Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Career Tips: Keep Your Head Out of the Sand!

Maybe you are reading this post because you are a HealthStudies student or alumni looking for your first job. Or maybe you are completing your degree as part of a job transition. Maybe you are a member of the TWU community just stopping by. It’s possible you found this via a link or Internet search. However you ended up here, I hope you will find something helpful in today’s post as you navigate the often shifting paths of your career journey.

Today’s post is inspired by an article I came across via my LinkedIn feed called, “The Worst Career Blunder You Can Make” by Kathy Caprino. This article resonated with me for a variety of reasons.  She summarizes the worst blunder as, “I’m staying just where I am; I don’t need to make any changes.”  I think most of us have a tendency to resist change.  It feels easier, more comfortable just to stay where we are. However, if we actively resist change by – as she says – “burying our heads in the sand,” we are not only doing a disservice to ourselves, but possibly putting our jobs and/or careers at risk.

In her article, Ms. Caprino discusses five ways to avoid this problem.  One thing she recommends is to stretch your skills and abilities. I think that this is essential. Not only does it help avoid the worst career blunder, but it will help you become more successful on your own career path. We see more and more companies reorganize and then ask people to take over additional roles instead of filling them. Additionally, in many organizations the old career ladder no longer exists. If employees want to progress in their careers, oftentimes they will need to move into different areas. Sometimes these areas are closely related and other times it is a bigger transition. No matter which scenario you find yourself in, it will be easier if you are already stretching your skills, abilities, and knowledge.

How can you do this? As I work for a university, obviously obtaining a degree is one way. But there are plenty of other ways to broaden your experience. You can volunteer for a committee at work and learn from your more experienced committee members. If there are no committees at work, you can also volunteer at a local nonprofit and let them know that you are happy to donate your time and energy for the opportunity to add some new skills.  You can take a continuing education class to learn a new software program. You can join an organization like Toastmasters International to polish your public speaking skills and get hands-on experience with leadership. You can go to the library and borrow some books in areas that want to know more about.

For her third suggestion, Ms. Caprino suggests that you “identify exactly what your employer wants from you.”  She also discusses the importance of keeping professional relationships positive (4) and making a change if you are not happy with your work situation (5).  All of these suggestions ring true to me.  For all of these, I would add that it is important to be self-aware and regularly take time to reevaluate your life and career goals.  What I mean by being self-aware is knowing your strengths and areas that need improvement as well as knowing where your interests lie.

It may sound a bit overwhelming, but there are many resources available to you. If you are a TWU student or alum, you may want to visit TWU Career Services.  They can provide career counseling and assessments to assist you.  They also provide services for the general community.  If you aren’t a TWU student or alum, you might want to check the university where you received your degree. More and more universities offer career services to their alumni for free.

Additionally, many public libraries offer a variety of free resources for job seekers and career transitionists (my word). A couple of my favorite books are What Color is Your Parachute and Career Renegade. There are also a number of books with self-evaluation and self-interest assessments.  Ask your librarian for help in locating these and any other resources you might be interested in. They are an excellent source of information.

My last suggestion is to consider a life or career coach. A number of university career centers and company HR departments are now employing coaches.  Disclaimer – I am currently working on my coaching certification. However, I have also used a career coach when I wanted to make a shift in my job situation and I found it to be extremely helpful. Obviously, it had such an impact that later I decided to pursue certification as well. A coach can serve as your creative partner to help you figure out what your interests and strengths are as well as bringing a different perspective to the table.

The key point I took away from Ms. Carpino’s article was that it is up to me and you as individuals to manage our careers.  So if you want to make sure your career path stays on track and have a fulfilling enjoyable job then keep your head out of the sand and actively look for ways to channel the change that makes up your life.

Additional online career and life resources:

Work in Progress 

Life After College 

Zen Habits


Work Happy Now! 

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