The Importance of Owning Your Career

In my previous posts for our Careers blog, I’ve talked about why you need a champion, the importance of being open to receiving workplace feedback, and how to know where to go to get the answers you need. It recently occurred to me that all of these topics had one thing in common: they are essential tools for owning your career.

When I started in corporate America, I was under the impression that if I worked hard, kept my head down, and plowed forward that I would automatically be recognized, well compensated for my efforts, and promoted to the next level. I would get cool assignments, work on projects I enjoyed, and be part of teams I loved. However, I learned that working hard was only one part of the equation. I realized that no one was going to manage my career for me and ensure I got to where I wanted to go. It was up to me to pick my head up, notice the path I was on, and get myself to where I wanted to go.

Sometimes in your career you are lucky enough to have someone – a champion – who will take note of your talent, proactively tap you on the shoulder, and support you on your path to success. More likely, however, you will need to work to find your champion. This is the first step in owning your career.

We are hardwired to assume that if no one has told us we are doing something wrong or spending our energies in an inefficient way that we must be doing it right. Unfortunately, that isn’t a guarantee. So rather than assume, you need to proactively seek feedback from those you work with and ask the question, “How am I doing?” Or better yet, “What could I do better?” This is the second step in owning your career.

We also tend to assume (especially early in our careers) that if we don’t know the answer to a question or we aren’t looped in on something then we aren’t meant to know it. However, sometimes that is simply an innocent oversight by those who are making decisions. Instead of sitting there wondering or guessing, have the courage to raise your hand and keep it raised until you find the answers you need. If you’re nervous about doing this, just tell yourself that the worst they can say is no (by the way, I wrote a post about that too). This is the third step in owning your career.

Early on in my career, I had a boss say to me, “I will always care just slightly less about your career than you do.” After the initial shock wore off, I realized what he was really saying: If on a scale of one to ten my commitment to my career is a 10, my boss’s will be at 9.9. But, if my commitment is at a 3, his will be at 2.9. It’s up to me to determine how I want my career to progress and what level of commitment I’m willing to make. That in turn will dictate what level of support I’ll receive from others. Interestingly, while my boss’s comment took me by surprise at the time, I’ve since found myself using that same line again and again in my own counseling sessions with team members.

The bottom line is that YOU have to be in the driver’s seat when it comes to your career. It’s up to YOU to find a champion, ask for feedback on YOUR performance, and raise YOUR hand when you don’t understand something. No one is going to do any of these things for you. The more quickly you determine your level of commitment to your career, the more quickly you will find yourself on your way to being recognized, well compensated, and promoted.

Bobbi Kelly is Kreischer Miller’s Director of Human Resources. She has over 12 years of experience providing human resources advisory services to a variety of businesses, including privately-held companies and partnerships. Bobbi joined Kreischer Miller in 2014. Contact Bobbi at Email.

 

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