Growing in Your Career
If you've just taken your first steps on the career ladder, or have recently moved into a different role within your organization, you may find your new job incredibly exciting. But your new responsibilities may also come with new stresses, deadlines and projects.
To grow into your role, you'll need to do more than just be good at your job, you must manage yourself with all the discipline and energy that you can bring to your new position.
In this article, we explore what it means to "manage yourself," and we examine ways you can boost your career prospects by adopting a positive attitude, setting yourself goals, and managing your time effectively.
What Does It Mean to "Manage Yourself?"
In 1999, Peter F. Drucker, an American management expert and educator, observed in his article, "Managing Oneself," that few people are natural-born leaders – leadership skills are developed over time. He said that people cannot expect organizations to manage their careers for them, so, if you want to succeed and advance in the workplace, you have to take charge of your performance and become your own "chief executive officer."
Drucker wrote, "Only when you operate from strengths can you achieve true excellence." And to achieve excellence and be the best team member you can be, he said, you must develop a thorough understanding of who you are. You must identify your strengths and values, understand your weaknesses, and discover where you can make the biggest contribution to your organization.
Let's look at some of the ways you can put Drucker's words into action, by developing the self-awareness you need to manage yourself effectively.
Adopt the Right Attitude
Your performance will soar if you approach your role with optimism, enthusiasm and respect for others. Here are some ways that you can develop the right mindset:
1. Use Positive Thinking. When you think positively, you can stay motivated and focus on achieving your goals, instead of worrying about failure. An optimistic attitude will help you when you encounter problems or setbacks. Look for something good in every tough situation – something you can take forward with you to your next challenge.
Also, take steps to reduce your stress levels when things get tough. Use Physical Relaxation Techniques, meditation or Imagery to ease tension and think clearly when it feels like your problems are overwhelming.
Take our quiz to find out whether you're a positive or a negative thinker.
2. Develop Emotional Intelligence. If you understand the people around you, you can use their strengths to create better working relationships. Good leaders often have strong people skills (also known as Emotional Intelligence), which means that they are capable of understanding their own and other people's feelings and emotions. One of the most important components of emotional intelligence is empathy. If you're empathetic, you can recognize and address the needs and wants of those around you.
3. Listen and Learn. If you're new to your role, no one will expect you to know everything, right from the start. Don't be afraid to ask questions or seek clarification if there are things that you don't understand. And don't forget to show a little Humility. You must be willing to listen to, and learn from, your boss, your colleagues, and your team members.
Make a conscious effort to focus on what those around you are saying. Practice Active Listening to show them that you value their thoughts, and to avoid being distracted.
4. Be Proactive. Instead of waiting for things to happen, look for ways to make them happen. For example, if you see a way to improve a process, don't hesitate to share your ideas with your manager. However, don't get discouraged if your suggestions are not always taken on board. As we mentioned above, practice humility, and listen to your manager's reasons for not acting on your ideas. Treat these situations as opportunities to learn and grow.
You can also look for ways to expand your role beyond your job description. If you see chances to contribute ideas, or to participate in a group that could further your career, take them. Or, if your co-workers need help with a project, offer to lend a hand before being asked.
Set the Right Goals
To succeed in the workplace, it's important to identify your strengths and weaknesses, establish measurable goals, and choose an inspiring career objective.
Play to Your Strengths. Most people need help to recognize their strengths, and there are a number of ways to find out what they are. You can ask for feedback from your managers, colleagues, friends, and family. Or you can take a self-test, as detailed in our StrengthsFinder article.
Once you know your strengths, you should find roles that make best use of them. You can also improve your performance in your weaker areas by, for example, taking training courses, attending seminars, and finding ways to stretch your abilities by stepping outside your comfort zone. The more you invest in yourself, the more satisfying your role will be.
Set SMART Goals. If you're new to your role and trying to get to grips with new responsibilities, consider breaking them down into smaller, more manageable, more precise SMART goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
As you complete each one, it will boost your confidence and encourage you to continue down the path towards your next goal.
- Prepare a Personal Career Statement. Do you have a career goal? If so, do you have a plan for how you'll achieve it? If not, it's time to create one! Personal Mission Statements define your overarching purpose. Here, you'll set a primary goal that will keep you on track and allow you to measure your progress towards achieving it.
Take Responsibility for Yourself
Given today's workloads and busy schedules, it can seem that there are never enough hours in the day to accomplish all of your goals. But by being organized, self-motivated and self-disciplined, you can find the time to hit your own targets, as well as the ones your manager sets for you.
Organize Your Workday. Some of us prefer to tackle our hardest tasks in the morning, when we are freshest. Others need a few hours to "get into their groove" and are most productive later in the day.
Figure out when you are most focused and productive, and structure your schedule around those times. Our article, Is This a "Morning" Task?, shows you how to do this.
Motivate Yourself. Self-motivated people are confident and goal-oriented, and create a positive environment. The more motivated you are, the faster you'll achieve your goals, and the better you'll become at your job.
Simple self-motivation techniques include doing less enjoyable duties without procrastinating, and giving yourself rewards when you complete a task, such as a mealtime treat for a small task, or a spa day for a major one.
- Exercise Self-Discipline. People who have Self-Discipline keep striving towards their goals, regardless of how they feel, and despite distractions or challenges. If they encounter a roadblock, they figure out a way to get round it. If they have bad habits, they replace them with good ones. For example, if you are always checking your emails, get into the habit of scheduling set times for reading and responding to them.
If you can manage yourself effectively, you'll be better able to reach your potential and pursue a fulfilling career.
To manage yourself, it's important to adopt the right attitude. Remain optimistic, develop your emotional intelligence, reduce stress, be proactive, and learn from others.
You'll also need to identify your strengths, and use them to set yourself the right goals. Write a personal career statement to keep yourself on track toward your ultimate career goal.
Finally, you'll need to learn how to manage your time wisely. If you stay organized, remain motivated and exercise self-discipline, you'll be well on your way to becoming the successful, highly effective person you've always dreamed of being.