Get busy and take charge of your career

published by the Nashville Business Journal

You can either let circumstances set your career path or you can take charge. You may not achieve everything you desire but you can certainly shape much of your future by the actions you take. Your career will last a long time so be patient, persistent and committed to where you want to go. 

Making a career choice: If you are already set on a career path that you’re passionate about, great. If not get going now by looking at every possibility that you think might be right for you and your skill set. Some of those old career-guidance tests from high school might be of help. You can also ask friends what they like and don’t like about their jobs; study occupation openings online and in the paper; learn about current compensation for different positions; and seek out possible career mentors. You may not yet zero in on a clear choice but you will narrow the possibilities. 

Building your skills: Find out what skills will be necessary for your No. 1 career choice and build a plan to obtain those faculties. Gather all your contacts—managers, peers, HR department, friends—who could guide you in skill development. And, when necessary, get creative. At one point in my career I was given supervisory responsibility over the IT department but knew little or nothing about the operations. I immediately signed up for a one-week IBM course appropriately titled “Supervisory skills for those without technical background,” which gave me some quick-and-dirty basic skills for my new responsibility. Be proactive. Do whatever it takes to build your skill base.

Studying core companies: You can’t necessarily choose your employer but you can narrow the field. Build a target list and focus on that list. Start by studying the reputations of those core companies, and then network with industry players who can help you gain greater insight. If you have a high-risk mindset you could widen your scope by seeking out non-traditional employers or corporate setups that might lead to some unusual or more challenging opportunities. 

Finding the right job: The best way to approach your job search is to remember this: Full-time jobs require your attention for at least 40 hours a week—and so does the job of finding a job. Build a good resume and get some outside help to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward. Then go to work—send resumes, call key people, knock on doors, dress the part, be polite in every interaction, even charm receptionists if you have to. Use every arrow in your quiver. Bottom line: Be persistent. Most employers will admire your perseverance.

Whether you are just starting out or have been in business for years, there’s no time like the present to take charge of your career. Your initiative, conduct and tenacity will be rewarded. 

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