6 tips on taking control of your career

We’ve recently come to the end of Personal Development week at Mercer’s UK offices, encouraging our teams to think about their career and to make plans to get where they want to be.  With participation from every level within the business, it’s been fun & engaging, and I’ve enjoyed being a part of it.  To wrap up the week, I thought I’d share my personal tips on how to move forward your career.

  1. Be bold & dream – if you used to want to be an astronaut or a fairy princess or a racing driver, you clearly used to be a bold dreamer. As we grow up, the childish fantasies are replaced by practical realities, but perhaps we’ve all been too willing to give away too much of our dream.  Maybe you won’t be the next Spiderman or Wonderwoman, but take some quiet time out to reflect on what matters to you and what you might be missing in your current role.
  2. Make a plan – The best wedding in the world doesn’t happen spontaneously, it is planned meticulously. Whilst as a guest you might marvel at the effortless flow of the wedding day, there’s been month of thinking, fretting, list-making and re-working to deliver the perfect wedding day.  You should take the same approach with your career.  If you don’t have a list of what you do (and don’t) want in your role, then how are you going to ensure you are in the best role for you?  Even from my first job as a Saturday assistant at House of Fraser when I was 16, I knew straight away that I loved working with customers – I could have probably started the list way back then, but if you don’t yet have a list of what you want in your perfect job, now is the time to create that list!
  3. Don’t get hung up on the job title – For most jobs, there are many variable elements to any role.  Accountant, teacher, customer service agent, financial controller, PA, managing director – they all have many different levels, and may well cover many different tasks under the same title.  It’s therefore really important to not get hung up on a single job title, and instead to focus on the skills and competencies within the role.  In this way, you are more open to other roles that may tick all the boxes with a different or unexpected title.
  4. Networking – It may be an irrational Anglo-Saxon fear, but the prospect of talking to strangers fills many of us with dread. So a networking event to talk to other like-minded individuals may be a daunting prospect.  Networking is a very important way to build contacts, learn how others are doing similar tasks, share your ideas with peers and benchmark your own knowledge and skills.  You don’t have to do it face to face.  Social media is full of great tools, communities, virtual online conferences and networking events that allow you to connect up without meeting a single person in person.  Once you’re clear on where you want to go, use the online resources at your disposal to get the ball rolling.
  5. Be open & honest – If you haven’t had a frank discussion with your manager in the past few months to talk about your development and career, you are missing a trick. Feeling frustrated because you weren’t approached for a new project is pointless if you never took the time to share your aspirations and ideas with your manager.  If people know you are keen and engaged, you’re much more likely to be considered for future opportunities, so make sure you’re having regularly conversations on how you are doing and where you’d like to go next.  Even better, talk to someone else outside your own team, to get a different perspective and to give you some invaluable feedback to help you reach your goal.
  6. Take a risk! – Easier said than done, but we’ve all taken risks at some point in our life. Of course, they may not always work out – and the problem with human nature is that these events stick in our head.  I don’t’ advocate taking crazy, uncalculated risks, but sometimes we’ve got to take the plunge and try something new to expand our horizons.  The better planning you do, the more likely the risk will deliver the reward you hoped for!
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