Working ON Your Career (Why it's a DON'T MISS activity even when you have no time)

career goals career planning compensation growth Feb 02, 2020

Are you in survival mode, with no time for the strategic?

Take a second and think about your day and week, does it look something like this?

  • You're overwhelmed by new emails and messages (Slack, MS Teams) before you even get out of bed
  • You get into work and see a gauntlet of meetings on your calendar. You realize you'll barely have time to go to the bathroom or eat lunch.
  • You constantly feel rushed, trying to respond to team member questions, customer requests, colleague needs, in between meetings.
  • You feel anxious thinking about the difficult boss, peer and/or colleague you'll have to deal with, and
  • By the end of the day, you're exhausted and haven't had time to work on those important deliverables, and your list keeps growing out of control.

If your day is anything like this (I know mine was), there is NO TIME to

  • keep up with your day-to-day work,
  • let alone think more strategically about the direction/trajectory of your career and your own goals.

Why carve out the time to work ON your career? 

When your head is just above water, why carve out the time to work ON your career?

In short, when you don't work ON your career (at least periodically), you are putting your goals, your financial growth, and your future into other people's hands.

  • Please don't wait for recognition and opportunity to come to you.
  • Please don't expect to be acknowledged for your efforts, thinking by keeping your head down, you'll be noticed and rewarded.

If you don't spend some time (even just 20 minutes a week), it's so easy to miss out on:

  • Opportunities for promotions,
  • Increased compensation and bonuses, 
  • Relationships with internal influencers who will support you when it comes time to assign ownership of critical projects, promotions, bonuses, etc, and
  • Keeping in touch with your external network and the opportunities to help them with their own goals (and the equity you build up for the situation when/if you might need their help for internal referrals, recommendations, introductions, etc), and

There's not enough time to get everything done, let alone to take a step back to evaluate and direct your own career path.

Unfortunately, neglecting your career day after day, month after month, and year after year, could put you at risk. You miss out on:

  • Internal sponsorship by decision-makers who are making staffing decisions (lay-offs, annual comp changes, etc)
  • Being top of mind when external connections are thinking of people to pull into job openings, new start-up opportunities, consulting projects, etc.

What is the difference between working ON your career versus IN your career?

So, now that we've talked about WHY it's important to make time to work ON your career instead of just IN your career, let's dive into the detail of what it looks like to work IN your career and ON your career.

Working IN your career looks like:

  • Creating deliverables
  • Going to meetings
  • Meeting with customers
  • Responding to email
  • Managing the day-to-day processes you and your team own

While these are important actions, it's easy to get stuck in the weeds of the day-to-day, with all your energy focused there.

Then, you miss a critical element --- the big picture for YOU.

To work ON your career, means to have clarity on the OUTCOME you're working toward. It includes activities like:

  • Solidifying your exact professional goals for the quarter, the year and the next 5 years
  • Mapping out a detailed plan to reach those goals
  • Developing a well-thought-out approach to receive a pay raise and/or bonus & getting your manager's buy-in
  • Creating a specific plan for your promotion path, including dependencies, influencers and timeline
  • Updating your resume and LinkedIn even though you absolutely despise doing so
  • Consistently asking yourself what you want and how to get what you want

The first step to work ON YOUR CAREER (and it isn't time consuming)

The first step to working ON your career is to set aside 15 or 20 minutes each week.

Schedule and protect the time in your calendar.

In that time, focus on gaining clarity and direction for your career. For example, you could:

  • Create/update an Accomplishment Log to use when you're updating your resume, LinkedIn, and for future interviews
  • Brainstorm what you want (and don't want) in your career
  • Identify an internal influencer who you want to build a relationship with and reach out to them for a coffee or lunch
  • Have a virtual coffee chat with someone in your network
  • Connect two people from your network who might be able to help each other
  • Share a resource or post an article to your LinkedIn feed
  • Send a thank you note to someone who has made an impact in your career
  • Write a recommendation for someone on LinkedIn
  • And so many more.....

Do you need help with this?

I've laid out the plan above to work ON your career including why you should make time to do it and how to do it.

If you feel like you can't get started or need a neutral, expert sounding board, please set up a Career Strategy session where we can dive into your specific details. Here's the link to find a day/time that works for you:


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