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There’s no “u” in career
  • Clock Vacheron Constantin 

If you haven’t had your heads buried in the sand for the last few years, you’ll have seen some of the hundreds of television, newspaper and internet reports declaring economic meltdowns around the world. Chances are that you’ll have been left with some fairly gloomy feelings about your career. You may even consider yourself really lucky to have a job in the first place. Well, think again!

Okay, recessions are tough for businesses and individuals alike but businesses are actively looking to improve their competitiveness and one of the main ways they do that is through investing in their people. That can only mean good news for you – unless you’re simply thinking about riding things out, that is. With job markets once again becoming more active, it seems that high performers are able to be more demanding about what they get in return for their hard work. Businesses are also becoming more creative and flexible about how they invest in the people that they see as the talent of the future.

So, the big questions really are: “Where are you going?” and “What do you want?” I’ll deal with the first question in this post and come back to the second one in my next post.

Whilst the title of this blog post makes grammatical sense, it misses the point of what a career is all about. A career is absolutely, unequivocally, 100% all about YOU! After all, if you don’t care about your career, then how can you expect anyone else to? In order to help you get on your way, here are our top five tips to working out where you’re going.

Work out your core values

Identify the five most important things for you as a person. Start by making a list of ALL of the important things. Then group together familiar ones. If you still have more than five, eliminate your least important ones until you get down to the magic number.

Know what makes you tick

Think about the times when you are most productive. What is happening? Consider the environment you’re in, the tasks you’re doing and the people you are with. Identify the common factors and make a note of them. Seek to replicate these in your work.

Play to your strengths

To correct every weakness, you’ll have to spend a lot of unhappy hours trying to put it right. Work out what your strengths are and focus on them. You’ll enjoy it a lot more and the good news is that the more you use your strengths, the better you will become and the more value you will create. Follow step 1 to work out your key strengths or pick up a copy of the brilliant “Strengths Based Leadership” by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie (, which includes access to the Strengthsfinder 2.0 ™ test.

Identify your career team

No-one achieves any kind of greatness on their own. Work out who’s in your team and who you need to recruit. Any great career team needs the following:

  • The Cheerleader – Who’s your biggest fan? When you’re feeling like you’ve played dreadfully and you’re 3-0 down at half time (sorry for the footballing analogy), who’s going to tell you just how good you are and pick you up again?
  • The Coach – Who’s analysing your performance and helping you make the necessary improvements in order to reach your goals? Pick someone who works well for your personality and is able to commit the time and effort to helping you to be the best you can be. As with any good coach, experience counts.
  • The Agent – Think Jerry Maguire. Find someone who is going to constantly fight your corner and let them know your plans. Be careful though, every agent wants their cut. Work out what they want and make sure your goals are aligned to avoid being sold a wrong ’un.
  • The Star Player – If you manage others as part of your job, identify your star player and look after them well. You’ll know who they are. They’ll be the ones who constantly make you look good. Recognise and reward them regularly to give them every reason to turn in their best performances for you.
  • The Water Boy – An essential member of any team, the Water Boy keeps things running smoothly and picks up all of those little jobs that take your focus away from what you should be doing? Worth their weight in gold!

Find a direction

Career coaching and mentoring has been a part of what I do for over 10 years and the single hardest thing for people to define has always been their direction. The main difficulties? Vision and commitment. Vision is all about being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and to imagine yourself doing what they’re doing. It’s so easy to do – just ask. Talk to senior colleagues at work, find interesting career stories, go to networking events, ask question after question and really find something that resonates with you. Once you do, that’s where it starts to get tougher. You’re going to have to commit to something now. That doesn’t mean you can never course-correct but you do have to be going somewhere in order to actually change course in the first place. Whatever your decision on direction, be sure to cross-refer it back to steps 1-3 to make sure you’re doing the right thing for you. Then simply brief your career team, schedule in some progress checks with your coach and you’ll be amazed how quickly you get there.

That’s it from me for now. These tips should have given you a bit of food for thought and with any luck, spurred you into a flurry of action. After all, with so much opportunity out there, there’s really no excuse for not giving your career the boost it needs. As Nike say, “Just do it!” If you’re not feeling in a Nike mood and you’re looking for a bit more help, feel free to post a comment below or drop me a line on