Insight

The 3 Best Practices to Take Control of Your Career

by Katie E. Rodgers
Here at Helbling we approach our candidates’ needs in the same manner we do with our clients: by helping them decipher their strengths, weaknesses, motivations, and goals for the future. Every candidate we work with has followed a path, that, along with their work experience, translates their drive and determination to our clients.  We’ve come to realize there is no such a thing as a “good candidate”, there is only the “right candidate” for an individual organization. The following list of best practices will help you advance your career – whether with your current employer or with a new organization – so that you can become the “right candidate”. 
 

1. Remain vigilant in your own performance tracking. 

Typically, employers track your progress at work in order to understand what works and what doesn’t, but have you spent enough time tracking your own performance? For a lot of us, the answer is no, and the only time we review progress is when we’re quickly updating a resume before searching for a new job. Unfortunately, in doing so, crucial information gets lost in the shuffle. People tend to view things on a macro level in regards to their work performance; it’s either good or bad, categorized by wins and losses. But without data to reflect on, it’s impossible to see what led to those wins and losses. Keep a journal not just to make note of ideas, but also to track your metrics. Keep in mind it doesn’t always have to be about ROI and numbers. You should also keep your journal updated with accomplishments in networking, engagement, consistency, and participation. You will thank yourself for the opportunity to self-reflect next time you’re on the job hunt, or even as you prepare for an upcoming performance evaluation.
 

2. Meet with an advisor, often. 

One of the best ways to manage your goals and progress is to review and discuss them with a mentor. It’s natural to ask questions or doubt your next steps throughout your career, and decision-making doesn’t come naturally – it takes continuous practice. When those inevitable questions and doubts come up, you’re going to want to have someone you know and trust to be a sounding board. Before you make a career move, consider your motivations. Speaking frequently with an industry leader/advisor is one of the best ways to figure out what those are. Find a mentor now (if you haven’t already) and spend time with him or her in different settings, such as:
 
  • Conferences/Events
  • Meetings
  • Networking Dinners
  • Morning Coffee Runs
Not only does shadowing someone offer a glimpse into your own career motivations, but learning about someone else’s work experiences helps you assess cultural fit and determine what type of company you value, and why.
 

3. Find your own work-life balance. 

This divisive issue is alive and well, and for good reason. It’s one that’s widely pontificated about, as creating this balance leads to personal wellness and thus greater productivity. To add to the confusion, an inundating stream of information comes at us every day about what the right balance is. We find ourselves grappling with worry and anxiety regarding where the time went, how we’re going to finish this assignment, or what we’re going to do to leave work AT WORK once we get home. Is there even time for that? The bottom line is: we’re all unique – and one size does not fit all when trying to find the right balance for you. What worked for your coworker or your neighbor may not work for you, because it depends what your home life is like, what your professional role is, what you need in order to decompress, your health… and on. The most successful people are in tune with themselves, with who they are, and with what they need. Take control of your life by setting realistic priorities and daily goals for yourself between you and your manager. To meet these goals, block time for each task into intervals to get a better grip on what you can complete in a given time frame. Not being honest about your needs will lead to burn out, ultimately causing your work performance to suffer. Document and track these goals a few weeks at a time, and if one thing isn’t working, look to re-evaluate your time management and work priorities. Once you’re honest with yourself about what you can accomplish, no matter where you are in your career regardless of your employer, you’ll be managing your time effectively and have your needs documented piece by piece in case you need to make a case for more flexibility.
 
We’re aware there are many other areas of concern to focus on in your career, but these practices truly help shape the person that you are into the “right candidate”. With tracking, shadowing, and time management you’ll be able to evaluate where you are, where you’re going, who you want to work for, and what leadership style you want to emulate. We hope you have a successful new year, and if you’re looking for the next step in your career in Q1, find a search firm who will understand and address your needs.