In a prior post called “Is Your Career Ruled by Rules,” I talked about the self-imposed structure that many professionals have when it comes to their careers. Within that post, I also touched on how many of our rules come out of what motivates us, consciously or subconsciously.
I work with all kinds of IT and technical professionals on a daily basis, from self-assured to humble to ambitious to cautious to seasoned to entry level, and when we discuss the paths their careers have taken, there are two things that underlie the majority of career decisions they have made.
Number One: Fear
We don’t often like to use the word, so we’ll call it something else: “concern,” “lack of security,” “life changes,” “obstacles,” “challenges,” etc. But at the heart of it is, well, fear. Fear that we will lose our current position, fear that we will be stuck in the same position in 5 years, fear that we will never reach our goals, fear that we aren’t as successful as we thought we would be, fear that our boss or company does not recognize our potential, fear that the job market or economy will cause us to lose our position.
All of these fears are very real and valid.
Number Two: Necessity
Related to fear, necessity is more like the fears realized. The position is terminated, the economy tanks, the boss passes you over. When these things happen, then necessity takes over and we are forced to act.
Now, none of us likes fear, and necessity rarely feels good when it happens, but we can probably all look back on at least some instances in our lives when one or both of these things has occurred, and the motivation they sparked in us resulted in something positive: a better position, a higher pay, etc. In other words, what was meant for bad, turned into something good…even if we didn’t appreciate going through it at the time.
But Fear and Necessity Don’t Have to Be the Only Motivators
I find what really separates most professionals as they move along in their careers, though, are the ones who learn to stay motivated without the need for constant fear and necessity. And unfortunately these people are few and far between. Although most of us know what we “should” be doing to stay on top of our career management, very few of us actually do it because, well, nothing is “forcing” us to do it and we’d rather invest the time and resources into other things.
That’s understandable, right?
Sure, but it’s not necessarily logical. You’ve given yourself an excuse to put it off because you don’t have to do it right now, but you’ve ignored the reason you shouldn’t.
Give Yourself a Reason AND an Excuse
Wisdom comes in using experience to help chart a better course. If you know from experience how difficult that last job search was or how much you really need your current position, then doesn’t it stand to reason that you would be more motivated to stay on top of your career advancement today?
Do you really need to wait until the fear becomes so great and necessity is looming?
So What Should You Be Doing?
- Maximize your potential with your current engagement: Are you tracking and building a project highlights portfolio? As I mentioned in an earlier post (“The Era of Promotions Will Return“), internal promotions will be on the rise within the next few years and the competition will be tight. It’s tough to go back and remember. You need to be documenting now.
- Position yourself to attract recruiters now BEFORE you need them: Recruiters will not admit it, but they much prefer to chase you rather than the other way around. They like finding hot prospects they can “steal” away from competitors. Remember, you can always turn them down…so why miss out on potential opportunities? Isn’t it nice to be wanted for a change?
- Begin building a network pipeline: In the world of online businesses, content marketing is key right now. And “engagement” is the word of the hour. Professionals need to take some tips from this world. Are you referable? If so, does your network show that? And I am not just talking about LinkedIn recommendations and endorsements…have you built a credible online brand? It’s better to consider these things NOW before you need them…because you will need them…the job market is changing, and social recruiting is here.