Most of us entered the workforce thinking that just putting our heads down and doing the work would get us noticed and promoted. Years later, we find ourselves in a work environment that still is not inspiring, fulfilling, or (even worse) meeting our financial needs!
The Big Lie about career success
Even though times are changing, many companies are still not explicitly encouraging employees to be proactive in taking ownership at work. The reality is, as an employee, it is no one’s job but your own to ensure your needs are met.
The key to finding success in your career is letting go of the idea that someone is coming in to save you. Yes, there are employees who get lucky with wonderful bosses who advocate and support them. But the reality is, if you’re waiting for the perfect manager, you’re putting your fate in someone else’s hands. Whether you’re seeking a leadership role, looking for more autonomy, perhaps access to a dream project, or maybe even just better work-life balance, taking ownership for your own success at work is crucial.
By taking ownership of your own career progression, you can break out of this cycle and create real change. In this blog post, we’ll explore 6 steps to get started on taking control of where your career is headed.
Why is taking ownership of your career path important?
The reality is, if you’re leaving your fate in the hands of a manager, you’re at risk. You might not get the promotion you’ve been working toward for years. You might get laid off with no prospects on the horizon (as so many job seekers are experiencing these days!). You might just end up hating your job with no way out.
So many employees think this is the only way to move through their careers, but the reality is you can take ownership of your work experience, and at the end of the day, you are the only one with responsibility for your own success.
By taking ownership of your work, you can become accountable for achieving your career goals and also potentially instigate change within the culture of your organization.
What ownership looks like at work
To take ownership is to know what you want out of your career, what type of work you do best, how you like to work, and then set up goals and systems to move you in that direction. Don’t get us wrong, we know this isn’t easy for most people, and there may be some real problem-solving needed to get you back on track.
So, how do you take ownership of your career?
It can seem overwhelming, but taking ownership of your career is absolutely possible. With the right strategies, you can take control of your professional life. Here are 6 steps you can take to assume responsibility for your work trajectory and build a job you love.
1. Define what career success would look like for you
One important step in taking ownership of your career is to define what success would look like for you. To do this, it’s crucial to remember that work is a resource to serve your life, not the other way around. Having a clear perspective on what career success means to you and how you want your career to serve you can help you set professional goals that align with your personal values and ambitions. It’s also important to consider the bigger picture, thinking beyond just your job title or salary, and instead considering the impact you want to have on your industry, your community, or even the world. When you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve in your career, it becomes easier to take ownership and make intentional choices that align with your goals.
To take ownership of your career, it’s essential to define what success means to you. Work should be a resource to serve your life, and having a clear perspective on what career success means to you is crucial. Defining your personal and professional goals and considering the bigger picture of how you want your career to impact the industry, community, or even the world, can help you align your ambitions with your values.
By having a clear vision for what you want out of your career, you can assume responsibility for your development and growth, encourage your team members to work toward a shared vision, and build a positive work environment.
With a vision in mind, you can identify areas for improvement for your current role and take specific tasks to achieve your goals. By taking ownership of your career, you can build trust with your team, take the lead in your job role, and achieve success both professionally and personally.
2. Bring your job into alignment with your professional vision
Once you have a clear understanding of your personal vision for success, the next step is to bring your job into alignment with your goals. This can involve job crafting, where you redesign your job responsibilities to better align with your strengths and interests. It can also mean setting boundaries at work, such as establishing clear guidelines for how you want to be treated, when and how you’re willing to work, or what tasks you are willing to take on. Honoring your own boundaries is essential to avoid burnout and ensure that you are making progress toward your bigger-picture goals. By igniting your strengths and taking ownership of your job responsibilities, you can create a work environment that is not only fulfilling but also serves your personal and professional growth.
Bringing your job into alignment with your vision for success will require good communication with your manager, and even your teammates or direct reports. While it’s important to be respectful of company goals, you can also discuss how gaining additional experience in certain areas can benefit both you and the organization. This might include new projects, new job roles, and (hopefully!) more growth opportunities for you! Many companies are excited at the prospect of employees taking ownership at work, because it often means that their employees feel empowered and will do great work, rather than just the bare minimum.
Additionally, if you’ve established new boundaries, it’s important to communicate these to your manager to get buy-in and ask for support in maintaining them. By having open and honest communication with your manager, you can work together to find a solution that meets both your needs and the company’s goals. Remember, taking ownership of your career doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. Your manager can be an important ally in helping you achieve your goals.
3. Develop a personal brand
Many people believe that a personal brand is simply a catchy tagline or a polished online presence. While those things are certainly part of it, a personal brand goes much deeper than that. Your personal brand is a reflection of who you are, what you stand for, and what you bring to the table professionally. It’s not just about your skills and experience, but also your values, personality, and unique strengths. By creating a strong personal brand, you’re telling the world what you’re all about and what you have to offer. It’s a key part in your career success. It’s not just about standing out, but also about building trust and credibility with your colleagues, clients, and stakeholders. By focusing on both internal and external networking opportunities, you can establish yourself as an expert in your field and create valuable connections that can help you reach your career goals.
