Earlier this week in my post on crafting a sustainable career, I mentioned that you have to start by believing you are the pilot of your own career. In my experience, shifting into a mindset that YOU are in charge is the number one thing that has to change for us to thrive in an uncertain world.
I talk to a lot of people who believe that they are piloting their own careers, but often what I see is that they have actually put their careers on auto-pilot. They're following the rules and doing what their companies ask of them, but they aren't really taking charge of their own lives.
For me, piloting your own career means that you have to:
- Continually clarify your strengths, talents and most important work values. These can shift over time and you want to have a strong sense of who you are and how you do your best work. Self-awareness is the foundation you need to start from.
- Be aware of changing industry and occupational trends and how you can bring value in a changing world. I can't emphasize this enough. You need to look beyond your current job, your current organization and your current circumstances. You need to understand what's going on in the broader world and how your talents and strengths intersect with these developments. That's how you find the opportunities.
- Network on your own behalf, not just to get the job done. What connections are you making to broaden your horizons? Who is part of your circle who can help you learn and grow? Make it a habit to build, diversify and deepen your connections.
- Develop multiple income streams and opportunities. You can't rely on a single job, not just because jobs are in decline, but also because a single job usually doesn't allow you to expand and grow as you need to in order to fulfill your potential. So you need to learn how to craft new options and create your own jobs. You do this not only to diversify your income streams, but also to diversify your experiences and skill-building.
Ultimately, being the pilot of your own career means re-framing the ways you think about your work. What capacities do you need to develop in yourself? What opportunities are there for you to jump on? How can you best use your talents to bring value in the world in a way that is sutainable and enjoyable? And how do you make sure that you are asking these questions on an ongoing basis?
I'm not going to lie. It's easier to live a life on auto-pilot. Someone else is doing the thinking and the work for you. But auto-pilot only works if you know the final destination. In an uncertain world, it's impossible for us to know where we're ultimately going to land--the destination will always be shifting. This means that you really need to take hold of that rudder and do the steering yourself.