Career Management is a term that many feel a bit mystified by. I’m in a career, yes, but how do I manage it? Is it something that even can be managed? In this article, I discuss 5 core skills that will help demystify the idea of career management as well as (hopefully) help you get where you want to be in your career.
But before we get to those 5 skills, it’s worth mentioning that careers don’t develop themselves. If you are not actively engaging with the task of steering your career ship, you may end up staring into the nasty side of a career-ending iceberg sometime soon.
So how can you prevent that from happening? Researchers like John Krumboltz from Stanford University have found that successful careers are often characterized by active skills being applied at key moments. Here are five of them that will help you activate more opportunities within your career:
- Persistence: Getting a good career going takes perseverance. Sticking to something, even if you fail, can have great rewards down the line. Giving up can close opportunities that otherwise may have emerged. An example: Stephen King’s manuscript for his first novel, Carrie, was rejected by just about everybody in the publishing industry before it found a home. It also made King a household name in horror fiction.
- Taking risks: Safety and success seldom pair up. Although excessive risk taking can be destructive, you cannot enhance your career without occasionally taking leaps of faith into the unknown! An example: Elon Musk risked his hard-won wealth on what many believed was a bad idea: the space industry. As it turned out, that was a very good risk to take.
- Curiosity: Being curious about your environment, other people, the world. This skill (and it is a skill), allows you to connect with a wider array of opportunities than people who believe they’ve got it all figured out already. An example: By applying a deep curiosity about events people think they understand, writers like Malcolm Gladwell have built careers out of pointing out surprising facts that illuminate everyday life.
- Optimism: Cultivating more optimism can lead to greater career opportunities. And while you don’t have to become overly naïve, a certain level of positive expectation is healthy for career development. An example: An optimistic attitude helps people face adversity. Mel Brooks often cites his optimism as a reason why he was able to turn the horrors he witnessed as a Second World War veteran into comedy and laughter.
- Flexibility: Rolling with the punches that life deals you is a vital element of successful career management. Not being overly stuck in your ways, seeing new opportunities, these skills will help you find a more satisfying career path. An example: Being open to unexpected events helped Percy Spencer, an engineer at Rayethon, realize that an experiment that went (almost) badly wrong also ushered in the invention of microwave ovens. Now that’s flexibility!
In closing, it’s important to note that these five skills really are skills. People aren’t “born that way” or not. You can cultivate and develop your persistence, risk taking, curiosity, optimism, and flexibility. Like most skills, they are developed through practice, hard work, and more practice!
Good luck with your career management!
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