When we want to take control of your career, we first have to accept that we already control three very important things:
- Everything we say,
- Everything we do, and
- Everything we think.
(If you’ve been reading this blog for a while or if you’ve read my books, you’ve heard that list before.)
So, to start to take control of your career, you’ll want to start paying attention to these behaviors. Let’s take a closer look.
1. Everything We Say
What you are saying about yourself at work? How are you talking about it, and how are you talking about your abilities and accomplishments? (Or are you?)
Are you complaining a lot? Are you talking yourself down or deflecting compliments? Do your words truly reflect the person you want to be (and who you want to be seen as)?
And, if you’re a leader, manager, or work on a team, what are you saying to others?
Do not be fooled by our sound bite 140-character world. Words still matter. If you don’t like what you’re hearing yourself say, change what comes out of your mouth.
2. Everything We Do
Are you spending lots of time behind your computer—and then get concerned that you’re never actually talking to anyone? Do you join conference calls without knowing—-or asking—-what your contribution needs to be? Are you longing for a change but never schedule a meeting with your manager or attend an external professional development event?
What’s the small shift you can make in your actions that will make the difference for you? You control that.
3. Everything We Think
What’s in your head? What are you thinking and more importantly, believing, about your career-–past, present and future?
Do you want leadership opportunities, but tell yourself “only people with X experience become leaders in this organization.” Would you like to move to another department or location, but tell yourself “that’ll be too hard”?
We send our brain messages all the time about what we can and can’t do, without knowing for a fact if our assumption is true. While this may be the toughest one to take control (see my podcast on The Battle of the Brain), you can do it.
To Take Control of Your Career, First Listen and Watch
So how do we start taking control? First, it’s time to listen and watch what you’re already saying, doing, and thinking.
Don’t beat yourself up nor work to justify your actions. Just notice.
When you notice what you’re saying, doing, and thinking, you can soon see that everything you say, do, and think is a choice.
Don’t kid yourself and think many things are not a choice. You can absolutely choose NOT to get up to go to work in the morning–you control that. What makes you think you don‘t have control is that you don’t want the consequences of that choice. So you get up. That’s a choice.
And each choice brings you results. Some you like, some you don’t.
Look Closer at Your Results, and Experiment with Different Choices
Once you’ve noticed your choices, ask yourself “What results are my choices giving me?”
Like the answer? Great.
But if the results you’re getting aren’t the results you want, it’s time to experiment with changing those choices.
For example, is complaining about your workload making you feel depressed, frustrated, hopeless, stuck? If that’s not how you want to live, then experiment with a different choice.
Set a manageable timeframe—for example, a week. Then, experiment with a change in your behavior by stopping complaining and start talking about all the good things your current situation provides—perhaps interesting work, the opportunity to be with smart people, a paycheck to allow you to support your family, etc.
After the week’s experiment is up, how do you feel? Is that feeling closer to the career and life results you want? If so, keep doing it. If not, try a different experiment.
More Ways to Take Control
Here’s another idea. If you’re in an environment that’s not positive—and you want to change—stop waiting (or hoping) for someone else to change it. Take one small, simple action yourself.
Maybe you can compliment a team member in public. Or maybe you need to start talking more frequently about all the good things going on within your project. Often when we start changing, others see it as permission to change—even if we don’t tell them we’re doing it intentionally.
You can also take control of your career by asking for different behavior of others. For example, if a colleague we work with is always late and his actions are impacting others, ask him what you can do for him to help him be on time more often so that everyone can work more successfully. He holds control of his actions (leaving home earlier, not stopping for the extra latte on his way in, etc.), but by asking, you may find out something you didn’t know—and you may find something you can control that will help.
If it doesn’t work, hey, it’s just an experiment you tried. Maybe you learned something, maybe you didn’t. But nothing ventured, nothing gained. You won’t know until you try.
When you make a different choice, you get a different result. In the end, that’s how you start to take control of your career.