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Planning for Career Success
11 Tips for a Fruitful and Satisfying Career
By Dawn Rosenberg McKay, About.com Guide
Your career may be the most important thing in your life or it may not be. There's no arguing, though, that it certainly is a significant part of it. We spend at least 40 hours at work each week. That's a lot of time! In addition to paying the rent and putting food on the table, your career should be fulfilling. Following these 11 tips will help you make sure it is.
Choose Your Occupation Wisely
Before you decide to pursue any career, ask yourself this question: "Can I see myself doing this all day, every day, for many years?" Life is too short to spend it wishing you were doing something other than what you are.
Don't Let Anyone Tell You What Choice is Best for You
Ignore those who say, "Pick this field because it has lots of opportunities right now," "You will make loads of money so it doesn't matter if you hate your job" and "I like this career and therefore you will too." Your career choice is a personal decision and it is one that will have a significant effect on your life for many years. Oh, and by the way, the relationship between earnings and job satisfaction is minimal.
Measure Your Own Success
How do you define success? Is it the size of your paycheck or having the corner office? Is it the feeling you get when you know you did a great job on a project (praise from the boss doesn't hurt) or the one you get when you know you helped someone? Perhaps you feel successful after putting in a day at work and coming home at a reasonable hour to spend time with your family. Since everyone measures success differently, only you can determine what it means to you. Your satisfaction with your career is strongly linked to how successfully you feel you have met your own, and not anyone else's, definition of it.
Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help
As much as you think you know, you don't know it all. There are people who have more experience than you do and with that experience comes knowledge. In order to have access to that knowledge, make sure your network is filled with contacts other than your peers. More experienced contacts can help you with things like learning more about an occupation you are considering, getting the lowdown on an employer before a job interview or solving a problem at work.
Always Acknowledge People Who Help You
It may sound simple, but it's truly a significant gesture: always thank those who offer you assistance. Whether someone gives you five minutes of his time or an introduction to a potential employer, it's important you let him know that what he did meant something to you. And when that person or another needs help, you can return the favor. Consider it good karma.
Own Your Mistakes
You know what they say about mistakes. Everybody makes them and you are no exception. Of course you will do what you can to avoid making a serious error, but sometimes they happen anyway. While your instinct may be to run away and hide, that is actually the worst thing you can do. Admitting your error, finding a way to fix it or at least taking an action that lessens its effects, will help restore your reputation.
Be Your Own Cheerleader
Root for yourself because if you aren't your own biggest fan, who will be? Take note of and pride in all your successes and positive attributes. Don't wait for someone else to tell you "job well done!" Reflecting on your own achievements will spur you on to accomplish even greater ones.
Don't Beat Yourself Up
From time to time a little voice inside your head might whisper (hopefully not shout) that you aren't good enough or smart enough. Tell it to shut up! Unfortunately there will be plenty of people quite willing to bring you down. Don't do it to yourself. When you make a mistake, admit it, fix it and move on. If you are missing a skill or have some other shortcoming, take whatever measures necessary to improve.
Never Feel Like You Are Stuck
No matter how careful you were about choosing the "right" career, at some point you may become disheartened with it. Give yourself permission to explore other options. You will probably be able to come up with a bunch of reasons not to, but remember the first tip about life being too short to spend it wishing you were doing something else? The older you get, the more you will come to believe it.
Lose the Negative Attitude
For some people, every silver lining has a cloud. They see only the negative side of things, always finding something to complain about. Don't be that person. You will bring yourself down and you will bring others down with you. A negative attitude saps yours and everyone else's energy. That's not to say you should ignore problems. Instead look for ways to fix them.
Listen More Than You Speak
You can learn a lot by listening ... and miss a lot if you don't. Whether your boss is explaining a project to you or telling you about his weekend, it is important that you understand what he is saying. Careful listening will keep you from misunderstanding instructions and will help you build rapport with others. If you listened carefully to your boss's story about his hiking expedition, you may discover that you have a love of this activity in common. Who knew?