Building a Firm Career Foundation
When you hear the phrase career foundation you probably think 2 things; this is set in stone and this is only for new entrants to the workforce.
You would be wrong in both assumptions, but aren't you glad?
Anyone can build or repair their career foundation at any time no matter where they are along the path. Unlike homes, this isn't costly to repair and it's not set in stone but it does give you a great base of support to build a career that matters.
Become a kinesthetic learner
This means gain experience and with that experience you're probably going to fail a little. I know, I said the word that strikes fear in the hearts of, well, almost everyone. A 2015 Los Angeles Times article titled "We're far more afraid of failure than ghosts" sited a small survey that found just that. (failure is also scarier than spiders apparently too).
Heres the thing though. If you don't fail it means you aren't putting yourself out there. If you aren't putting yourself out there you're robbing yourself of not only the bad but the good too. As Garth Brooks says "I could have missed the pain but I'd of had to miss the dance."
If you want to build a firm foundation it will involve failing but I promise "the dance" will be worth it.
Look in the mirror
You have spinach in your teeth. (kidding!) What I really mean is take a long look at the person you want to be and the person you are right now. Do they line up?
I'll give you an example of this. I'm chronically late. What if I told you it also drives me nuts when other people are late? This is what you would call a walking contradiction. I value others being on time but if I'm not respecting people enough to also show up on time I'm not living my values now am I?
What do you value? Are you living those or just preaching them to others? This will effect your career in the long-run as team members and employees will slowly lose respect for you if you aren't practicing what you preach.
Put your blinders on
Teddy Roosevelt knew what he was talking about when he said "comparison is the thief of joy" and in your career no truer words could be spoken.
It's easy to get caught up in the career paths and salaries of friends, family and coworkers. But, if you want a career of significance and meaning you have to go your own way.
My brother is a great example of this. Born dyslexic he struggled in school from an early age. My mother, his biggest advocate, would not let him be bested by this learning difference. He learned to work hard and by high school was surpassing average limits. This strong work ethic helped him achieve a masters degree in applied statistics and in 2015 he was asked speak at Wharton about his work (check out the article that followed here).
If my brother had compared himself to his peers who knows where he would be now. Instead he created his own path, his way.
Read A LOT!
Right after I talk about my dyslexic brother I'm going to tell you to read. I'm lousy at smooth transitions.
In order to stay in the career game you must become a constant student. I don't want you to limit your reading to your vocation either. It's important to read about soft skills too. Leadership, motivation and growing an organization are all a constant learning process. Grow yourself through books and keep the student in you alive. When the waves of change inevitably roll in you'll be prepared.
If you don't like reading watch youtube videos on a myriad topics or listen to books on audible.
Find a mentor
As much as we like to think we are unique there is in fact someone who has done something similar to you. Unlike the comparison game this person is your guide, not your competition.
Find someone a few years ahead of you in your chosen career path with some level of seniority. I also believe searching outside of your current company is a good rule of thumb because it gives the mentor a more objective opinion of where you should be going while steering clear of office politics.
There are many ways to find a mentor these days. One such way is to contact me directly. But you can also find mentors by searching LinkedIn for professionals in your field. Early in my career I found a mentor this way and she gave me many great tips.
So whether you're building your foundation or repairing it gain experience, constantly learn, find a mentor, assess your values regularly and please don't compare yourself to anyone.