8 Ways to Boost Your Career
& Support the Life You Want
It’s been almost a year since Career Press published my book on creating career resilience, Think Like an Entrepreneur, Act Like a CEO. Being a first-time author has been an adventure, involving lots of events, discussions, reviews and radio interviews, as well as a good bit of feedback from readers.
I’ve noticed that some of the book’s suggestions for navigating the work world grab the most reader attention. And, with a goal of sharing some key ideas, I’ve distilled eight favorite strategies into these tips:
1. Don’t neglect relationships. When I urge clients to pump up their networking, I often hear excuses, like “no time,” “I’m an introvert,” or “I already have friends.” But you must get past those excuses because the evidence is overwhelming: a broad and diverse network is vital to career resilience. To better nurture your connections, think of them as organized in four concentric circles:
Circle #1, composed of your closest friends & family
Circle #2, including other friends and coworkers
Circle #3, extending to many acquaintances you’ve made over the years, including social media pals and distant colleagues
Circle #4, encompassing people who share one of your communities, like alumni groups, your profession, or a neighborhood
2. Make listening your super power. Whatever your field, people skills – and particularly how you listen — can set you apart. Listening is fundamental to human behavior, people need to be listened to, and you can’t really fake it. You can build your listening “muscle” by noticing and quieting the voice in your head, then refocusing on the speaker. Listening is key when you’re a leader, when you’re starting something new, when there’s conflict, and when you want to appear confident.
3. Understand how mentoring works. Mentors can make a huge difference, so give some thought to what makes strong, successful relationships.
To identify and nurture mentors, focus on casual connections – not strangers – and ask for a little To get more help from your mentor, make specific, doable requests. Welcome honesty because your mentor’s most important contribution may be to give constructive feedback. And aim for a two-way relationship, where both parties make an effort and enjoy benefits, like a safe place to vent or brainstorm.
If you want to be a great mentor, meet regularly, listen intensely and sometimes ask your protégées to make plans and do homework. Always be on the alert to help them make connections.
Spot opportunities for reciprocal mentoring, where both parties teach and learn. Mentoring that works both ways is particularly effective when it crosses lines of age, gender, professional specialty or function.
4. Prioritize constantly. You can’t do everything. So carefully choose where to put your energy and when to say “no” or negotiate a new deadline. A good tool is the “80/20 Rule”, which predicts that most of the results in any situation are determined by just a small number of the activities. The Rule suggests that about 80 percent of your achievements will flow from about 20 percent of all things you do. So if you have 20 items on your “to-do” list, concentrating on the four most important ones might make this a successful day. The 80/20 approach helps you to focus on the big goals, simplify your task list, and recognize when to let go.
5. Manage your brand. Even if you don’t like the idea of “branding,” you already do have a brand. It’s out there, differentiating you and influencing how people treat you. Your brand reflects more than the actual quality of your work. It’s often HOW???? you project your accomplishments that matters to your rep. And what really counts is how you make others feel. To better understand the concept of branding, think about consumer brands that you love, and notice what it is that makes you feel good about them.
6. Build your leadership brand. Within your broader image is your brand as a leader. This is true wherever you are in the hierarchy. Regardless of your current role, you can shape your leadership brand now by starting with a vision of the sort of leader you respect. Begin by listing characteristics you admire in others, like being caring, positive, responsible, collaborative or energetic. Study your list often, and imagine a version of yourself that reflects those values. And keep reminding yourself to act more like that.
7. Choose positivity. Neuroscience is helping us understand how being positive can impact your life, including your physical and mental health. Positivity actually changes how your mind works, making you more receptive and more creative. Your positive mindset allows you to learn, explore, and build new skills, connections and expertise. And an upbeat attitude is contagious, influencing people around you. You can create change with a smile, and at the same time folks may like you better. Positivity and productivity are linked, so letting go of negativity can enhance the quality of your work. You can make yourself less negative by using strategies like exercise, meditation and journaling.
8. Choose to be optimistic. Optimism is a positive attitude that carries with it an expectation that things will probably work out for the best. Optimism can set you up for career success, improve your social life, help you overcome stress and support your efforts to stay healthy. Pessimism, on the other hand, can undercut your achievement, weaken your immune system and make it more likely you’ll be depressed. Pessimism is valuable in some tasks, like drafting contracts, but usually it’s the optimists who enjoy more fruits of success. Some lucky optimists are born that way, but if you’re not one of them you can build optimism by modifying your internal dialogue. One trick is to become more aware of that voice in your head. You can create a shift by recognizing & disputing your pessimistic thoughts.
As you think about your goals for 2017, I hope you find inspiration in some of these strategies. Meanwhile, if you’re still shopping for gifts, please consider Think Like an Entrepreneur, Act Like a CEO for any professional, from a recent grad to a Boomer look to make a shift.