What Got You Here?

Career Myths and Mysteries

By: Marti Benjamin, MBA

Professional Certified Coach | Certified Career Management Coach

Certified Professional Résumé Writer

Perhaps the most prevalent career myth I encounter is the one that says if you just keep doing what you’ve done up to this point in your career, you’ll continue to progress to higher level of responsibility, prestige and compensation. In today’s workplace, the employee seeking advancement or a new career direction needs to manage his or her career progress actively.

Career management demands a careful and objective evaluation of what’s needed in a rapidly changing environment. Some of the skills acquired in the past are obsolete and won’t get you to the next level. The major problem with looking at what got you here is that’s the wrong direction—it’s the past, not the future.

Recently I conducted a complementary sample career coaching meeting with a prospective candidate who told me all of the things he was unwilling to do: learn new technology, report to people who were 30 years younger, work more than 10 hours a day, etc. He said he had, “paid his dues” and didn’t intend to go through all of that strain and stress again.

His feelings are understandable but as a career strategy, his limitations are fatal. He expects a future employer to recognize the contributions he’s made in the past and trust that he’ll do so again, even if he’s not keeping up with business tools and trends. I doubt that he’ll find what he considers a good position for this time in his career and life, unless he changes his expectations.

The story line of your career must be future-oriented, not past-focused.

  1. Begin with understanding your natural talents, those things that are part of your personality and how you do what you do, whether at work or other parts of your life. Are you driven by setting and achieving specific targets? Maybe you’re the person who keeps the team moving forward through encouragement. Or, perhaps you’re the one who senses risk before anyone else. These natural talents are the best assets to develop for your career advantage.
  2. Next, add the skills you’ve learned through education, training and work experience. For example:  verbal communication, writing, making presentations, evaluating data, analyzing financial reports, etc. Identify the important skills in various industries and business settings and notice where your skills match the need.
  3. Identify the growing occupations. There are several government websites projecting the 10-year growth of various occupations; check them out to see what skills are required and what type of personality fits well.
  4. Talk with people in your target careers. Prepare thoughtful questions about the work they do and what they expect in the industry over the next five or 10 years. (You’ll learn more about the reality of the role in these conversations than you will in website search, but it’s exhausting to start on this step without narrowing the field through on line search.)

Career management requires continuous internal evaluation—the skills you’ve mastered and your personality—and a scan of the external environment. The best fit is the one that relies on your natural talents, utilizes your skills and is expected to grow robustly.

Marti Benjamin inspires great work-lives in her career and business coaching practice. While enjoying the best possible job in the world for herself, she guides her clients to find the work that fits them perfectly. Her systems have led clients from fed-up and frustrated to fulfilled in their work-life. www.CareerFromHere.com.


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