If you love what you do but feel like your career has stalled, it might be time to supercharge your purpose and work on your strengths, according to positive psychology counsellors and career coaches.
Most of us chose our careers in our teens or early twenties, fresh out of high school and naive about our purpose or strengths, let alone what we want to do with the rest of our lives. Sure, there were the lucky few who always knew what they wanted to do and went after it, living happily ever after in a desirable and rewarding career.
Still, there are many more who invest in education programs, whether through university, TAFE, or online courses, only to drop out or transfer to another academic area.
They realise their course is far removed from their ‘purpose’ and have no choice but to re-think the all-consuming, fear-inducing question, ‘What do I want to be when I grow up’?
So, when you’ve travelled the career path, one often fraught with twists and turns and uncertainty, it’s a relief to have arrived (and survived). But how do you rise to the top? If you want to be the best at what you do, how do you tackle the obstacles, fierce competition or fear of failing?
We asked three expert career coaches.
Here’s what they had to say.
Find a Mentor, Sponsor and a Coach.
You might think that having three separate people to help you reach your career goals is a bit over the top, but positive psychology coach Jenny Cole of Positively Beaming, a business that supports professional women to take their best self to work and bring her home again, says they are all important.
A Mentor: Offers gives advice and teaches, often a younger or less experienced person, over time about school or career advancement.
A Sponsor: A person who can connect you with others in their network to advance your career.
A Career Coach: Assists in identifying personal and professional goals to progress or plan a career.
Ms Cole, a former school principal turned coach, facilitator and speaker, says you need to find people who can teach you (a mentor), put you forward for promotional opportunities that arise, connect you to influential people (a sponsor) and help you recognise and take action on your ‘blind-spots,’ as well as embed your learning (a career coach).
“(It’s important to) surround yourself with good people, and to learn all you can from them,” said Ms Cole.
Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time
We’ve heard about the importance of time management, but Ms Cole suggests managing your energy instead because we all have different energy levels throughout the day.
There are morning people, who feel energetic early, while others will be rearing to go in the evening, according to Ms Cole.
“We’re all time poor, and there are a fixed 24-hours in everyone’s day. However, if you understand what tasks give you energy and which ones drain your energy, you can plan your workday accordingly. This allows you to work with greater ease and fit more into your 24- hours.
“I prefer to do anything that requires concentration and focus early in the morning, but your rhythms might be different. Find a workflow method that suits you, it may be intense bursts of activity, such as the Pomodoro method or just gaining an understanding of when your brain is at its most creative, analytical or focused and matching the tasks to those time slots,” said Ms Cole.
Melbourne’s leading evidence-based career coach, Alex Kingsmill, says recovery is also significant when it comes to using energy to pursue career goals. “Consistent energy exertion requires a balance of energy renewal. If you want to operate at your peak, it’s crucial to schedule downtime into your days and weeks to activity recover.
Confidence is Key
So, what’s the key to confidence? We all know that if we appear confident, then others will have confidence in us, but how do we really feel it? Ms Cole says feeling confident can be difficult, particularly for women, because they’re hardwired to worry.
“Women are less likely to put themselves forward for opportunities and are more likely to second guess themselves. Working with a career coach can help women overcome those stories that they tell themselves about not being ‘ready’ or ‘good enough,’ says Ms Cole.
Put Your Strengths to Work
It’s crucial to put your strengths to work, but to do this, you must know what they are, how to use them and how to build on them, according to Ms Cole.
“When we use our strengths, rather than fixating on weaknesses, we become more engaged, more energised and more likely to make progress in our career quickly.”
Career Progression Coach, Sha Perera, says understanding yourself, your strengths, and what you enjoy leads to self-awareness, which is a powerful understanding to have in all areas of your life, but especially at work.
“When you know what your strengths are, you can play to them. When you know what you enjoy, you can do more of those jobs.
“Knowing your strengths means that when jobs are delegated, you can put your hand up. In positive psychology terms, people who are working in jobs that utilise their strengths and talents enjoy their work and feel more job satisfaction than those who don’t,” says Ms Perera.
Be Kind to Yourself (And Others).
If you’re kind to others, it doesn’t mean you’re a pushover, according to Ms Cole. In fact, being kind to yourself and others sets and enforces clear boundaries that are important for well-being at work.
“If you understand your triggers you can manage your emotions even in the most challenging situations.”
