4 Non-Traditional Ways People Can Manage Their Careers Better

We are indeed living during some of the most interesting times in American history. People are incredibly uncertain about what decisions to make in their careers; while concurrently, they are searching for happiness. As NBC News reported last week, the number of men and women suffering from acute anxiety is increasing – and our stressful, fast-paced lifestyles are to blame.  Most people are not just operating in survival mode, they are in a state of denial.

Career denial means that you believe things are better at work than they really are.
More and more people are frustrated at work, and in extreme cases frustration has grown to hatred towards one’s boss and / or colleagues (as was the unfortunate case last Friday in New York at the Empire State Building). As such, employers need to become more proactive at being able to identify behavioral patterns that not only create distrust and dissention, but also disengagement and rapid decline in workplace performance.   An unhealthy workplace environment makes it extremely difficult for people to elevate their performance at a time when our companies and the economy require it.
People perform optimally when they feel comfortable doing what they do best.
People have grown tired of surprises and are equally disgruntled with having to act a certain way because the corporate culture demands it.   People are looking for ways to be more themselves and more transparent and so are gravitating towards those whom they can trust. These days, employees are skeptical of their succession plan and less trusting of management and their vision. People want to know the real truth so that they can design their own plan to support it.
With career risk more apparent than advancement, people are more interested in a career with purpose, rather than a job fueled with disruption, uncertainty and dishonesty.   Today, employees are more knowledgeable about the roadblocks that lie within their workplace culture and the growing incompetence of their leaders.
People are Thinking More About Their Career Options, But Not Saying or Doing Enough
The dynamics I’ve described are not only fact (in many companies), but they are also the things that people are thinking, but not talking enough about. People are hesitant to manage their careers because they are not certain of the consequences. As one executive recently shared with me, “I know I need to manage my career better, but I am not ready to face the unforeseen challenges associated with managing it.”
Do you feel the same way? Are you thinking but not saying what you fundamentally want in your career – but not taking any real action to do anything about it?
We are in an economy that requires people to solve problems, not hide from them or create more of them.   We all have a responsibility to contribute towards making the economy better. You must make the most out of your career and perform in ways that allow you to feel that your work is meaningful and purposeful. You must be more deliberate in managing your career to assure that you create the opportunities to do what you enjoy doing and be part of an environment that allows you to thrive.
This may sound idealistic, but it is a reality. As such, employers need to change their attitude towards their employees and improve their workplace to attract the right talent and provide the resources to enable and retain them.
So what must you do – as an employee – to be equally accountable? Manage your career better through a lens of opportunity.
Management guru Peter Drucker provides timeless wisdom in his article titled, “Managing Oneself.”   Drucker forces you to reflect upon building a life of excellence that is sustainable.   It is an article I use in my work with clients because Drucker does a masterful job of taking you out of your day-to-day responsibilities to think about how well you are managing yourself.   He reminds you that it’s simply up to you (no one else) to make a mark in the work world and know when to course correct. 
Manage Yourself and Your Career or Someone Else Will
Here are four non-traditional ways to manage your career better. As I take you through each step, I will integrate a few of Drucker’s nuggets of wisdom.
1. Know Yourself Extremely Well
Managing yourself is being knowledgeable about yourself, enough to right your wrongs and leverage your skills-sets in ways that come most naturally to you.  You have to create your own opportunities for advancement.  You can no longer wait; you must activate your strengths and unique value propositions each day.
For example, how would you answer the following question: “What separates your talent from others?” How would you respond? Could you say it in three words or less? (Try it below in the Comments section).  Does your answer translate into growth and innovation?  If not, it should.  Everyone in the workplace is an ROI measurement that is constantly being evaluated.  In the end, you must be your own Chief People Officer.
As Drucker said, “Success in the knowledge economy comes to those who know themselves.” 
This is more important than ever as people navigate their career options.
2. Live Your Values and Love What You Do
When you can be who you are in the workplace, it doesn’t feel like work anymore. This begins by living your values and what you stand for and believe in.   Don’t feel forced into being what you are not – this approach makes it impossible to achieve excellence.
As Drucker said, “Do not try to change yourself – you are unlikely to succeed. Work to improve the way you perform.”
Right now, people are trying new things in new ways – but in the process they are losing themselves and their identity. This happens when people don’t stay true to their core values. I learned this the hard way in my career when I discovered that power is not leadership. Power may allow you to make more decisions, and that gives you control – but this doesn’t mean that you can lead people any better or help them to improve their performance.
As Drucker says, “What one does well – even very well and successfully – may not fit with one’s value system.”
A flourishing career requires you to grow, improve and make those around you better.  It requires sustainability – and that can only come from living your values so that you can love what you do and along the way make an impact on the lives of others.
3. Unleash What You’re Most Passionate About Every Day
This may appear obvious, but many people leave career opportunities on the table because they don’t align their passion with their responsibilities. In other words, people do their jobs without being passionate about what they do and how they do it.
Think about this for a moment: What excites you most? Are you living your passion in your work every day?  Are you passionate about your responsibilities at work? Unfortunately, most people are not because the rules for workplace engagement have changed. 
As Drucker said, “A person’s strengths and the way that person performs rarely conflict; the two are complementary. But there is sometimes a conflict between a person’s values and his or her strengths.”
Enable your values through your passion and you will begin to see career opportunities previously unseen.
4. Allow Your Culture to Contribute to Your Career Success
Your cultural heritage is a competitive advantage. Unfortunately, most people don’t know this nor have they tried to leverage their culture to enable higher levels of performance. Did you know that most people find their authentic identity within their culture? Because corporations are not as culturally competent as they should be, they are not allowing their employees to get discovered by utilizing the skills that come most naturally to them.
I believe that we are transitioning from a knowledge-based to a wisdom-based economy. It’s not only about what you know – but what you do with what you know. It’s being able to balance the head and the heart. If your heart isn’t into what you do in your career, it’s going to be much more difficult to engage your mind and thus find excellence (let alone happiness).
As Drucker said, “A small number of people know very early where they belong. Mathematicians, musicians, and cooks, for instance, are usually mathematicians, musicians, and cooks by the time they are four or five years old. Physicians usually decide on their careers in their teens, if not earlier. But most people, especially highly gifted people, do not really know where they belong until they are well past their mid-twenties.”
What has your heart been telling you where you belong? Look within your culture to enable your performance and open your eyes to see career opportunities that you may have previously missed.
What is most important to you at this time in your career and your personal life? Embrace it, be courageous and take action.

[Source: www.forbes.com]

Did you know that Challenge Consulting provides Outplacement Programs for exiting employees going through a career transition? To find out more information on the services that we can provide for you click here.