Want to advance your career but not sure where to begin? Tips from a career coach
4 MIN READ
‘The first reason that people fail at a career goal is simple,’ says executive career coach, Linda Beatty, ‘it’s not their goal.’
Sometimes we get stuck.
We think of changing jobs, going for a promotion or looking for a new challenge in our current job but, despite good intentions and initial bursts of energy, we don’t get around to it.
Maybe, we think, change will come from outside and sweep us along with it.
But, according to the experts, change must first come from within.
Because it turns out you already know the one person most likely to decide whether you achieve your career goals or fall short. It’s you.
When I spoke to Linda she suggested 8 tips for how to begin to change your career.
1 Make it your career move not somebody else’s
As she says, ‘The first reason that people fail at a career goal is simple, it’s not their goal.’
So whose goal is it?
‘It could be a goal that actually belongs to your partner or your parents or it might just be an expectation placed upon you in your workplace or profession,’ says Linda. ‘The key thing is you don’t have to accept that goal.’
In fact, she says, pursuing other people’s goals always leads to failure.
‘You’ll never truly commit to a goal that somebody else has chosen for you. You have to own the goal. You have to decide ‘this the goal I want for me’.
And if you don’t commit to it, she says, you’re less likely to achieve it.
Worse, if you do achieve it you’re much less likely to be satisfied.
‘Remember,’ she says, ‘you have to believe that this particular goal is going to change your life in some positive way.’
So choose your goals, don’t let them choose you.
2 Believe you can do it
Identifying your real goals is a good start.
Next, you have to identify what you’re doing right now to stop yourself achieving them.
‘Even if you own your goal and you absolutely want it for yourself you might not get it because deep down you don’t really believe in yourself,’ Linda says.
Beliefs are important. But while we tell ourselves that our beliefs are true we might be wrong. And false beliefs might hold us back from getting what we really want.
‘For example,’ she explains, ‘if somebody has told you in the past that ‘you’ve no willpower’ you might internalise it until it becomes a belief. You start to think that you’re someone who can’t see things through.’
‘It’s real,’ says Linda, ‘but it’s not actually true. This is a called a limiting belief. There’s no compelling evidence to support it.
You didn’t suddenly become a particular type of person just because somebody else once said you were. And yet a belief like this can persist for years afterwards because it’s associated with a strong, negative emotion.’
Happily, Linda says we can replace beliefs that don’t help us with more positive ones in which we see ourselves as capable and confident based on real evidence.
‘It can help to remind ourselves of the times that we were great at a particular thing,’ she says. ‘The positive feedback we got, what people said, the awards we won, the qualifications achieved.’
So bad beliefs out, good beliefs in.
3 Be specific
Linda advises people who come to her for help to be very clear and specific about what they want from their career and their lives.
‘People make very general statements,’ she says, ‘like ‘I’m not happy and want to change my job’. What I ask them is, ‘alright but what exactly do you want to change it to? How will you know when you are happy?’
It might take a little longer to figure it out but it’s more likely to lead to success if you can visualise exactly what success looks like.
A more specific response, she says, might be, ‘I would like to work in data analytics, to be in the job by June and to be based in Cork, working with company X or Y.’
Linda tells me that she plays specific statements like this back to clients so they can work out if this is what they really want. ‘Is this what you want?’
‘Alternatively,’ she say, ‘it might be that you can actually get what you want in your current role if you can mobilise the support you need for change.’
Be clear about what you want.
4 Make goals and set milestones for your career move
When you know what you want, Linda’s advice is to next make a list of all the things you need to do to achieve it.
Write it all down. Everything. For example, you might like to work in marketing but your qualification is 10 years old.
‘Do you need to top up your qualification to include a short course on digital marketing, for example?’ She asks. ‘What’s your plan to do the training or get relevant experience?’
Create a specific plan and set dates for achieving smaller, enabling goals which, if you achieve them, will mean that you get closer to your overarching goal of career change.
‘It’s about establishing momentum for change,’ she says.
Moving forward, even if you’re still finding your way, is precious.
5 Journal it
She also suggests keeping a journal to keep a record of your progress.
‘Write down your goals and tell yourself exactly they are important to you. Then keep a log of everything you’re doing to move toward the goals and anything that’s keeping you back.’
Some of us might feel a bit self-conscious about doing this but it turns out that being conscious of your self is the point.
‘If we go back, regularly, to a journal,’ she says, ‘we create a structured external record of the thoughts which would otherwise be buzzing around our heads and we can learn from our experiences. This exercise helps build our self-awareness.’
So become more aware of yourself.
6 Tell people your goals
Linda is not, it turns out, a believer in keeping goals to yourself.
The evidence is, she says, that sharing our goals with someone makes it more likely that we’ll achieve them.
‘A lot of people choose an accountability partner. For example, my goal for 2019 is to run in a 20k race and I have my friend Bernie to help me get to my next running milestone. She’s the person who keeps me honest. You need to have someone that, if you don’t get out of bed to run, they’ll call you on it.’
Provided it’s not too personal a goal, she says, it’s a good idea to tell someone who’ll text, phone or chat to you about it regularly.
Share your goals.
7 Find positive role models
‘Are there role models in your life? People you look at and think my God they’re amazing at this or at doing that?’
Linda’s not talking Nelson Mandela or Beyoncé, here, she means friends, family or colleagues that we know and who we think are brilliant at very specific things.
‘Are they really good at X or Y. How do they do it? Is there one thing they do that you can do?’
Find one specific thing they excel at, ask them how they do it and copy it.
8 Use G.R.O.W.
‘There’s a famous model in coaching called the G.R.O.W. model,’ Linda says.
G is for Goals – setting and clarifying a goal and discovering why it’s important to you.
R is for reality. What is my reality, today?
O is for Options. So what are my options? What’s right for me? If I just continue to do what I’m already doing what will happen and how will I feel?
W is for Will. What am I prepared to do to get what I want in life.
‘You don’t always have to start with Goals,’ she explains, ‘you might work out your Reality, right now, in a certain situation then work back to your Goals and forward to Options.’
9 But don’t wait for perfect
The perfect moment for change might never come. The best time for change is right now in the messy, imperfect present.
Linda Beatty is an Executive Career Coach with a Postgraduate Diploma in Executive Coaching from UCC.