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Don’t leave your career to chance in 2021

I’ve been meeting with women who work in the corporate sector over the last couple of months, to chat about their careers, where they’re at professionally, right now and what’s keeping them from working with career coaches, like myself, to move forward and excel. 

At least 80% of these women told me they’d only reach out to a career coach or mentor if they were in a crisis – so even though they were not where they wanted to be, professionally, they didn’t seem particularly uncomfortable with where they were. They were still hopeful that things in their respective work environments would change. 

One of the common themes that have been coming up in these conversations is: “we continue to do the same things and we expect a different result?” 

This is life though, right? It was for me, for many years! I thought, “I am comfortable here, so let’s not mess with things”. However, the thing is, being comfortable in a job – based on how things are right now: the environment, the manager, the work we’re doing, is like building your dream house on borrowed land. When conditions change, it’s not easy to pack up and go because you never planned to stay in a different house.

So, when you get comfortable in your job because your boss is great, what happens when your boss decides to move on? When you love the company culture and environment and your company announces a merger, that culture and environment you’ve  based your decision on no longer exists. Then what? 

The problem with placing our careers in the hands of others – or on external factors – means that we have no control over what happens to our careers and essentially, we’re  leaving it up to chance. 

“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change. – Jim Rohn

So, how do you “chance-proof” your career? 

When I’m not helping technical specialists transition into mid-level leadership positions, I work with future leaders as part of graduate and bursary programmes. When we talk about interview prep, especially in this new world of work, where we interview online, we often look at the interview holistically:

  • We think about the prep needed prior to the interview, such as research, what to wear, where to place the laptop etc.
  • We consider what we might want to share, both personally and professionally, so that the interviewer has a good sense of who is being interviewed.
  • We look at  troubleshooting by asking “what if” questions like; what if the internet goes down? What if I feel overwhelmed? What if logistics change at the last minute?
  • We also consider outcomes, what happens if they get the job and what happens if they don’t.

Graduates prepare before they get into the “room” and this helps them plan for the future, it helps them prepare effectively and also keeps them on their toes because so many things can go wrong with online interviews! 

We don’t wait for these things to happen, we prepare for it.  

These same principles can be applied to our careers. If we are always prepared, then we know if the next promotion is right for us. If we are always ready we can move on when things change, which means we don’t leave our careers up to chance. 

If you’re always ready, you don’t have to get ready. – Will Smith

Here are five strategies to proactively manage your career, starting now:

  1. Develop a career strategy and follow it. 
  2. Figure out if the work you are doing right now is moving you towards your career goals or moving you away from them.
  3. Work with a career coach each time you take on a new position.
  4. Understand which behaviours will serve you in your next role and which behaviours you have to let go or unlearn. 
  5. Find a mentor in your industry or in the role you want to be in. 

One thing I know for sure is that we can’t depend on our environments to remain the same. We cannot rely on our managers to always be around and we cannot leave the success of our careers up to chance. 

I’d like to encourage you to implement one of the strategies above in the next quarter. 

If you would like a dose of leadership inspiration, career advice and my take on self-care, join our mailing list here. 

About the author

Selina is a leadership transitions coach based in Cape Town, South Africa. She helps women in technology transition from technical specialist roles to mid-level manager positions using transition coaching strategies.

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