Alex Kingsmill, an evidence-based career coach, agrees: “Self-kindness will sustain your self-belief and energy. Kindness to others will build you an impressive reputation that will boost your career-advancing efforts.”
Find Your True North
It’s crucial to ask three questions to find your true north, according to Ms Cole: What’s your purpose? What’s your passion? And, why?
“This may not be clear in the early part of your career. Chances are you chose your study pathway when you were in your teens. So, make sure you regularly evaluate whether your career matches your values, skills and strengths. If the answer is no, then you need to make a change,” says Ms Cole.
Focus on the Good in Your Career
You won’t find many people who love every aspect of their career, says Ms Perara, because every work situation has its ups and downs.
“No matter what your situation is at work, there is always something positive to focus on.
“Maintaining your focus on what’s working and what’s right, as opposed to the opposite, can help you retain your peace and optimism at work.”
Listening deeply is an under-utilised skill according to Ms Perara, but its power is immense.
“When you truly listen to understand, rather than to respond, you automatically connect with the other person. When you listen deeply, you insightfully hear so much more than just the words that someone is saying, you start to really ‘get them.’
“If there is one thing you can do to improve your relationships with bosses, teams and colleagues, it’s to really listen and give your full attention,” says Ms Perara.
“This is especially important if you’re a leader. Employees who feel like their voice is being heard are over four times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.”
Listening for feedback is also an essential tool for self-development, so listen and learn how to improve, says Ms Perara.
Have the Right Mindset.
You will be the best at what you do when you embrace a positive, growth mindset, says Ms Perara. “Have a mindset of developing, growing and learning, and you will advance in your career.”
People with a growth mindset continually stretch themselves and their capabilities, make the most of setbacks and failures and use them to achieve better outcomes, explains Ms Perara.
“Let’s face it, some of the challenges at work aren’t easy, but the right attitude and mindset can make a world of difference!”
Be a Team Player
To achieve greater career success you need to focus on building relationships at work through collaboration, says Ms Perara.
“Work is a team sport and being a team player means being able to cooperate and relate well to others.
“Managing your relationships at work is vital if you are to be successful.”
To be a team player, you need to share the workload, as this builds camaraderie and goodwill, says Ms Perara, but it’s also important to understand and build on the strengths of all team members.
“A team player is a great communicator, negotiator and person of influence,” says Perara.
Always be a Professional
It’s a fine line between building camaraderie and crossing professional boundaries, according to Ms Perara, so it’s vital to keep all work relationships strictly professional.
“Ensure you aren’t gossiping, missing important deadlines, or being late for meetings.
“Every organisation has its own cultural norms, and there can be a large variation in what is okay. So, familiarise yourself with the standards.”
Never be Afraid to Ask for Help
Many people struggle to ask for help and internalise issues which grow into more significant problems, said Ms Perara.
“It’s much better to ask for help, whether from a team member, your boss, or someone neutral in human resources.”
Ms Kingsmill agrees: “Don’t pretend to know what you don’t. Ask insightful questions, listen to the answers and implement what you’ve learnt.
“Curiosity, resourcefulness and application are highly regarded and rewarded,” says Ms Kingsmill.
Gather Your People
To enjoy impressive career success, you’ll need serious support, according to Ms Kingsmill.
“Keep the people who believe in you close, and consciously but respectfully disengage from those who drain your energy and confidence,” says Ms Kingsmill.
There are those people who get by on four hours’ sleep a night, says Ms Kingsmill, but most of us require more.
“Most people need a serious dose of shut-eye to perform at their best.
“Set a bedtime and commit to it, just as you would an important business meeting.”
“There will always be people out there who try to take advantage of your professional generosity.
“Get clear on your professional boundaries, write them down, and stick to them ruthlessly,” says Ms Kingsmill.
Stretch Your Skillset
Finally, almost every industry is changing at a rapid rate, which is why career development is so important.
To be, and to continue to be, successful you’ll need to be a committed and lifelong learner.
Taking on career development and professional development opportunities in the form of online courses, training exercises or seminars, is particularly critical to those wanting to exceed career expectations and become the best at what they do.
After all, knowledge is power!
Online Courses a Smart Choice for Professional Development
Online courses are an ideal way to gain the skills you need to achieve greater career success.
The flexibility of online courses makes them an ideal way to retrain or upskill in your own time without the pressure of deadlines.
So, if you want to supercharge your career and become the best at what you do, enrol with Australian Online Courses for superior career development.
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