How to SuccessfullyAdvance Your Career

Step One: Know What You Want and Enjoy What You Are Doing

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As an executive coach and recruiter, I have noticed that people looking to advance their careers are often driven by something missing in their job. They want more money, new responsibilities, better life balance, a promotion, job security, a better work relationship, or a combination of several. When we sit down for a talk, we explore what does and does not work for them. My clients come away with a clearer vision of what they are looking for.

Many people work under stress, often thinking about what is missing in their job, which makes their work less fulfilling and productive. Feeling stressed can be self-destructive and is a classic reason people who are unhappy in their work make poor career decisions that can take them from the frying pan to the fire. They focus on what is missing at work, losing sight of aspects of the job they find enjoyable.

In speaking to a C-level executive looking for a new job, I asked her what she wanted to accomplish in her career. After a long pause, she started rattling off a multitude of career options starting with position titles. She could continue as a CFO, but preferred a COO or CEO title, having had the experience to step-up to the next level of management.

The organization’s size would depend on her responsibilities; she could go with a big firm or work with an entrepreneurial small to mid-sized organization. As to industry, she was open to continue working for an advertising or media agency but would consider other types of service or consulting companies.

Instead of listening for any opportunity, focus on what most interests you. Many people who look for career advancement will look at an expansive number of alternatives. Having too many options result in creating a higher chance of rejection, frustration, and uncertainty that can lead to bad decisions.

Knowing who you are will allow you to discover what you want in your career. This inquiry will take some reflective thinking. The better you know who you are, the easier it is to know what you want. Values characterize your sense of self; they define who you are. Your actions will be inspired when you empower your values in your search.

My client was clear in knowing she wanted a career change but did not envision what she wanted that change to be. There is a self-confidence projected in the clarity of knowing what you want.

I asked my client how she progressed to her position. In the previous six years at the company, she had attained a steady series of promotions. For the past two years, she was responsible for finance, operations, and client negotiations.

My client was the right-hand business partner to the CEO, who had recently left for a new opportunity. She was expecting to be his successor, with his endorsement. She was shocked to be reporting to a new CEO and disappointed that he indicated no interest in her career.

Feeling slighted that a position is not offered to you is upsetting. My client was frustrated and anxious to prove herself as a leader of another company. She was uncomfortable with this new CEO and resented not being chosen for the position by her parent company, who led the search.

It is not always easy to leave a company where your career has successfully grown. Part of your identity is built on the success you created. It may be time to move on, but hard to let go, delaying your job search.

Knowing what you want will simplify your approach. You will be more productive when focused and specific about what position will most inspire you, thereby narrowing your search. An attitude of “I will know it when I see it” is not as engaging as, “I know it, and I see it.”

To know what you want, look for the values that inspire your work. Find the enjoyable benefits in what you are doing to replace the nagging voices that tell you what you do not like about your job.

Finding the positives in a job that you are unhappy in can be a struggle; it is difficult to escape the thoughts of what disappoints you. With patience and persistence, you will discover what you like about your work and identify the values that are important to you. There is a much better chance of achieving inspiring career advancement when focused on the positives and not the work’s negatives.

You want to list the positives and read them every day to reinforce your values they identify. My client was not under any pressure to leave. She had the freedom to continue her responsibilities without any oversight, had built up a strong team of people in her department, and developed great relationships throughout the agency. She was highly respected and well-liked. Even the new CEO admired her work and insight. Focusing on those positives made her job easier and more enjoyable. She began to have a more profound clarity of what she valued and wanted to maintain in a new position.

Honoring your values will motivate your actions. My client’s voice became energized and confident in articulating her career path. It was clear that she wanted to be the business partner to the principal of an entrepreneurial advertising or media agency. She was tired of the red tape that she associated with reporting to a parent company. She had a visionary mind and wanted more authority to implement innovative change.

In addition, knowing what you want can enhance your options. If a different opportunity arises in an interview, it is often offered because of your confidence and focus. It allows you to weigh the benefits of an unexpected opportunity to advance your career, exploring new possibilities.

My client was ready to move to Step Two to advance her career; Organize Her Job Search Plan of Action.

Written by

Barney Feinberg, PCC, CPCC, CPA, is the Founder and CEO of The Chemistry Factor — Executive Search and Career/Executive Coach.

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