It’s been a long time since I summarized my learnings with respect to career mismanagement. I may repeat myself here, but it’s still worthwhile to have a look where things stood:
- It’s extremely important to play to your strengths. I was a great “door opener” with so many “door opening” experiences. What I needed to do was to build a firm knowledge base on top of that as the basis for moving forward;
- I was incapable of building that knowledge base working in areas that I had no interest in. Quite often you’ll hear the term “passion”. I prefer not to use that word. But without that knowledge base, I was flatlined;
- Doing lateral job moves kills your career. I was getting no further ahead. But in the absence of doing what I liked, my career became job hopping. I was enjoying getting the job way more than doing the job. That was totally consistent with my strength – developing opportunities rather than capitalizing on them. But you need to be as well-rounded as possible in terms of your knowledge and skills in doing your work;
- There is a fine line between being optimistic and being delusional. I was on the right side of that line given the fact that my “dream” business was actually launched by someone else. I didn’t need technical skills to launch the business, I needed management skills;
- Unfortunately, when it comes to business dealings there are few people you can trust. This is not a negative conclusion. We all need to survive and prosper. If it means that we happen to harm others in the process, well they are just collateral damage;
- Keep your eye on the ball at all times. If you want to reach your goal, you need to be constantly striving to do so. If you allow things to slip, it will come back to “bite” you;
- Within any large organization, you need to find yourself a mentor. That mentor may happen to be your boss, but that’s not necessarily the case. In fact, your boss being your mentor creates the potential for conflict where your goals are not consistent with your boss’s goals. Quite often, you’ll want his/her job. Now they may like their jobs, and for some of them their current position is their “final destination.” In that case, wanting the boss’s job can be somewhat career limiting;
- Play politics as best as you can. Once you get three people together you are going to have office politics, it’s inevitable. I tried to keep myself outside the politics, but it didn’t work. There are situations where you can stay out of it – contract positions, involvement in extremely technical work that doesn’t involve a lot of interaction with others, etc. But otherwise, you’ll be compelled to play the game. As I mentioned before, you’re either in or you’re out. Once you are in the political game, be prepared to lose. You can’t win them all. Staying out of the politics can be dangerous as well, you run the risk of becoming an outsider;
- Be confident in your skills and abilities and show it. No one likes to see professionals who are not confident, clients and senior management adore confident people who avoid arrogance (that’s Canada. If you work for a US based company, some arrogance is a prerequisite. But not to the extent of being annoying);
- Don’t give up. Perseverance is the key. Working hard is still the way to get ahead. But don’t get hobbled by mistakes or the fear of mistakes. Mistakes are part of the learning process. As I mentioned in an earlier posting, doing bad trades (once in a while) never gets anyone fired. Not aligning yourself with your boss’s goals will;
- Stay away from the HR department. They are overhead and should be viewed as a data processing and order taking unit. The only time you will see them is if you get fired. Getting hired is always the decision of the line manager. And getting promoted is your boss’s decision. If you get handed off to HR, you’re perilously close to being on your way out;
- Be aware of who actually holds power in your business line. Your boss may not. You need to know who you should be managing up.
A lot to digest. But in the absence of being aware of what you need to do and where you are going, you will be firmly in career mismanagement mode.