How to Avoid Working Against Your Own Best Interests

Your Career Should Reflect Who You Are!

Your Career Choice Shows How Your Define Yourself

When Darth Vader went off the deep end, he actually started his journey from a desire to protect someone he loved. He lost his way really quickly and ended up being the bad guy of the story. He definitely worked against his own best interests, because if he had stayed on the Jedi path, he would have been the greatest of them all! Instead his own son took top billing because ole’ Darth worked against his own best interests. He chose a dead end career path.

Our lives are full of choices each and every day. One of the biggest choices professionally is what job we perform and where we work. Several years ago I was a stay at home Mom trying to decide which field to enter as I got ready to return to work. I wanted to go through a program so that I felt ready to grab hold of the next journey of my life. I chose healthcare because I had a passion for helping people. I wanted to be glad to go to work each day, and when the day was over I wanted to know I had given my best. I wanted to be proud of where I worked and what I was doing there.

I am a type A personality. Driven, motivated, determined to succeed, and able to make decisions quickly and confidently. Additionally, I am competitive. I took an entry level job and quickly rose through the ranks. When I left my organization, I was a Regional Manager for the E.R. and oversaw two Patient Access teams for two different facilities. I gave my very best while I was working there, and I loved helping my team in training and career development. In hind sight I discovered that I was working against my own best interests. How? I jumped two levels of management. I was not ready for the political situations behind the scenes because I hadn’t been part of the lower management before the higher level that put me in with senior management. There was a battle for control happening between two agencies, and I was smack dab in the middle of it. I got tugged in many directions as I tried to figure out how to navigate the land mines.

Situations like this are far from uncommon. Many employees go through this kind of internal war in their organizations. Figuring out the dynamics is challenging, and an exercise in remaining calm and sane. There are some basic things we can all do to help us figure out how to work for our best interests as it relates to our jobs.

  1. Know yourself. Who are you? What are your skills, interests, and goals? Be honest with yourself. What you want is important, but who you are right now is more relevant.
  2. Know the industry you want to work in. What kinds of jobs are available? Who are the big hitters? What are your industry’s standards and practices?
  3. Do your research about companies you are interested in. Make sure to check out reviews on them related to work environment, work/life balance, what the employees think about the management and CEO, and what salaries are. Are they paying their people industry standard, or underpaying them while asking for the Moon? Also, check out their stock prices if its a publicly traded company. Check out their financials if not. Financial health can say a lot about whether or not you want to join their team.
  4. Join professional organizations that support your field. These organizations provide opportunities for continuing education, networking, and current trends.
  5. Know your lines in the sand. Don’t settle for something just because you need a job. This is the hardest of them all. Most of us have bills to pay and need an income. If we are offered a job, even if its not quite what we want, the temptation for gainful employment is very high. If you do accept the job, give it a fair chance. Find your sunshine in the midst of the blah. It might not be your ideal, but you have the chance to turn what you do into something extraordinary!
  6. Decide to be an energy giver organizationally. You be the person others can count on to provide balance and sound judgement. A cheerful smile also goes a long way.

Life is a journey, and a huge part of life is our career. Full-time employees, especially salaried employees, spend the vast majority of their waking hours at work, thinking about work, or stressing over getting work. Many of us are in jobs we despise. We wish we were elsewhere. Finding an attitude that allows us to turn our vinegar into honey is hard! Its finding that place, where we are at, that allows us to work in our own best interests to give the place we are at our best. Its deciding that if we are unable to stomach it, its time to find another job, one that allows us to be our best, and give our best. Its always easier to find a job when you have a job.

As I thought about this I wondered if the idea is just selfish twaddle. I finally decided that there is sound reasoning in it. When we are happy about what we are doing, able to find that place where our own best interests make us better people and better employees, then those around us get the benefit of our happy place. It reminds me of the expression, “if mamma ain’t happy, then nobody is happy.” What we have inside comes out no matter how much we try and hide it. It happens in our personal life, and it happens at work.

The true first step career-wise for working on your own best interests is simple really. Its finding value in yourself and what you bring to the table for your company, or potential company. When you believe in yourself, you are going to make sure that others have the opportunity to value you too. You are going to work for what you want to achieve, and where you want to go. Part of that is going to be giving your best so that you are proud of your achievements. When we believe in ourselves, we work to help others believe in us too because we know we are a great asset worth having!

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