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Manage Your Career; Don’t Let It Manage You

Posted on Wednesday December 12, 2012 by Michael Keathley

Many people have a tendency to passively accept being more victims of circumstance than masters of their own destiny when it comes to their careers. Some believe their only option for postsecondary education is a college degree or that degrees must be completed within a certain time frame (hence labels, such as “two-year” degree). Others believe they are locked into a job with an employer, even when there is little or no chance of advancement. Still more people hopelessly suffer through pay cuts, economic downturns, and other such situations as if they are disasters rather than opportunities.

None of this is really accurate, however. Although the employment world is not under any individual’s control, we each have the ability to favorably influence our own work lives.

Here are some ways to manage your own career rather than letting it manage you.

Discover What You Want

The step you can take at any age or stage of your work/life path is to stop and consider what you want. Many people haphazardly pick a future career based on what a friend or family member recommends, what they have heard is a good field, or simply an education/job path that sounds good when they look at a college catalog. This is no way to manage your career.

Instead, assess or reassess your career goals. Think about what you enjoy doing, maybe even what you dream about doing. Consider the talents and skills you have and how you would like your career and personal lives to intersect. Do you want to work from home or travel the world? What is most important to you: money, helping others, or creating something of lasting value, such as an architectural structure? Consult some self-assessment guides, such as this one from Cornell University to help guide you.

Keep yourself open to all possibilities. Thirty years ago, I would have laughed at anyone who said I would have a career in education. Now I smile about the path my career has taken because it has fulfilled what I wanted out of life and the adventure continues.

Explore Education Options

Consider also the many options for education that exist both face-to-face and online. Find out what you truly need and want in order to manage your own career effectively. Review these “5 E-Learning Options to Boost Your Career,”

    Courses Only: Maybe you just need to take a few classes to obtain the knowledge needed to pursue your career goal or to obtain an entry level position. See, for example, “The Six Classes That Will Make Any College Grad Employable,” by Forbes contributor Bill Conerly.

    Free Online Classes: Similarly, there may be some courses or training modules offered virtually that are at no cost. A few of these may be enough for you to get a start on a new educational and/or career path.

    Digital Badges: These offer learners the opportunity to earn a badge that demonstrates they have mastered a particular skill and perhaps to combine them into a lifetime digital diploma.

    Continuing Education: Although they do not always lead to degree completion, continuing or lifelong learning education courses can help you obtain some knowledge in a career area or assist you with learning certification in a specific career field.

    Certificate Programs: These are typically about one year long and will provide learners with a certificate that demonstrates a specific skill or area of knowledge. (10 September, 2012)

As you consider how to manage your career, consider which of these learning options can get you on your way the quickest and the most productively. Be bold. Mix and match some of the above approaches. Maybe you can start with courses only, expand to an undergraduate or graduate degree, and add some digital badges or certificates to your credentials. Don’t be afraid to mix subjects and combine your education and jobs into new career directions. My coursework and jobs in accounting, for example, have come in handy as an educational administrator.

Realize Obstacles Are Opportunities
Finally, realize that obstacles can be opportunities. Although it’s tough, try to see a work reduction or job loss as a chance to seek a higher position with another employer or an opportunity to pursue a complete career change. For example, if you spent years in the same job, consider starting your own business as a consultant. If you have received retraining funds, consider pursuing a new career.

Another option is to turn a career obstacle into a challenge; then document how you overcame that challenge. What if you were 11-years-old, the son of a priest and social worker, and had no clue how to become a successful entrepreneur? Watch this video clip of Ryan Allis on The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch to see a good example of how to turn circumstances into newfound success:

What he doesn’t say specifically is that he parroted his parents’ passion for helping others, combining it with his interest in technology, and built a multi-million dollar business. Although most of us may not become millionaires, there are certainly some obstacles you have overcome in life that can help inspire you to new successes.

The way to manage your own career success involves letting go of the traditional advice that binds us to the beaten path. Rather, each of us who wish to be masters of our own destinies need to learn how to deeply engage in the self-discovery that will lead us to success.

Do you have a great tip to manage your career? Please feel free to share it in the “Comments” area below.

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