have to quickly learn to deal with the ups and downs and inevitable challenges whilst working towards your ultimate dream job.
See also: Top 10 Reasons You’re Still Unemployed
Some people seem to breeze through life and it’s highly probable that it’s not because they have never had to deal with issues or problems or setbacks. It’s likely to be because they have learnt to deal with these setbacks very quickly and efficiently. They don’t focus much time, effort or energy worrying about the rejections – they move on to the next step in the plan. They almost tell themselves that they are another step nearer their goal! The only way to avoid rejection is to never try in the first place and sadly the only result of avoiding rejection will be missing out on wonderful experiences and opportunities to grow, learn and progress. Focus on what you want not on what you don’t want.
photo by: xelia