If you don’t approach your career the right way, you won’t get the fulfillment you’re looking for.
Respect for your career is a two-way street. If you don’t work for the respect you deserve, your career will lose it luster. My wife has an aunt that runs marathons. She works very hard to stay in shape year round to compete at a high level in her age group. She is constantly running and doing other exercises. This is how we all need to approach our careers.
Stay on top of your game.
Working in Information Technology for over fifteen years, I have to learn new things to keep current. I have seen this scenario play out many times. People work in the industry letting their skills atrophy, and they become less productive. Occasionally these people will get laid off and begin to scramble to find work and come to the realization too late that they are no longer competitive in the market.
Attitude is important.
Have you ever worked with someone who is great at what they do, but they have an atrocious attitude? The “diva” syndrome is poison to a workplace and needs to be put in check. We need to make sure we have a good positive attitude with our career. Things are going to go wrong with our work; a good attitude can help us find the solution instead of getting mad and trying to find blame.
When I was in high school, I got a test back that I thought I had gotten a question correct. I calmly went up to the teacher and asked him about the answer I had. He reviewed it and gave me credit. I sat down, and a classmate came up and started getting angry with the teacher about a similar answer. He did not give her credit. After she had calmed down, he explained his reasoning why I got credit and she did not. He remarked how I approached it calmly and reasonably, and she was irate and irrational. A good attitude made the difference.
Keep learning new things.
My daughter was explaining to me on our vacation who the performer that was going to be at a theater was. She said that she is a “Youtuber.” “A what?” I said, I didn’t know that there was such a thing as a “Youtuber.” Our career is no different as technology changes so do techniques we do to market and research new ideas. A friend of mine has written a book called, The Ties that Bind, Networking with Style, where he details how we can network in the digital age. You are responsible for your education.
Make sure your career respects you.
Once you have done your work to gain the respect in your career, your work is not complete. You must follow some simple guidance that makes sure your career respects you and doesn’t destroy you. Some career fields are notorious for working people hard. That doesn’t work out for the long run.
Find a good balance.
Work and life tend to be in a constant state of flux. Some careers have seasonal times where you have to work long hours. My wife worked retail in college and the holiday season included a lot of overtime. She was drained after it was all over. Occasional or seasonal times of extra work can be fine and perhaps good for everyone. Pushing to meet a deadline causes us to stretch and grow.
Some paths people go down push them beyond their limits into a breaking zone. If things go on too long or a company pushes too much, it might be time to change. A friend of mine thought he found a dream job with better pay and work that he would enjoy. He made the switch and soon realized that this place demanded fifty hours every week all the time. He was often told to work weekends and do more at home during the evenings.
Our time at work is a big part of finding balance in your life. As you can see from the previous story, some companies expect more from you than others. If you are in a salaried career you need to understand that the time may fluctuated and your salary won’t. If it is a constant expectation, then you should at least make sure you are being paid a premium or think about moving to something more reasonable.
“I have a ton of vacation time, but I can’t use any of it,” a friend told me once. He was trying to sound important; I was not impressed. What use is all the time off if you can never get away. Taking some time off is a great way to re-charge your batteries and get things in perspective. If you never take time away you lose sight of what things are really important and what can wait.
If you go on vacation, make sure you completely unplug. Don’t check emails and don’t take phone calls. I was recently listening to the Manager Tools podcast, and they discussed how this hinders your co-workers. If you can’t take some time away, other team members don’t get the chance to step up. Like my Chicago Cubs need to have the Iowa Cubs you need to help develop the other team members you work with.
Photo: Flickr/ Speshul Ted