Personal branding is more than what you think
The process of building a personal brand is much broader than just updating your LinkedIn profile and posting on social media. For example, one way to build your personal brand is to actively participate in team meetings. By doing so, you can showcase your skills and strengths to your colleagues and business leaders, and potentially even help to resolve issues and complete tasks. Another way is to share your thoughts with your colleagues, perhaps by starting an innovation group or presenting new ideas in meetings. When you make an effort to show initiative and how you think, you set yourself apart from others, give those around you a sense of who you are, and become known as a valuable asset to other employees and the organization.
Don’t forget about reputation management
Reputation management is also an important aspect of creating a personal brand. It involves taking ownership and responsibility for how you are perceived by others, both inside and outside the company. This includes identifying areas where you can improve, seeking feedback from colleagues and supervisors, and actively working to address any issues or concerns. By being accountable for how others view you and taking steps to manage your reputation as an employee is an essential part of actively managing your career and moving forward towards your professional goals.
4. Stay aware of the industry
The next step is to build a process to keep a pulse on your environment. Not only will this give you ideas that you can bring back to your own company to help them reach their goals, but it will also create more opportunities for continued growth (companies love to see an employee taking ownership!). This means intentionally expanding your network, staying apprised of relevant trends and opportunities, and building processes to keep a pulse on your environment. Here are a few ways to start:
- Attending networking events or connecting with people on LinkedIn.
- Seek out opportunities to work on cross-functional projects
- Regularly checking in with colleagues or mentors
- Attend industry conferences
- Reading industry publications or blogs
- Attending webinars
- Participating in professional organizations
5. Be Proactive
Don’t just wait for when your company does performance reviews to think about your career goals! You have to take ownership at work by identifying areas where you can improve and taking responsibility for moving forward. People who find themselves in careers they love don’t wait for opportunities to come to them, but instead create them for themselves. While companies may not outwardly encourage employees, it’s still crucial to make sure your skill set never becomes stale, and that you are engaged in ongoing growth and personal development.
By holding yourself accountable, you can stay focused on what matters and make progress toward your goals. To do this, we recommend all our clients create a monthly check-in or a weekly snapshot for themselves, both of which can help you track progress toward your goals, measure important metrics of success, and also identify areas for improvement. The templates we provide in our course, The Career Empowerment Toolkit, can be a helpful starting point for this process.
Managing your time and calendar is also crucial when it comes to being proactive and owning your career trajectory. Setting aside dedicated time to upskill and continue your growth will allow you to stay ahead of the curve and be ready for new challenges and opportunities that may arise. By prioritizing your ongoing development and making time for it on your calendar, you are taking an active role in your career and investing in yourself.
It’s also important to seek out educational resources and training opportunities within your company or industry to stay current and expand your skill set. By doing this, you can demonstrate your commitment to growth and development within your workplace, and position yourself for success both now and in the future.
Constructive feedback and educational resources can also help you develop a sense of confidence in taking on additional responsibilities and more initiative in problem-solving. Both of these can help you be seen as a business leader.
6. Advocating for yourself
Advocating for yourself is a crucial aspect of taking ownership of your professional path. It means making direct asks and a best effort to meet your needs across compensation, workload, and lifestyle. One way to take accountability for your own happiness is by meeting with your manager to discuss your goals and how you can work together to reach them. Having a clear plan in place can help ensure that you are on the same page and working toward a shared vision. A good manager wants to see their team take ownership of their professional path and encourages employees to share their ideas of what tasks will be meaningful to them.
Building meaningful relationships with those outside your team who can help advocate on your behalf is also important. This might include mentors, colleagues, or industry leaders who can vouch for your skills and experience and help connect you with valuable opportunities or pull you onto projects. By actively seeking out and nurturing these relationships, you can create a network of advocates who can help you.
At the end of the day, advocating for yourself is about taking responsibility for your own career trajectory as an employee and actively working toward the outcomes you desire. By setting clear goals, communicating your needs and boundaries, and building meaningful relationships with advocates, you can create a strong foundation for success and fulfillment in your career.
Now go do it!
Taking ownership is essential for your professional and personal growth. By defining your vision of success, bringing your job into alignment with your professional vision, and setting clear goals, you can create a work environment that is fulfilling and serves your personal and professional growth. It can be challenging to navigate the complexities of the workplace, which is why working with a career ownership coach can be a game-changer. They can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses, provide guidance on how to take ownership of your career path, and keep you accountable for achieving your goals. Not sure what this means? Check out our latest course, The Career Empowerment Toolkit. Invest in yourself and your future by working with a career coach today.