Most people believe that career strategies are just for high flying execs. This is simply not true! As a career strategist for women in STEM, I can spot if someone needs one from a mile away.
Here are 5 ways to know YOU need a career strategy:
1. You lack clarity in your career direction
Many women feel like they want to shake up their careers. However they either have too many options to choose from, or they feel stuck and have no idea what they want. In either case, they aren’t able to move forwards.
Gaining clarity on career direction is the second most common challenge my clients have (the first is impostor syndrome). How do you know you’re going anywhere if you don’t know where you’re going? Well, you don’t — hence the feeling of being stuck.
Career strategies are not just for the super ambitious. Anyone who wants a sense of direction and fulfilment from work needs one. Writing a strategy forces you to nail down your career aspirations so you’re completely clear on which direction you want your career to take you.
How do you know you’re going anywhere if you don’t know where you’re going?
2. You find it hard to say no
Saying yes to opportunities is only good if it aligns with your personal goals.
Did that statement feel icky to you? We often feel like it’s selfish to only do the things we like. It might feel like you’re not being a team player or that you have a dirty, ulterior motive.
But consider this: if you spend most of your energy only doing things other people want you to, you’ll quickly become resentful. You’ll feel like others are always impeding on your plans. You won’t have time to do the things you enjoy. You’ll hate your job. You’ll become miserable in other aspects of your life and it’ll soon all spiral out of control.
What can you do about this?
Spend at least 80% of your work time, energy and effort on activities that are in line with your career strategy. The other 20% can be reserved for “team player” tasks. This is only possible if you have a clear idea of your career goals and what activities you’ll be allowing your time to be spent on.
3. You’ve accepted that you’re never going to love your job
If you believe that only a very lucky few get to work in a job they love — we need to work on flipping your mindset! This means you’re a victim of your circumstances and feel you have no control over creating a job you DO love.
If this is you, it’s not too late to make a change. You have to take some uncomfortable actions in order to change your state. But I can guarantee that the little bit of discomfort is going to pay off big time.
Don’t stay in a job that depletes you. Create a career that energises you!
Imagine waking up tomorrow morning and actually being excited to start work! It’s totally possible IF you create an action plan of how to achieve that. Don’t stay in a job that depletes you. Create a career that energises you!
4. You hate that you’re always working overtime
I have a truth bomb for you: working overtime is a choice!
If you’re working extra long hours, you have chosen to do that. I used to go around complaining (but really boasting) to my colleagues that I’d stayed up till 11pm every night in the past week to work on my projects. It was a badge of honour I chose to wear.
Was I happy about working late all the time? No.
Did I get any extra praise from my boss for doing it? Maybe only a handful of times.
Did the praise I got from my boss make it worthwhile? Definitely not!
If you are constantly working late and letting your career interfere with the other aspects of your life, it means you have chosen to allow others to trample all over your boundaries. And it’s likely it’s happened because you have no clarity on what your career strategy is.
When you have a clear picture of your career goals and what you need to do to achieve them, you become more focussed on the activities you should spend your time on and which ones to cut out. And on the odd occasion that you DO need to work late, you’ll know why you’re doing the extra work and how it will benefit you in the long run.
5. Your career progression depends on whatever your manager thinks
Do you believe that progressing in your career depends solely on what your manager thinks of you? I certainly did 5 years ago! I just thought that if I put my head down and did good work, my boss would judge me well and give me all of the opportunities (which I would definitely say yes to because I had no career strategy).
If you look at my career history, you’ll see that the first few years looked pretty erratic. I was being shifted from team to team, not necessarily moving upwards and sometimes even moving backwards!
This was because I’d allow my managers to tell me what would be a “good opportunity” for me and I never questioned them. They weren’t trying to do me wrong, but I wasn’t always consulted!
It was incredibly disempowering to think that I had to rely on one person’s opinion of me to get anywhere in my career. I’d also do anything that was wafted under my nose because my perceived lack of ability meant I felt lucky to be given the opportunity. Self confidence comes from a belief in yourself, not a reliance on your manager’s praise.
When I realised I could actually have a say in where I wanted to go, my career truly flourished. I finally had the freedom to set my own career goals and put strategic steps in place to achieve them.
Self confidence comes from a belief in yourself, not a reliance on your manager’s praise.
Need a career strategy?
If you’re struggling with any of the challenges above and you want to take actions towards a positive career outlook, get yourself a career strategy.