Throughout your career, you'll face a handful of crucial moments. These moments will have far more impact on the trajectory of your career than other, normal moments. You may not be aware of them as they’re happening, though you’ll often be able to pinpoint them in hindsight. Moments like these can be positive or negative, but in either case, they're almost always memorable.
Career-defining moments don’t just happen. They’re years in the making. You have to start preparing yourself for them now; the payoff comes much later, if at all. That’s why it’s so important to make sure that the mindset, habits and behaviors you establish now support the outcomes you want.
There’s a lot more to achieving your career goals than simply deciding you want a new title or more pay. You have to put yourself out there. And who knows? You may just end up reaping rewards better than you ever imagined. It’s never too late to put yourself in a better position. Let's take a look at five big things that can give you an edge, whether in your current position or an entirely new venture.
1. Overcome impostor syndrome
Wikipedia has a definition of impostor syndrome, but Scott Hanselman describes it so much better in this post. The easiest way to identify it in yourself is this: If you experience fleeting, irrational suspicions that you're about to be called out, you probably have impostor syndrome. And if you do feel this way, you're not alone. This has happened to many people—even trailblazing technology leaders. It's important to learn not to listen to this voice. As put together as everyone around you may seem, keep in mind that they're muddling through and figuring it out as they go, exactly as you are. Don't let the feeling of intimidation stop you from getting outside of your comfort zone and seeking new challenges.
2. Share your aspirations
If you’re currently employed, discuss your goals and ambitions with your manager. A great leader has a vested interest in seeing you grow and succeed, especially if your career aspirations help the business in some way. But don’t just stop there. Find a mentor, seek like-minded professionals in your field, network with conference attendees and speakers—and share your goals with them too. You’ll be surprised just how many of the people you meet will be interested in and able to guide and push you (in a variety of ways) toward reaching your dreams.
3. Be a little scared
As odd as this may sound, make sure you're often a little scared of your goals. If you're only guided by what's comfortable and easily within reach, you'll find yourself looking back on moments in your career and tend to think, what if…? What if you'd taken that promotion, even though you knew it'd be a stretch? What if you'd spoken at that conference? If, instead, you find yourself nervous and wondering how something will go, you're probably on the right track. Moments that equate to a leap in your career are not for the faint of heart.
4. Make the most of your time
How you invest your time now will have a direct impact on your career growth. Have a plan for each day. Being strategic—and intentional—with your time is important. As you evaluate your day, especially when opting into new initiatives, make sure you're paying attention and asking yourself key questions:
How can this help me?
How likely is this to help me?
When should I start seeing results?
How will I know I've succeeded?
If you're applying these critical questions to opportunities, decisions and new initiatives, you'll find yourself better equipped to recognize and capitalize on potentially important moments in your career. As you hone this skill, be ready to raise your hand to take on more responsibilities and commitments that will help you grow.
5. Develop your tech skills
You’ve got a lot of priorities: friends, family, work, hobbies. All of these things are important, and so is keeping your skills up to date. Make tech skill development a priority, and get really clear on the skills you want and need to advance your career. Technology is changing faster than ever. In fact, half of all the tech skills you have today will be obsolete two years from now. Don’t let your career take that kind of hit. Stay on top of technology trends, dabble in technology outside of your given field and keep yourself on the cutting edge.
Now that you've hopefully had the push you needed to start working on those things that will really benefit your career, get out there and make it happen.
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